Go to contents

Alternative Therapy for Chronic Diseases

Posted November. 07, 2005 07:23,   


“Are you depressed? How about singing and painting?”

Singing and painting are some of the therapies Lee Seong-jae, a professor at Gachon Medical School and the president of the Korean Society of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, suggests to treat depression. To some, music and painting might sound silly, but they really are effective treatments for the depressed people.

“It is a dangerous idea to think that complementary and alternative medicine is superior to modern medicine. Complementary and alternative therapies are just complementary to modern medicine,” warned Lee.

Lee is a pediatric cardiologist by trade, and the following are his ideas about the use of alternative therapies to treat chronic diseases.

Depression –

Music and painting therapies can be applied to individual patients or groups of patients. Their purpose is to make patients spend time together and create a cheerful atmosphere themselves. They cut colored paper into shapes, sing together or play musical instruments.

In addition, there is herbal medicine. St. John’s work is known for its efficacy against depression. Kava and valerian are used to alleviate anxiety, but are effective only against mild symptoms.

Another type of complementary or alternative therapy is aromatherapy with herbs such as marjoram and bergamot. Aromatherapy helps produce more serotonin and works for patients with mild symptoms. In winter, patients with more serious cases of depression receive light therapy.

Diabetes –

There is little difference between complementary and alternative therapy treatments and modern medicine in their approach to diabetes. A regimen of regular exercise and good food is their advice. Complex-sugar foods such as brown rice or whole wheat are recommended. The longer these whole grains stay in the mouth, the sweeter they taste.

Other medicinal herbs include fenugreek and American ginseng. They are known to help lower blood sugar levels without causing any side effects. One drawback is that they do not work well in serious cases.

According to research, eating chromium-rich foods and taking exercise can lower sugar levels in the blood. As for garlic and its medical benefits, there is little scientific data.

Atopic Dermatitis –

Complementary and alternative medicine offers almost the same remedies as those of modern medicine. A point of difference is that in complementary and alternative medicine, medicinal herbs are frequently used.

According to a study conducted by foreign researchers, the seed oil from evening primrose has healing benefits because of its omega fatty acids. According to another study, taking 20-minute baths in water with potato starch or dextrin and soda is good for atopic patients. The healing effects are because the mixture of water, dextrin and soda moisturizes the skin and helps medicinal elements soak into the skin.

Elidel, a prescription medicine used in modern medicine, will further increase the efficacy of herbal treatments. If atopic patients put on Elidel in the morning, their benefits will be maximized.

High blood pressure–

The consumption of potassium is recommended for high blood pressure sufferers. This causes osmotic action, and is hence a remedy for high blood pressure. A study found that the blood pressure of 70 percent of patients went down eight weeks after they started consuming potassium. Potassium is abundant in sweet potatoes, potatoes, pumpkins and bananas.

Laver, seaweed, and sea tangle are also good for people with high blood pressure. Seaweeds are slippery and sticky because of alginic acids, which help discharge sugar and fat, contributors to high blood pressure, out of the body.

But excessive consumption of seaweed is harmful to one’s health because of too much iodine, a potential cause of thyroiditis.

Chronic Fatigue–

Ephedra and the root bark of various araliaceous shrubs are often used to ease chronic fatigue. Researchers have discovered that ephedrine in ephedra and ginsenocide in root bark boost the capacity for locomotion and help people feel less tired.

Other remedies are ginseng, Maximowiczia typical fruits, apples, lemons, milk vetch roots, tomatoes, garlic, lettuce, and sesame. Their efficacy is proven to some extent. Eating vitamins B and C can also be beneficial to chronic fatigue patients. The symptoms of chronic fatigue are similar with those of chronic fatigue syndrome, which appears when blood magnesium levels are low. For this reason, the consumption of magnesium is another way to fight chronic tiredness.

Sang-Hoon Kim corekim@donga.com