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Alternative healing methods - an overview

17th January 2019

The term “alternative healing methods” separates the spirits. For some, these are questionable practices without a scientific basis, others swear by them and only resort to conventional medicine in an emergency. The fact is: Many alternative medicine methods show amazing effects and are also recognized by conventional medicine and health insurance companies. Here you can get an overview of which alternative healing methods are available.

What exactly are alternative healing methods?

Alternative healing methods are generally therapeutic approaches that offer an alternative to conventional medicine. Some of the treatment options are not that far removed from classical medicine and are now even included in the therapy concept by general practitioners. Most of the methods go back to nature, the real origin of the human organism. Many alternative therapies use natural medicinal plants that are supposed to activate the flow of energy and the body's self-healing powers.

Alternative medicine is not just about treating the symptoms. The focus is on the person as a whole, which means that psyche, diet and living conditions are also taken into account. This holistic approach enables a form of treatment tailored to the individual, which is often not possible in conventional medicine. That alone is the reason for many to give alternative healing methods a chance. Because when conventional medical practitioners reach their limits in the treatment of chronic diseases, alternative medical practitioners take a holistic approach. They take a lot of time for discussions and also go into the psychological factors. Often times, these therapists achieve amazing results.

What alternative healing methods are there?

The list of therapeutic approaches for holistic healing is long and very extensive. The following treatment methods are part of the current catalog of services offered by alternative practitioners and are also used by the Association of German Alternative Practitioners[1] enumerated. At this point, no reliable statement can be made about their effectiveness, since the efficiency of all methods has not been scientifically proven. Basically, there are many different opinions about which method helps whom. Nevertheless, we would like to give you an overview of the various healing methods and terms used.

Neither statutory health insurance nor private health insurers usually bear the costs of many alternative healing methods. Precisely because - as already mentioned above - the effectiveness of many methods has not been scientifically proven. For patients who are considering using one of the following healing methods, it makes sense to find out about the reimbursement of costs in advance of treatment.

In addition, this article should not be taken as a recommendation to use the methods presented here. We present the existing methods objectively, but cannot evaluate their effectiveness.


The term "naturopathy" is mostly used as a generic term for many other "sub-healing methods". Because naturopathy includes everything natural in the healing process: exercise, nutrition, light, water, plants, oxygen, psyche and relaxation. Accordingly, some of the following alternative methods of naturopathy are counted, such as herbal medicine or Kneipp therapy.


Phytotherapy is generally better known as herbal medicine. That already describes the basis: Medicinal plants are used to alleviate certain ailments. Typical applications are ointments, teas, inhalations, compresses, baths or the ingestion of drops. Many old home remedies come from herbal medicine, such as fennel tea for digestive problems, inhaling chamomile for a cold or a lavender bath for sleep disorders.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Traditional Chinese Medicine works with different methods. These include B. acupuncture, cupping and herbal therapy. Classic acupuncture is based on the idea of ​​Qi (Chinese term for life energy). By stimulating certain acupuncture points on the body with needles, the Qi should flow freely again and, for example, relieve tension and cramps. Studies have actually shown that needles placed on the body can heal some ailments. That is why acupuncture has found its way from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to European medical practices in recent years. More and more doctors are training to become acupuncturists, because the needles can be used, for. B. Alleviate allergies, headaches and migraines, back pain and osteoarthritis in the knee. With cupping, glass vessels are attached to the patient's skin using negative pressure. In this way, the naturopath stimulates blood circulation and can, for example, eliminate muscle pain.


The term "Ayurveda" comes from Sanskrit and means "the wisdom of life". And it is exactly the same: The Indian art of healing can be seen as a kind of instruction manual for the human body. The teaching is an overall concept of exercise, nutrition, lifestyle and attitude to life. If there is a balance in all areas, a person is healthy. According to this, diseases only develop when there is an imbalance. And that must be prevented by taking the right measures. High blood pressure, knee joint problems, inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease or rheumatism responded well to Ayurveda treatment in scientific studies.


Globules are enjoying increasing popularity and are particularly popular for treating children. When it comes to homeopathy, the naturopath also takes a holistic view of his patients. The principle of classical homeopathy is: "Heal the like with the like". What would cause symptoms in a healthy person (for example arsenic) can accordingly alleviate the symptoms in a sick person. Homeopathy aims to stimulate the self-healing powers by giving highly potent globules and drops. Highly potentiated means that the medicinal substance is gradually shaken with water or alcohol or rubbed with lactose and diluted in such a way that the starting material can no longer be detected. This calls the critics on the scene: They doubt the effectiveness of medicinal substances that, from a scientific point of view, can no longer be present in the drops or globules.


With bloodletting, blood is drawn from your vein with a larger cannula. The amount can vary. The aim of the treatment should be that your blood is cleansed and is free of toxins as a result. The origin of the treatment method goes back to ancient times. Today, bloodletting is widely used in high blood pressure patients to lower blood pressure.[2]

Anthroposophic medicine

These treatment methods are based on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy. In addition to the physical, the treatment always includes the soul - it is not for nothing that anthroposophy means “the wisdom of man”. In this way, people are viewed holistically with every illness in order to recognize where their balance is disturbed. By the way: Mistletoe therapy is part of anthroposophy and is mainly used in the treatment of cancer. As the name suggests, you are taking mistletoe extracts. These should alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy and strengthen the self-healing powers.

Bach flower therapy

Something with flowers, many think when they hear the term "Bach flower therapy". It's not that wrong: The aim of the therapy is to restore the inner balance using special flower extracts. By taking the flower extracts in the form of drops, various causes of illness such as high stress, fears and blockages are alleviated or cured. Strictly speaking, there are 38 flower essences in Bach flower therapy, which are assigned to 38 soul states. The method is named after its inventor Dr. Edward Bach, who was mainly active at the beginning of the 20th century. However, the mode of action could not be scientifically proven.


Essential oils are the means of aromatherapy. Because the scents unfold their beneficial effect directly in the limbic system of the brain, which is responsible for feelings and hormone production. The vegetable oils can be used as a room fragrance, as massage oil or as drops. Aromatherapy is usually used as a support for another form of therapy.

Kneipp therapy

Everyone knows the famous stork walk in the Kneipp basin with an alternation of cold and warm water. But Kneipp therapy has far more treatment options to offer. All of them are based on a very special element: water. The immune system and the body's self-healing powers are stimulated through the power of water, through exercise, nutrition and the use of medicinal plants. The fact that this also improves well-being is a pleasant side effect that Pastor Sebastian Kneipp discovered as early as the 19th century.

Schüssler salts

The therapy with Schüssler salts goes to the doctor Dr. Wilhelm Heinrich Schüssler back. In his opinion, the cause of many diseases and ailments is a lack of mineral salts. Accordingly, the twelve different Schüssler salts can restore the mineral balance in the body - individually or in combination. The "Heiße 7", in which the salt No. 7 Magnesium phosphoricum is dissolved in warm water, is particularly popular. It should help against nervousness, sleep disorders and stress, among other things. However, this method is not scientifically recognized and its effectiveness has not been proven


Osteopathy is one of the manual forms of therapy. It is a holistic form of treatment that focuses on the skeletal system and the human psyche. The therapist can relieve tension and adhesions in the tissue with specific hand movements. This stimulates the flow of energy and the body's self-healing powers. At the same time, the skeletal muscles are strengthened and the joints are mobilized. Pain in the head, neck or back can be gently relieved by osteopathy, as can functional disorders of the organs. Due to the fact that this form of treatment is a gentle method, it is often used in the treatment of children. In the article of the same name, we have put together for you in which cases osteopathy can help with children.

Leech therapy

Here, naturopaths place leeches on inflamed areas of the skin. The animals are supposed to clean the blood and promote wound healing through their anticonvulsant saliva. Leeches are used in naturopathy, among other things, for high blood pressure or venous diseases of the legs.

Colon hydrotherapy

The aim of this naturopathic treatment is to free the colon from stool blockages. In practice, this is a special form of intestinal irrigation in which water is directed into the intestine. This is supported by a gentle stomach massage.

Lymph drainage according to Dr. Vodder

This manual form of lymphatic drainage was developed in 1935 by Dr. Emil Vodder developed. A non-medical practitioner uses various techniques such as massaging and stroking to ensure that lymph or other body fluids can drain away better and do not build up. The primary goal of manual lymphatic drainage is therefore to prevent edema, i.e. swelling of the body tissue due to the accumulation of watery fluid.

Spine therapy according to Dorn

This method is also called "manual therapy". Its aim is to correct misalignments on the body through gentle treatment and thus to alleviate pain. Manual therapy could help if you suffer from back pain. It is particularly often used for back problems.

Conventional medicine or alternative healing methods - which is better?

It is not that easy to give an answer. Because both conventional medicine and alternative healing methods have their raison d'etre. While some people only consider treatment methods from conventional medicine to be effective, others swear by natural or even esoteric methods, which in most cases are free of side effects.

The ideal treatment depends on the individual case - no one can give general recommendations. Of course there are cases in which a combination of conventional medicine and alternative healing methods ensures the optimal healing process. In such cases, therapies often complement each other so that the patient can get the maximum benefit from them.

Furthermore, your own attitude towards therapy plays a major role. This idea has now also reached research: Scientists only attribute a placebo effect to alternative healing methods such as homeopathy. But the effectiveness of the placebo on health should by no means be underestimated. “Faith moves mountains”, this also applies to self-healing. Placebo effects are real changes that can be detected in the brain. Astonishing effects could be proven especially in the area of ​​pain reduction.

How do I find the right healing method for me?

Which alternative medicine is right for you depends heavily on your individual attitude to life. Because many methods require a certain change in lifestyle, e.g. B. through diet or exercise.

Since most alternative healing methods have no side effects, you can definitely experiment a little and test different therapeutic approaches. Sometimes a combination of several treatment methods can achieve exactly the desired effect. However, you should definitely seek advice from a certified alternative practitioner or trained therapist, because some herbal medicines can interact with other medicines.


[1] The first, bloodletting - successful therapy against high blood pressure,, accessed on 07.03.2018.

[2] Association of German Heilpraktiker e. V., therapy methods,ösungen-uebersicht, accessed on 07.03.2018.äten-des-Einzelnen heilen–10122838.html