Alternative therapies are generally defined as healing practices that lie outside the realm of conventional Western medicine. While they vary greatly, alternative therapies share several key characteristics: They tend to be closer to nature than some traditional therapies; they take into account the whole person; they focus on supporting the body in healing itself. When an alternative medicine practice is used in conjunction with a conventional one, it’s known as “complementary” medicine– such as when acupuncture is used to help ease the side effects of chemotherapy.
According to a 2012 study by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 33.2 percent of US adults use complementary health approaches. Here, we shed light on a range of alternative therapies and have local experts weigh in.
is performed through the gentle insertion and manipulation of very thin, sterile, disposable needles, to treat a range of health complaints and enhance well-being. Helping move your body’s systems from a state of stress (sympathetic nervous system) to a state of rest (parasympathetic nervous system) creates a different balance in the action of neurotransmitters, endorphins, and other biochemical agents, promoting better blood flow, reduction in pain, hormonal balance, and improved immunity and metabolism.
“Acupuncture taps into the body’s own internal ‘pharmacy’ to advance comfort and healing. Acupuncture’s effects have been compared with rebooting a computer or tuning up a car. It resets and optimizes the integration of the body’s interdependent networks and diverse organ systems, thereby boosting overall functioning and performance.” —Pamela Todd Battle, Flowing Rivers Acupuncture, Hastings-on-Hudson
means “the science of life.” Developed more than 6,000 years ago in India, it recognizes the uniqueness of the individual and the body’s innate intelligence and ability to heal from within. Ayurveda focuses on prevention and supporting the immune system through the use of naturopathic medicines, herbs, nontoxic therapies, breathing exercises, yoga, and dietary modifications.
“Ayurveda is a way of life—how to live healthy, how to stay healthy, and how to regain lost health. There is no reason to be sick. When you feel uncomfortable, that is the time to find the answer. Signs and symptoms are only how the body responds to disease. Ayurveda finds the cause, reverses the cause and cures the cause. In most cases, Ayurvedic treatments can also be very rejuvenating.” —Dr. Somesh N. Kaushik, Kaushik’s Ayurvedic and Naturopathic Clini
Applied Kinesiology (AK)
is a branch of chiropractic medicine that provides evaluation and diagnostics using muscle testing (measurement of muscle strength) as an indicator of body function. A skilled AK practitioner not only can locate pinched nerves in the spine, but also areas of malfunction throughout the body, including the back, feet, knees, hips, hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. The technique also enables the doctor to test many other aspects of
body function, such as hiatal hernia, gait and shoulder function, gastric reflux (GERD) symptoms, foot pronation, and food and environmental sensitivity.
“Applied Kinesiology is a noninvasive diagnostic tool that allows me to help people with chronic pain resulting from pinched nerves, muscle weaknesses, and/or joint related problems. I recommend it for anyone looking to safely and effectively improve their health without resorting to drugs to mask the pain.” —Dr. Steven Goodstein, Applied Kinesiologist, Chiropractor, Briarcliff Manor
uses a patient-centered approach, evaluating the patient’s unique genetic makeup, health history, life experiences, diet (both quantity and quality), stress levels, sleep habits, exercise routine, and exposure to toxins. It also evaluates data from the patient’s blood panel, which is evaluated for hormonal imbalances, genetic mutations, allergies, and build up of environmental toxins or heavy metals.
“Integrative Wellness is the perfect marriage between the best that conventional and alternative medicines have to offer. It is a science-based, whole-person approach to healing, in which the patient has a better outcome because their total wellness is considered—mind, body, and spirit—when designing their treatment plan.” —Jacqui Justice, MS, CNS, New York Health and Wellnessâ€‹
Craniosacral Therapy (CST)
is a form of bodywork that uses light, therapeutic touch to manipulate the synarthrodial joints of the cranium. A practitioner of craniosacral therapy may also apply light touches to a patient’s spine and pelvis. Practitioners maintain that this manipulation regulates the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and aids in “primary respiration,” which can help ease stress and tension, as well as chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, PTSD, TMJ, and post-surgical recovery.
“CST is a gentle interface between you and your nervous system, with the therapist as a guide, who, with gentle touch, relaxes and aligns you with your inner self, the nervous system, and its deep well of fluid nourishment, which courses through you and attends to every cell. You feel relaxed, refreshed, and, most likely, your pains and symptoms will go away.” —Elizabeth Pasquale, Well On the Way, Ossining
treats a variety of health conditions by inducing a prolonged sleep or trance-like state. It is used for weight control, pain management, smoking cessation, and more. Contrary to theatrical depictions of hypnosis, people remain in a relaxed but aware state and can’t be made to do something that they wouldn’t normally do.
“I conduct hypnosis in an inspirational way, to lift people to their highest potential. The subconscious is the hard drive of the mind. I call it ‘defragging the hard drive.’ Hypnosis is a ‘wow’ experience for a lot of people. People who’ve tried other things come to me and are amazed to see how it works.” —Bob Pargamet, Westchester Hypnosis Center, Harrison
is a non-invasive, complementary practice involving the use of alternating pressure applied to reflexes within the body, located on the feet, hands, and outer ears. It is based on the principle that there are energy zones that run throughout the body and reflex areas in the feet that correspond to all the major organs, glands, and body parts. With manipulation of the specific areas on the feet with the thumbs, fingers, and hands, these reflex points are stimulated, releasing blocked energy; stimulating glands, organs, and body systems; and promoting a sense of relaxation.
“From a scientific standpoint, we now know that stress is the root cause of many of the health issues we have today. In fact, some of us don’t even know how to reach that point of total relaxation, and we just go on living with our aches, pains, and chronic problems. Our bodies have a remarkable ability to heal themselves when we are in a state of balance; reflexology has a remarkable ability to return body, mind, and spirit to that state of stillness and balance.”—Diane April, Reflexologist, Croton-on-Hudson
is a system of medicine that uses natural substances to stimulate the body’s own immune system to heal disease. It is based on the principle of “like cures like,” i.e., the same substance that causes the illness cures it, by varying the dose of the substance. Homeopathy recognizes the individuality of each patient and that two people with the same “disease” may need two completely different homeopathic remedies. Homeopathy treats the whole person and considers mental and emotional characteristics, as well as physical symptoms, in the selection of the correct homeopathic remedy. Practitioners use it to treat a variety of disorders, including ADD, allergies, anxiety disorders, asthma, and autoimmune diseases, among others.
“Homeopathic medicine is a safe and effective alternative to pharmaceutical drugs for people with acute and chronic conditions. I have been doing this for 25 years and use homeopathy in the treatment of allergies, asthma, anxiety, and depression. The remedy acts as catalyst to help the immune system rebalance itself.”
—Dr. Susanne Saltzman, Hartsdale Homeopathy
promotes deep relaxation, relief of joint and muscle aches, and brain rejuvenation. Floatation therapy is a popular form of sensory-deprivation therapy.
“Floating is a form of REST—Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy. It’s like your brain is a computer, and you’re putting it in safe mode. People come out feeling very refreshed. They might do visualizations or do creative thinking, or they may think nothing at all.” —Micah Saccamanno, Proprietor, Rise Above Floatation, Mount Kisco
is a holistic method that works with the deep brain to pinpoint and release unresolved distress and trauma, which practitioners believe are often out of the reach of the conscious mind and traditional talk therapy. BSP is based on the principle that the direction in which people look or gaze can affect how they feel. A BSP therapist therefore helps clients to discuss their issues while positioning their eyes in ways that enable them to target and clear the sources of the “stuck” negative emotions.
“The more distressful and traumatic material we can release, the happier, more confident, more peaceful, more secure, and more successful we become.”
—David Dodge, LCSW, CBSP, CIRT, Mount Kisco
(pronounced “Ray-Kee”) is a Japanese form of touch therapy for stress reduction and relaxation that also encourages healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life-force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive.
“Reiki helps my clients with depression, anxiety, and grief, as well as with physical ailments. When I send healing energy through my hands and into a client’s physical body, they tell me that, within days, they can feel that their depression eases, that their anxiety is less intense, and that their physical body begins to feel more vibrant.” —Robin C. Mueller, Reiki Master, Intuitive Healer, Armonk
Holistic Veterinary Medicine
emphasizes empathy and minimal invasiveness. Beyond focusing on medical needs, holistic vets also evaluate the overall physical, mental, and spiritual wellness of the animal. Diverse modalities may be employed, including acupuncture, Tui-Na (Chinese medical massage), chiropractic, homeotoxicology (homeopathic formulas vs. single remedies), and herbal medicines.
“We look at the patient as a whole to correct imbalances. A lot of times, you come to a dead end in conventional medicine with the patient. By using complementary therapies, we can not only extend their lives, we can offer them better quality of life, as well.” —Lisa Donato, DVM, Ardsley Veterinary Associates
is a form of posture-and-movement coaching that works to remove inefficient movement habits and patterns of accumulated tension, which interfere with our innate ability to move easily and properly. The practice can also help with repetitive strain injury or carpal tunnel syndrome.
“The benefits of Alexander Technique include being more present in the moment; the ability to respond with less tension; improved coordination, breathing, and ease; and an understanding of how the human body is designed.” —Karla Booth Diamond, M.AmSTAT, Mount Kisco
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture. In the past, it was used to treat trauma, and more recently has been used for releasing physical and emotional blockages. Following the meridians, with firm tapping (but no needles), the client’s most pressing issue is explored while vocalizing positive affirmation statements. According to practitioners, this process diffuses the stored negative energy and memory of the event, and clients gain quick relief from the previously debilitating emotional and/or physical traumas.
“EFT is a quick and simple technique for releasing the burden of painful memories and physical discomfort. Before starting, the client rates the level of pain or concern. After one round of tapping, the client rates the level again. There is a noted decrease. Clients can then participate in additional rounds, until the emotional burden is manageable. They can also learn to self-heal at home, as needed for additional support.” —Susan Varsames, Holistic Learning Center, White Plains