By Sayer Ji

Natural medicine doesn’t just involve ‘nutraceuticals.’ It extends to modalities like yoga and acupuncture that an increasing body of peer-reviewed research shows can be superior to drugs.

Natural medicine is an amazing field, full of inspiring stories and an ever-accumulating body of scientific research to support its increasingly popular views on health. In fact, the National Library of Medicine’s 27-million-citation deep, seemingly oceanic database, not only contains the value of natural substances in disease prevention and treatment, but sometimes their clear superiority versus drugs.

However natural medicine at large, is not without its challenges, one of which is that it is quite easy to get caught up in the allopathic model of treating surface symptoms – albeit naturally. This ‘natural allopathy’, if you will, sometimes entices people to look for ‘natural cure’ shortcuts and Band-Aids (nutraceuticals) instead of addressing the deeper issues associated with avoiding, limiting and addressing environmental exposures, reducing stress, and improving diet and exercise.

In a culture that pops hundreds of millions of doses of drugs and supplements on a daily basis, it is increasingly difficult to break free from the powerful psychological pull to ingest something — be it a natural or synthetic ‘magic pill’, its effects real or imagined — instead of addressing the underlying problems.

So, here is a good smattering of data that edifies the notion that sometimes, we do not need to take anything to stimulate our body’s innate self-healing abilities, as non-invasive therapies – including doing nothing (i.e. watchful waiting) — can accomplish favourable results:

Coloured light versus Benzyl Peroxide for acne

A combination of blue and red light irradiation therapy was found superior to 5% benzoyl peroxide in treating acne vulgaris without side effects. Another study found blue light irradiation therapy alone as effective as 5% benzyl peroxide in the treatment of acne, but with fewer side effects.

Dietary changes vs. drug treatment for Hypertension

A high fibre, low sodium, low fat diet is superior to the beta-blocker drug metoprolol in hypertensive type 2 diabetic subjects.

Acupuncture and moxibustion vs. pharmaceutical treatment for sudden deafness

Acupuncture and moxibustion therapy (a traditional Chinese medicine therapy which consists of burning dried mugwort on particular points on the body) was found to be superior in treating sudden deafness as compared with the routine drug-based therapy.

Acupuncture vs. drug treatment for treating Migraines

Acupuncture treatment exhibited greater effectiveness than drug therapy with flunarizine in the first months of therapy for migraine and with superior tolerability.

Dietary changes vs. high-dose steroid for Crohn’s disease

An elemental diet is as effective as high dose steroid treatment in improving Crohn’s disease activity in children, while superior in supporting the growth of the children. Two additional studies found similar results in adults with mild-to-moderately active Crohn’s disease.

Aromatherapy massage vs. Tylenol for Menstrual Pain

Aromatherapy massage on the abdomen was found superior to Tylenol for alleviating menstrual pain in high school girls.

Hypnosis vs. Valium for Anxiety

Hypnosis during embryo transfer is as effective as diazepam in terms of pregnancy ratio and anxiolytic effects, but with fewer side effects.

Yoga technique vs. antidepressant drugs for Depression

Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (a rhythmic breathing technique) was found superior to the drug imipramine in the treatment of depression.

Yogic intervention vs. drug treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Yogic intervention consisting of poses and breathing exercises was found superior to conventional treatment in diarrhoea-predominant IBS.

Foot Reflexology vs. drug treatment for Insomnia

Foot reflexology (Wooden needle technique) was found superior to the drug Alprazolam in the treatment of insomnia

Watchful waiting vs. drug treatment for childhood Ear Infection

Watchful waiting compares favourably to immediate antibiotic treatment for some children with non-severe acute otitis media.

This sampling reflects only a minor subset of data. You may be surprised how simple conscious acts such as chewing your food thoroughly, laughing or a walk in the forest can produce healing responses within the human body.