A-Z of complementary therapies
This uses essential oils extracted from plants. Each oil is supposed to have a different healing effect on the mind and body. They can be directly inhaled, or used in baths or massage. Aromatherapy is an effective treatment for stress and encourages relaxation. Some oils can be toxic, so it’s worth seeing a qualified aromatherapist.
This is a technique using daily mental exercises to reduce stress, directing the mind and body towards a state of deep relaxation and encouraging healing. It is credited with increasing energy and helping with sleeping problems. It may also help with certain symptoms such as breathlessness or night sweats.
Diet plays a key role in many complementary and alternative therapies, but there are certain diets which claim to improve health and immunity. These include macrobiotic diets, anti-candida diets and organic, raw and whole food diets. All may have advantages, but changing your whole diet at once can be very difficult, and if you are ill, or have metabolic complications, it might not be a good idea at all. See a dietitian before making any major changes to your diet (for more see the section Nutrition and HIV).
Any form of vigorous exercise will help improve your cardiovascular fitness, reduce your risk of heart disease, help you to maintain lean muscle mass, and improve your ability to fight infection (see the section Exercise). Exercise such as T’ai chi, yoga and the Alexander technique are disciplines which many find calm the body, mind and spirit.
Healing and therapeutic touch
There are many forms of healing through touch, including some based on faith and therapies such as Reiki. All seek to encourage healing through one person acting as a channel for energy to flow into another. Reported results include improvements in mental or physical health and greater relaxation.
Herbs and flower remedies
This is a form of medicine which uses plants or herbs to maintain health, treat illness and promote health. Herbal treatments can be used successfully to treat minor ailments, such as tea tree oil or garlic for some fungal infections. However, bad reactions can occur and herbal treatments can interact with medicines used to treat HIV. Always tell your doctor about any herbal therapy you are taking or thinking of taking.
In homoeopathy, tiny traces of a substance that would normally cause illness are used to treat the same illness. Symptoms are not repressed but encouraged as they are seen as the body’s way of healing itself, and homoeopathic remedies are finely tuned to each individual. Homoeopaths approach HIV in different ways. Some aim to treat a particular infection or illness, other will be more concerned with damage to the immune system. Homoeopaths are as likely to be interested in your emotional symptoms as your physical symptoms.
This is a drug-free healing process based on the principle that the body is able to heal itself, supported by changes in diet, fasting, sweating and exercise. However, naturopaths acknowledge the importance of medicines when they are needed, and focus their therapy in this instance on improving overall health and wellbeing.
This is a physical, manipulative therapy that seeks to correct any structural dysfunctions in the body that are causing health problems. Recurrent chest pain, neck pain, problems with swallowing, breathing and bowel function can all be improved with osteopathy. It’s widely used for muscle and joint pain, and can also improve general vitality.
This is a combination of massage and acupuncture, where pressure is applied to healing points on the body, improving the flow of blood and energy and increasing vitality. It’s an effective treatment for stress, anxiety and related conditions such as insomnia. It can also be used to treat symptoms and side-effects such as nausea.
Traditional Chinese medicine
This is a medical discipline that uses concepts, language and methods that are completely different from medicine practiced in the west. It incorporates several different elements including qi gong, acupuncture and herbal remedies. Qi gong and acupuncture both focus on the balance of the energies, ‘qi’, in the body. Chinese herbal medicine has been practiced for thousands of years, and works by strengthening the immune system rather than by directly attacking an infection. Chinese herbal medicine can cause side-effects, and can also interact with prescription medication.