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Health & Balance

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Overview

Magnetic Field Therapy continued...

The evidence: There's no conclusive evidence that magnets are effective pain relievers.

A small study has shown that a magnet therapy called transcranial magnetic stimulation may aid recovery in certain stroke survivors. The results are preliminary. More study is needed to see if the therapy is effective. Repetitive TMS (rTMS) also is a nonexperimental, FDA-approved treatment for major depression.

Magnets are generally safe. But they can disrupt the function of pacemakers, defibrillators, and insulin pumps. That makes them potentially dangerous for anyone who uses these devices.


What it is: The premise of Reiki is that it accesses the body's natural energy to speed healing. The practitioner hovers his or her hands over the patient's body. Or he or she places them lightly on the person's skin.

The evidence: There is something to be said for the healing touch when it comes to bringing about a state of calm. One study checked the effect of Reiki on people hospitalized with heart disease. It showed that Reiki was effective in bringing about an increase in:

  • Happiness
  • Relaxation
  • Feeling of calm

Therapeutic Touch

What it is: Advocates of this technique suggest that the power of touch may direct energy flow and treat pain and disease.

The evidence: It's hard to tell for sure whether therapeutic touch works. There have been few good studies done on this technique. Researchers have investigated its effects on wound healing, pain, and anxiety. Studies into its effectiveness have not been conclusive.

Herbal Medicine

Plants form the foundation of herbal medicine. They're taken in several forms, including pills, powders, or extracts to treat a variety of conditions. Herbal medicine can be divided into three types:

  • Ayurvedic
  • Chinese
  • Traditional


What it is: Ayurvedic medicine originated in India more than 2,000 years ago. It focuses on balance of the mind, body, and spirit. Hundreds of different herbs are used to:

  • Protect the body against disease
  • Relieve pain
  • Improve general health

The evidence: Most studies performed have been small. They cannot provide conclusive evidence that Ayurvedic herbal medicine works.

There's also a serious caution to using Ayurvedic products. One study found that Ayurvedic herbal medicines from South Asia had dangerously high levels of:

  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Arsenic

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