Your Guide to Holistic Practitioners
Intro by Lara Evans
Guide by Thea Deley

Everything cures somebody; nothing cures everybody. That is to say, every cure cures somebody; no cure cures everybody. This reality is gaining ground in Western health care, evidenced by the continuous increase in people seeking complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Even the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has published dozens of articles on alternative modalities in the last few years, helping legitimize CAM in the conventional eyes of Western medicine. Some examples are listed below:

An Australian study used traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to treat irritable bowel syndrome (Journal of the American Medical Association, 1998, vol. 280). Against placebo, this often difficult-to-treat disease responded remarkably well to TCM, and TCM continues to gain ground in helping people who suffer from this increasingly common malady.

In the treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) had effects similar to commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals ? with fewer side effects (Journal of the American Medical Association, 1998, vol. 124).

Moxibustion ? a modality using burning herbs in conjunction with needles to stimulate acupressure points ? had significant success in turning breech babies (Journal of the American Medical Association, 1998, vol. 280). The moxibustion stimulation used the herb mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris) at the outer corner of the fifth toenail once or twice a day.

The myriad practitioners available provide consumers with a variety of health care options. As you search for the modality or combination of modalities that will work best for you and your family, let this guide serve as a starting place in your research.

Ayurvedic Doctor
This traditional medicine has been practiced in India and Sri Lanka for 3,000 years. According to ayurveda, people are ruled by one of three doshas: vata, pitta or kapha. Each dosha in a balance specific to an individual is called prakriti, or natural constitution. Illness results when dosha is upset. Ayurveda heals and prevents disease by aligning lifestyle with constitution.

Conditions treated: Anxiety/insomnia, arthritis, chronic fatigue, diabetes, digestive problems, headache, high blood pressure, immune problems, liver problems, skin problems.

Service/method: Two treatment approaches to correct dosha imbalance: constitutional and therapeutic. Constitutional focuses on lifestyle changes. Therapeutic works to heal specific problems. Both may encompass herbs, yoga, diet, massage.

Typical visit: In hour-long consultation, practitioner asks about medical history, diet, lifestyle. Takes pulse and looks at skin, eyes, nails, tongue, lips to identify patient's constitution. Diagnoses and treats causes of imbalance.

Finding a practitioner: Ayurvedic Institute, 11311 Menaul NE, Ste. A, Albuquerque, NM 87122, 505-291-9698

Degree: Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (B.A.M.S.); Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (D.A.M.S.); Naturopathic Doctor with Ayurvedic specialization (N.D. ? Ayurveda)

Licensure: B.A.M.S. and D.A.M.S. degrees awarded only in India. Currently no licensure boards or certification programs exist in the United States.

Training: Ayurvedic medical schools in India require at least five years of study.

RX: No

Cost: $40?$100 or more for initial consultation; follow-up visits cost less depending on time spent with practitioner.

Chinese Doctor
This ancient system of medicine has been used throughout Asia for 5,000 years. Believes chi (or qi) is energy that flows through all things and through the body via 20 meridians. Disease results from disturbances in qi or from imbalance between yin and yang.

Conditions treated: Allergies, arthritis, asthma, chemotherapy/radiation treatment, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, digestive problems/irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, PMS/menstrual problems, skin conditions.

Services/method: Uses acupressure, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Qigong and massage and makes dietary recommendations.

Typical visit: In hour-long visit, the practitioner notes appearance and condition of tongue and eyes. Takes patient's pulse and asks questions about lifestyle and health. Gives herbal prescription or administers acupressure or acupuncture.

Finding a practitioner: National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, 11 Canal Center Plaza, Ste. 300, Alexandria, VA 22314, 703-548-9004

Degree: Oriental Medicine Practitioner (O.M.P); Diplomate in Acupuncture (Dipl. Ac.); Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac.); Diplomate in Chinese Herbology (Dipl. C.)

Licensure: Practitioners usually licensed or certified. The National Commission for Certification of Acupuncturists certifies practitioners who pass written and practical exams.

Training: Three to four years of study in one of 40 training programs in United States. Doctors trained in Asia are not licensed to practice in the U.S.

RX: No

Cost: $50?$100 or more for initial visit; follow-up sessions usually less.

Chiropractor
This philosophy assumes the body has an innate ability to heal itself and constantly strives to be in balance. Bones out of alignment interrupt the nervous system, causing illness. The training is similar to standard medical training except it includes more classes in anatomy, nutrition, physiology and rehabilitation. To maintain license, continuing education is required.

Conditions Treated: Back problems, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches/migraines, muscle cramps, neck problems, sports injuries/sprains, tendinitis, scoliosis, TMJ.

Services/methods: Spinal manipulation, nutrition and exercise advice, supplements.

Typical visit: During initial 45?60-minute visit, practitioner takes case history, watches posture and gait, looks for misplaced vertebrae or weak muscles, may use diagnostic tests. After diagnosis, makes treatment plan and starts spinal manipulations.

Finding a practitioner: American Chiropractic Association, 1701 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington, VA 22209, 800-986-INFO

Degree(s): Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.); specialties or diplomate status can include: radiology, orthopedics, nutrition, internal medicine, neurology, sports injuries

Licensure: All states license chiropractors who have graduated from an accredited chiropractic college and passed National Board of Chiropractic Examiners exam. Must also pass state board exam.

Training: After two years of pre-med college curriculum, students attend accredited chiropractic college for five years.

RX: No

Cost: $50?$150 for first visit (or free consultation); subsequent visits $20?$50.

Herbalist
Herbalists believe herbs are often gentler and safer than pharmaceuticals and don't have as many side effects. For most minor problems, herbs actually work better than conventional drugs.

Conditions treated: Asthma, constipation, cystitis, depression/insomnia, diarrhea, digestive problems, heart/circulatory problems, indigestion, nausea, gynecological problems.

Services/methodS: Herbalists advise on dietary, exercise or lifestyle changes in addition to herbal remedies. May suggest one or more remedies that fit your condition and body and prepare herbs for you in their office.

Typical visit: Herbalist collects information about your personal and family history; may also conduct physical exam.

Finding a practitioner: American Herbalists Guild, P.O. Box 70, Roosevelt, UT 84066, 435-722-8434

Degree(s): Master Herbalist (M.H.); Clinical Herbalist (C.H.)

Licensure: No national organization certifies or licenses herbalists. Naturopaths and acupuncturists are licensed (on a state-by-state basis) and have been trained in herb usage.

Training: Professional herbalists in the United States include naturopathic physicians, acupuncturists trained in Chinese herbal medicine, ayurvedic doctors and trained medical or clinical herbalists.

RX: No

Cost: $40?$100 initial consultation (depending on type of practitioner).

Homeopathic Physician
The 200-year-old philosophy is based on the Law of Similars, or premise that "like cures like." Substances that cause symptoms are used to cure the same symptoms. Remedies derived from diluted plant, mineral and animal extracts.

Conditions treated: Allergies, arthritis, athletic injuries, bladder infections, cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, headaches/migraines, insomnia, multiple sclerosis, respiratory diseases.

Services/methodS: Prescribe homeopathic remedies.

Typical visit: In hour-long initial visit, homeopath takes your medical history, notes symptoms, determines your constitutional type, prescribes remedy.

Finding a practitioner: National Center for Homeopathy, 801 North Fairfax St., Ste. 306, Alexandria, VA 22314, 703-548-7790

Degree(s): Diplomate in Homeopathy (D.Ht., certified by the American Board of Homeotherapeutics); Certified in Classical Homeopathy (C.C.H., Council for Homeopathic Certification); Registered ? Society of Homeopathy, North America (R.S.Hom. ? N.A.)

Licensure: No national certification; state licensure varies. Licensed as other medical-type practitioners who supplement with homeopathic education.

Training: Five programs in United States. D.Ht.s are medical doctors who pass written and practical exams. C.C.H.s and R.S.Hom. ? N.A.s are nonphysicians who also must pass competency exams.

RX: Homeopathic remedies only, unless as M.D.

Cost: $100?$400 for initial visit; $50?$100 for 15?30-minute follow-up visits.

Naturopathic Doctor
This philosophy believes nature has the power to heal. A naturopath helps your body heal itself with natural methods and remedies based on four principles: Do no harm, find the cause, treat the whole person, prevention is the best cure.

Conditions treated: Depression, heart disease/hypertension, HIV, migraine/ headache, prostate/colon cancer, ulcerative colitis.

Services/methodS: Runs the gamut of alternative modalities: herbal medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, nutrition, counseling/stress management, etc.

Typical visit: Hour-long visit includes physical exam and conventional lab tests. Naturopath takes your medical history and learns about your diet, exercise, lifestyle. May suggest how you can change unhealthy habits and may also prescribe natural treatments for specific problems.

Finding a practitioner: American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, 601 Valley St., Ste. 105, Seattle, WA 98109, 206-298-0125

Degree(s): Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (N.D.)

Licensure: N.D.s are licensed to practice in 11 states. May practice under different license, such as acupuncturist or registered dietitian. Some states allow qualified N.D.s to deliver babies, perform minor surgery and take X-rays.

Training: After receiving pre-med degree, students spend four years at accredited naturopathic college. Training covers standard medical subjects plus other alternative therapies.

RX: Yes, in some states

Cost: Approximately half that of conventional medical doctor visits.

Nutritionist/Dietitian
Diet plays a vital role in health. Our bodies need more than 40 nutrients for energy, growth, healing and maintenance. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies restrict the body's ability to function properly. Instead of accepting nagging symptoms as part of modern life, nutritionists work with patients to restore health through dietary changes. Many nutritionists believe the modern Western diet does not provide adequate nutrition, contributing to illness. Nutritionists often make one of three diagnoses: allergy to food, nutritional deficiency or toxic overload.

Conditions treated: Arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, digestive disorders, fatigue, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, psychological/ behavioral problems, reduced immunity, skin problems.

Services/methodS: Based on your symptoms, devises special diet tailored to your body. Also prescribes vitamin and mineral supplements as well as exercise and herbal suggestions.

Typical visit: Hour-long visit; therapist asks about your diet, lifestyle, exercise, symptoms. Some may test hair, urine, sweat and muscles to find deficiencies.

Finding a practitioner: American College of Nutrition, 301 E. 17th St., New York, NY 10003, 212-777-1037; American Dietetic Association, 216 West Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60606-6995, 312-899-0040

Degree(s): Certified Nutritionist (C.N.); Certified Nutrition Specialist (C.N.S.); Physician Assistant (P.A.); Registered Dietitian (R.D.); Registered Nurse (R.N.)

Licensure: C.N.s pass certification exam from an accredited academic institution. C.N.S.s pass an accredited Board of Nutrition exam. R.D.s pass the national exam. Both P.A.s and R.N.s must pass state certification examination.

Training: C.N.s have undergraduate degree in health, sciences or nutrition field. C.N.S.s have graduate degree in same field as C.N.s. P.A.s complete four-year medical training. R.D.s have undergraduate degree and complete dietetic internship. R.N.s complete a nursing degree. Both P.A.s and R.N.s receive basic nutritional training.

RX: No, unless licensed as an M.D.

Cost: $25?$50 for initial one-hour consultation; around $15 for 10?15-minute follow-up visits.

Osteopathic Doctor
This philosophy believes most illness stems from imbalance in body structure. A D.O. treats the patient as a whole person, not just symptoms. D.O.s believe diet, lifestyle and emotional health all play a role. Stress, injury and poor posture harm musculoskeletal system, causing pain and misalignment.

Conditions treated: Athletic injuries, back problems, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches/migraines, knee problems, muscle cramps, myofibrositis and herniated disc, neck problems, peripheral nerve problems.

Services/methodS: Along with conventional medical diagnostic equipment and treatment, osteopaths manipulate muscles and joints to realign body's structure. Provides all services M.D.s can, including surgery and admitting patients to hospital.

Typical visit: Similar to conventional doctor visit, including diagnostic tests, but D.O. may also look at body structure. Complete physical exam may include blood and urine tests and X-rays. Also includes structural exam to assess posture, spine, balance, tendons and ligaments.

Finding a practitioner: American Osteopathic Association, 142 East Ontario St., Chicago, IL 60611, 800-621-1773

Degree(s): Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.)

Licensure: Must pass state licensing exam (similar to that of M.D. exam); licensed in all states as full physicians.

Training: Training similar to conventional medical schools except osteopathy emphasizes preventive medicine and training in musculoskeletal manipulation and hands-on assessment techniques.

RX: No

Cost: Similar to that of conventional medical doctor; treatment costs may be less if osteopath uses manipulation over pharmaceuticals.

Lara Evans is senior associate editor for Delicious! magazine.
Thea Deley is a freelance writer specializing in alternative health. She lives in San Luis Obispo, Calif.


Photography by: Joe Hancock