Glossary of Natural Health Terms


Acupressure is a variation of acupuncture, an ancient Chinese system of healing that was developed from theories that the body has an energy force (known in traditional Chinese medicine as Qi) running through it along specific pathways called meridians. In order to maintain health, the flow of Qi must remain balanced and uninterrupted, and acupressure is one method for correcting imbalances and removing blockages. In acupressure, finger pressure is used at specific points where meridians come to the skin�s surface.


Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese system of healing that was developed from theories that the body has an energy force (known in traditional Chinese medicine as Qi) running through it along specific pathways called meridians. In order to maintain health, the flow of Qi must remain balanced and uninterrupted, and acupuncture is one method for correcting imbalances and removing blockages. In acupuncture, very fine needles are inserted into the skin at specific points where meridians come to the skin�s surface.


Allopathy is a system involving use of medicines that produce effects different from those produced by the disease. In contrast to holistic approaches, allopathy views the body as a set of systems separate from the mind. The allopathic approach introduces drugs and surgery to �fix� the body rather than assisting its natural healing process. This is the most prevalent and well-known form of addressing ill health in Western culture. Allopathic physicians successfully complete a formal medical degree and are trained to diagnose and treat illness and disease from the approaches of medication (often synthetic) and invasive surgery. Most physicians follow this medical model of treatment, which is preset.

Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine incorporates nontraditional methods of treatment in the overall medical treatment of illness and disease. This includes, but is not limited to, homeopathy, herbalism and bodywork therapy.

Alternative Therapies

Approaches to healing that are not included in the traditional medical model of treatment are considered alternative. These include, but are not limited to, massage therapy, nutritional supplementation, using herbal formulas, guided imagery and hypnotherapy.


Aromatherapy involves the use of unadulterated fragrant essential oils that are extracted from various plants. In nature, these act to protect the plant from parasites and diseases. Distilled, the essential oils are mixed with neutral-scented carrier oil and then may be applied to the skin, sprayed into the air, added to bath water, etc. Some fragrances are stimulating, while others promote relaxation. Aromatherapy is used to promote healing from various physical, mental, and emotional conditions.


Ayurveda is India�s traditional health system. Dating back more than 5000 years, it is based on the theory of constitutional body types, or doshas. Everyone has a unique constitution or combination of doshas. Doshas are based on the five elements � fire, water, earth, air and ether. Although there are five elements, there are only three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. Vata is the combination of air and ether, pitta is the combination of fire and water, and kapha is the combination of water and earth. Each person is a combination of elements and the qualities that are attributed to these elements. Ayurveda, which means �the science of life,� takes into account the different stages of life and aging, and includes not only food and herbs, but also diet, exercise, massage, color, light, sound, hygiene and more.

Bach Flower Remedies

Bach Flower remedies were developed by Dr. Edward Bach, a British medical doctor and homeopath. Bach believed that, beginning in the mind and emotions, illness is initiated by a conflict between a person�s higher self and his or her ego. Flower remedies are used to resolve this conflict and thus allow healing to occur throughout the entire organism. These remedies are chosen based on an individual�s personality characteristics rather than on the specific physical problem. Of the 39 remedies in the Bach repertory, all but one are made from the essences of single flowers. Rescue Remedy � the exception � is a combination that is used in emergency situations.


This acronym, often used among healthcare practitioners, means complementary and alternative medicine.

Complementary Medicine

Often used interchangeably with the term �alternative medicine,� this system of treatment uses traditional allopathic methods as well as alternative approaches to form a complementary medical system.


The human body creates and is exposed to many toxins simply through the normal processes of life. Under ordinary conditions, various body systems � including the liver, kidneys, intestines, lymph, and circulatory systems � eliminate toxins without a problem. However, a poor diet and lifestyle habits, as well as excessive exposure to environmental toxins, can sometimes overwhelm the body�s natural processes, allowing toxins to accumulate internally. Signs of a toxic condition include headaches, digestive disorders, increased allergic reactions, and fatigue, among many others. Various methods are used to stimulate detoxification, such as fasting, the use of herbs, and following specific cleansing diets.

Feng Shui

Feng Shui, an ancient system of environmental and interior design that developed alongside acupuncture and herbal medicine in rural China, can be a powerful tool for supporting the immune system and fostering more radiant health. Like conventional architecture and interior design, Feng Shui recognizes the importance of aesthetics and functionality. However, the main difference is that somatic and energetic qualities are thought to be equally important. There are more than a dozen different styles of Feng Shui throughout the world, including Black Sect Feng Shui, Pyramid School Feng Shui, and Space Clearing Feng Shui.


The study of herbology is one of the oldest sciences in the world. It is the study of plants and their physical attributes as used for healing, food, flavoring, scents, and dyes. Herbologists study the effect of plants upon the body, stressing the use of whole plants. Herbology may include: the study of the part of plant that is used, plant gathering methods, and method of preparation of the plant. Herbology systems in use today include: Western, Native American, Ayurvedic, Traditional Chinese, and European. Herbology has been important to the following professions: herbalism, naturopathy, homeopathy, aromatherapy, botany, nutrition, pharmacy, dietetics, dentistry, midwifery, chemistry and medicine.


Herbalism involves the practice of using plants for healing, food, flavoring, scents and dyes. It is practiced in all forms of traditional healing worldwide. The philosophy of herbalism is directed at support of the body�s healing processes with the use of plants and foods. In traditional herbalism, not only are plants and foods used, but also exercise techniques, breathing techniques, and various mind/body techniques. Herbalism looks at the whole person � mind, body and spirit.


An herbalist is a person who grows, gathers, sells, or uses herbs for healing, food, flavoring, scents or dyes. The aim of a practicing herbalist is to bring the body back into balance by getting to the root cause of the imbalance. An herbalist looks at the whole person � mind, body and spirit.

Holistic Health

This involves viewing individual health in a holistic fashion. Holistic means considering and encompassing body, mind, emotions and spirit. Therefore, factors involving physical wellness/illness, mental/thought patterns, emotional expression and stability, and the individual�s spiritual beliefs all have significant roles in maintaining good health and must be addressed.

Holistic Medicine

Holistic medicine is a medical model that focuses on the whole person, not just the body.


Homeopathy is a system of medicine, developed by Samuel Hahnemann in the late 18th Century and founded on the principle that likes will cure likes. That is, a homeopathic remedy, if given full strength to a healthy person, will cause the same symptoms that the very dilute homeopathic formula will remove. This theory has been supported by experimentation and practice over the past 200 years. Two of the major branches of homeopathy are Classical and Constitutional.

Classical Homeopathy

Based on the work of Dr. Hahnemann, classical homeopathy adheres to the nine principles set out in Hahnemann�s Organon of Medicine. It addresses the complete person in mind, body and spirit. Classical Homeopathy recognizes that disease is a change of state that is based upon an individual�s genetics, the strength of their vital life force, their life circumstance, and their environment. In classical homeopathy, one remedy is given at a time in the smallest possible dose to affect a response in the chief complaint. Combinations of remedies are not generally used.

Constitutional Homeopathy

In constitutional homeopathy the emphasis is placed upon the constitution of the individual, including the underlying psychological issues, motives, personality and physical symptoms. Information about the client is gathered and a picture is pieced together. Remedy selection is based upon the most distinct characteristics of the client matching the characteristics of the remedy which will enhance overall health. In constitutional homeopathy, the selected remedy may not address the chief complaint but fits the overall picture or constitution of the person.


Hydrotherapy involves using water of any temperature or form � hot, cold, steam or ice � in order to promote healing. Depending on the temperature and form of the water, it can address a wide range of problems, including sore muscles, injuries, fevers, burns, skin problems, and so forth. Warm or hot water has a relaxing effect; cold water reduces inflammation; and alternating hot and cold water acts to stimulate the circulatory system. Water may also stimulate the immune system. This simple form of therapy was fundamental to the nature cure � an ancestor to naturopathy � as it developed in 19th century Europe.

Integrative Medicine

Used interchangeably with the term �alternative medicine,� this system integrates traditional, allopathic methods with nontraditional methods.


In defining iridology, the International Iridology Practitioners Association (IIPA) states that it is �the study of the iris, or colored part, of the eye. This structure has detailed fibers and pigmentation that reflects information about our physical and psychological makeup. It identifies inherited dispositions (how our body reacts to our environment and what symptoms are most likely to occur), risks (what areas or organ systems are more likely to have symptoms) and future challenges (where we are likely to have more problems as we age). Iridology helps identify inherited emotional patterns which can create or maintain physical symptoms, as well as identify lessons or challenges and gifts or talents available to us.�

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy involves manipulating the soft tissues of the body in order to bring about normalization, which in turn promotes healing. Massage affects blood and lymph circulation as well as muscular tension. In addition, it stimulates or relaxes the nervous system, depending on the technique used. Among the benefits of massage are faster healing from soft tissue injury, healthier skin, and stress reduction. There are many different techniques of massage, including AMMA therapy, Lomi-Lomi, myofascial release, neuromuscular therapy, shiatsu, sports massage, Swedish massage, Thai massage, trigger point therapy and more.

Natural Health

Natural health means maintaining good health, naturally. This takes into account the air you breathe, the water you drink, the diet (food and fluid) you ingest, your daily physical movement and activities, your rest and sleep and your human interactions. In summary, this is how you live in your body on a daily basis.

Natural Healing

This involves moving the body from a state of non-health to a state of health using only natural (non-synthetic and non-invasive) means. Examples of this include fasting to cleanse the body of mucous, massage therapy to ease aching and painful muscles and the use of herbal formulas to soothe an irritated throat.


Naturopathy is a system of therapy that employs natural forces such as light, heat, air, water and massage. This system differs most significantly from allopathy by focusing on building health rather than on treating disease. The techniques used are non-invasive and may include foods, herbs, fasting, nutritional supplements, bodywork, hydrotherapy, forms of exercise or body movement and/or meditation.


Reflexology is a system of bodywork in which the practitioner applies finger pressure to specific points on the feet and/or the hands. Reflexology is based on the correspondence between reflexes in the feet and hands and the various organs and areas of the body. Pressing on these reflexes aids in healing by stimulating a return to homeostasis.


Reiki is a type of energy work that draws on several techniques of touch and visualization in order to improve the flow of life energy. In fact, the Japanese term �Reiki� translates to �universal life energy.� Practitioners are sensitive to � and trained to correct � difficulties of energy flow on all levels: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Reiki practitioners often work directly with clients, and they may also work at a distance. Positive effects of this modality include pain relief, stress reduction, and stimulation of the immune system.

Therapeutic Touch

Therapeutic Touch is a non-invasive, and in fact non-touch, system of energy work that was developed in the 1970s by Dora Kunz and Delores Krieger, Ph.D., RN. In Therapeutic Touch, energy is transferred from the practitioner to the energy field of the individual receiving treatment. As with other energy techniques, major effects include relaxation and accelerated healing. It has been found that the autonomic nervous system is quite sensitive to Therapeutic Touch, followed by the lymphatic and circulatory systems, and the musculoskeletal system.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

More than 2000 years old, Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on creating and maintaining balance and harmony between various types of polar opposites, for example Yin and Yang, heaven and earth, cold and hot, wet and dry, inner and outer, and so forth. Also important are the five elements: wood, fire, water, earth, and air. Balance and harmony bring health; imbalance and disharmony bring the opposite. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) takes the entire person, the physical, psychological and spiritual makeup, into account when approaching any problem. The chief modalities of TCM include herbs, foods, and acupuncture.


Vegetarianism is a plant-centered dietary style that excludes meat. This may include a number of variations:

  • Lacto-Vegetarian � Eats only vegetables, grains, fruits, and dairy products.
  • Ovo-Vegetarian -- Eats only vegetables, grains, fruits, and eggs.
  • Pesco-Vegetarian � Eats only vegetables, grains, fruits, and fish/seafood.
  • Vegan � Eats only vegetables, grains, and fruits, with no animal products at all. For many people this becomes a way of life that extends beyond dietary practices. Strict vegans often avoid using any product, for example leather or silk, that has animal origins.

Some of these dietary styles may be combined. For example, a lacto-ovo-vegetarian includes dairy products and eggs as part of his or her plant-centered diet. For many people, a well-balanced vegetarian diet, high in micronutrients and fiber and generally low in saturated fats, is quite healthy. Although a plant-centered diet is recommended for nearly everyone, some people do not respond well to a diet in which there is no animal protein.

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