The West Meets the East: Complementary Medicine Options

Posted on May 08, 2023   |   
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This blog post was authored by Katie Keating, RN, MS, and reviewed by the Bronchiectasis and NTM Content Review and Evaluation Committee.

Complementary medicine describes the types of treatments you may be given along with traditional Western medicine. In the past, many referred to Western medicine as traditional medicine, and Eastern medicine as Complimentary Medicine. Integrative medicine mixes traditional Western medicine with researched, evidence-based complementary therapies to achieve the best results for each patient.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health divides complementary medicine into four categories: nutritional, psychological, physical, and combination.1

Nutritional - how someone eats daily which may include special diets, dietary supplements, herbs, probiotics, and other therapies.

Psychological - may include meditation, music therapies, and relaxation therapies.

Physical - may include acupuncture, massage, and spinal manipulation.

Combination - may include multiple types of complementary medicine from the other three categories.

It is not recommended that those with lung conditions substitute integrative medicine for traditional medical care. These therapies should be combined with traditional medical care.2

Reiki, which began in Japan is a therapy based on a "life force energy" flowing within your body. When a person’s energy is low, they may get sick. The goal of Reiki is to restore this energy.

Ayurveda started in India and focuses on using treatments that involve purification panchakarma (a treatment that uses medicated oils and herbal remedies to detox the body via massage3), herbal remedies, special diets, yoga, massage, and meditation to treat certain conditions.

Naturopathy which began in Europe views disease as changes by which the body naturally will heal itself over time. The term "naturopathy" translates as "nature disease."

Homeopathy uses very naturally occurring substances to treat ailments. These practitioners believe that a very small amount of a substance that causes symptoms of a disease in healthy people can cure similar symptoms in sick people.4

Chiropractic medicine continues to increase in popularity in the U.S. Seeing a chiropractor may help to reduce pain and improve how your body functions. Techniques are used to work with your spine, joints, and skeletal system and help align your body.5

Functional medicine doctors have gone through medical school training. They attempt to find out what are the causes of illnesses. A functional medicine practitioner works to treat a person’s condition including the mind and the body. They can create a treatment plan to manage other areas that may be affecting chronic conditions. The patient-centered approach offers a care plan which may include prescription medications, supplements, special diets, lifestyle changes, and or other therapies.6

Other common practices include tai chi/yoga, massage therapy, music/dance therapy, breathing exercises, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) tapping exercises, resilience training, and aromatherapy.

More research is recommended on the safety and effectiveness of alternative therapies.

I have tried almost all of these practices over the years. They may not cure a chronic condition, but some may offer relaxation which is good for the mind, body, and immune system.

These therapies may promote lifestyle changes and improve your overall quality of life while going through challenging times. Some of these practices may be just the extra TLC (tender loving care) or a sense of relief when you are feeling overwhelmed with a rare, chronic disorder. However, the effects of many of these therapies may be short-lived and may not last. A therapy that may work well for one person, may not for another person. However, good nutrition and exercise are two things that you can sustain once you get a routine in place.

It is important to check out the background of the complementary practitioner you choose. Ask about their years of experience and expertise in the area you are seeking assistance in. Read their reviews online if possible. You may want to ask about the initial assessment and follow-up costs. It may seem inexpensive at first, but it can add up if you require multiple sessions for a treatment to be effective. Some practices may be covered by insurance. It’s important to discuss trying any herbal medicine or herbs with your doctor before you begin. Wishing you the best on your journey to wellness.


  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, Be an Informed Consumer, Date accessed February 26, 2023,
  2. Mayo Clinic, Integrative medicine, date accessed February 26, 2023 Date published September 13, 2022
  3. WHAT IS PANCHAKARMA? Ayurvedic Panchakarma Explained, Ayurveda for Beginners, Date accessed March 27, 2023, Date published March 03, 2021,
  4. WebMD, Types of Alternative Medicine & Whole Medical Systems, Date accessed, February 26, 2023
  5. Verywell Mind, What to Know About Alternative Therapies Date accessed, February 26, 2023 Date published, November 08, 2021,
  6. WebMD, WebMD Common Health Topics A-Z - Find reliable health and medical information on common topics from A to Z, Date accessed, March 1, 2023