Non-traditional Health Care Practices

Non traditional health care practices that do not fall within the widely recognised domains of modern medicine or conventional health care practices are becoming popular among citizens in America and other western countries (Subramanian & Midha, 2016). Referred to by various nomenclature among them; complementary medicine, traditional medicine and alternative medicine (Balouchi et al., 2018), these forms of therapies are sought by patients and other clients to augment mainstream healthcare for various health conditions.

Survey reports indicate that as high as 60% of American citizens use complementary medicine with half of survey respondents reporting recent use- less than five years ago (Anheyer et al., 2017).  In other continents the use of non-traditional health care practices is also reported to be popular. For example, in Europe, Germany and France were reported to have the highest prevalence of complementary health care where close to half of the population are reported to be consumers of non-traditional health care (Fjær et al., 2020).

In China, the most widely used form of complementary medicine among patients was reported to be Chinese Medicine administered by Chinese medicine doctors, family members and friends of patients (Thirthalli et al., 2016). The authors reported various forms of traditional Chinese therapies including; Acupuncture and moxibustion, Massage, Qigong- a practice of coordinating body, breath, and mind, based on Chinese philosophy, Tai chi- a traditional Chinese martial art in accordance with yin and yang- based mastering five elements; Yi (mind), Qi (breath), Xing (body gesture and movements), and Shen (spirit). Reported by the same study, more than fifty percent of patients reportedly visited their Chinese medicine practitioner more than once in a month while close to thirty percent of patients reportedly visit a Chinese medicine doctor daily. In comparison to China, homeopathic treatment, acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, and phytotherapy/herbal medicine were the most sought after forms nonconventional therapies in Europe (Fjær et al., 2020).

Though rare, energy medicine was another form of non-traditional form of health care reported in the literature among the European citizens (Germany, Sweden, Norway, UK and France). The implementation of these alternative forms of therapies in Europe was found to be associated with availability of resources both at the individual and country level (Subramanian & Midha, 2016). Individuals were likely to seek these alternative therapies if they had the resources to acquire the services of an alternative care therapist. At the country level, countries with resources at their disposal were found to be more likely to integrate into their health systems these alternative forms of non-traditional health care by formal employment of alternative health care providers such as chiropractors and homeopathic physicians.

In the USA, the use of non-traditional forms of therapies in the management of health conditions as alternative to mainstream forms of treatment has been widely described in literature. In the management of Pediatric Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder for example, Anheyer and colleagues (2017) in a review describing alternative therapies for this condition, reported the use of; Botanicals, Minerals, Essential Fatty Acids, Dietary Restrictions, Homeopathy and Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions as the most widely used therapies. The use of these alternative therapies in this condition is just but a snippet of the use of alternative therapies in a host of other health conditions and is the characteristic of the American patients seeking alternative forms of therapy to supplement modern medicine.

The importance of non-traditional therapies as alternatives to mainstream health care is increasingly being recognised by health care providers and governments in many jurisdictions (Anheyer et al., 2017). The push for integration of non-traditional forms of therapies with mainstream health care services comes with the realisation that this integration enables the achievement of holistic health care for patients. In addition, for most countries, the numbers of mainstream health care providers such as primary care physicians and nurses is not adequate to match patient numbers leading to patients seeking care from alternative therapists.

For some conditions such as asthma, these non- traditional forms of therapies are documented to be offering superior outcomes for some groups of patients though the evidence is still inadequate to draw concrete conclusions (Amaral-Machado et al., 2020).  In the management of communicable conditions such as malaria, the application of alternative medicine has proved its worth.  The major drugs currently being used to treat malaria (quinine and artemisinin) were derived from traditional herbal therapies in Peru and China (Manuel et al., 2020). Non traditional forms of therapies are an important source for several drugs currently being applied in modern modern healthcare especially the treatment of infectious diseases.

In my area, the use of non-traditional forms of healthcare is not uncommon. Many diabetic and hypertensive patients I know are engaged in Yoga meditation, music therapy as a recreational activity and as alternative therapies (Subramanian & Midha, 2016). In addition, diabetic patients also visit chiropractors and homeopaths. Though actual numbers were not easy to come by, majority of users of non-traditional forms of therapy from my area do not only use one form of therapy to manage their conditions but are involved in dual or multiple therapies choosing to concurrently use both traditional and non-traditional alternatives.

World over, the consumption of non-traditional health care is on the increase (Subramanian & Midha, 2016). This increase in the preference for non-traditional health care can be attributed to the following reasons: 1) majority of alternative forms of therapies resonate well with cultural beliefs of patients and are therefore more acceptable. 2) compared to some mainstream forms of treatments, alternative therapies can be affordable to clients and will be preferred basing on the economic standing of the patient (Fjær et al., 2020).  3) though documentation of evidence for alternative forms of therapies is poor, for some conditions such as asthma, patients have reported better outcomes in their health when compared to the modern/traditional forms of treatment (Amaral-Machado et al., 2020).

In conclusion, literature supports the notion that application of non-traditional therapies is increasing in popularity. There is also the increasing recognition of its place in modern health care practice especially in the era of cross-cultural nursing. The emphasis by cross-cultural nursing practice on the principle of respect of patients’ preferences, cultures and beliefs should make the application of non-traditional health care practices more appealing for nurses. In deed, the integration of non-traditional health care into modern health care delivery models offers many benefits and will go a long way in ensuring the patient’s every health need is met as well as furthering the agenda of holistic health care approach.


  • Amaral-Machado, L., Oliveira, W. N., Moreira-Oliveira, S. S., Pereira, D. T., Alencar, É. N., Tsapis, N., & Egito, E. S. T. (2020). Use of Natural Products in Asthma Treatment. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
  • Anheyer, D., Lauche, R., Schumann, D., Dobos, G., & Cramer, H. (2017). Herbal medicines in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A systematic review. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 30, 14–23.
  • Balouchi, A., Mahmoudirad, G., Hastings-Tolsma, M., Shorofi, S. A., Shahdadi, H., & Abdollahimohammad, A. (2018). Knowledge, attitude and use of complementary and alternative medicine among nurses: A systematic review. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 31, 146–157.
  • Fjær, E. L., Landet, E. R., McNamara, C. L., & Eikemo, T. A. (2020). The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in Europe. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, 20(1).
  • Manuel, L., Bechel, A., Noormahomed, E. V., Hlashwayo, D. F., & Madureira, M. do C. (2020). Ethnobotanical study of plants used by the traditional healers to treat malaria in Mogovolas district, northern Mozambique. Heliyon, 6(12).