Complementary and alternative medicine: Part 3

Supporting the soul

by Carmen Visser

This is the final part of the CAM series and will focus on energy-based practices. These complementary and alternative medicines focus on the fields and energies that surround the body. To stimulate health and healing, these practices ensure that the energy surrounding the body is balanced.

This article will explore the history, benefits and challenges of electromagnetic therapy, reiki and qigong.

Electromagnetic Therapy

Caption: the electromagnetic field around a human body Image sourced by Therapy Resonance at

Electromagnetic energy is naturally produced by both humans and the earth. Practitioners of this therapy believe that the earth’s electromagnetic fields and those surrounding the body cause physical and emotional changes in humans. Using electromagnets, healing is stimulated by balancing the energy surrounding the body.

Several research papers have been published on the positive results of electromagnetic therapy. The energy-based CAM is said to assist in healing spinal cord injuries and wounds, as well as help with arthritis, insomnia and muscle strains.

Unfortunately, electromagnetic therapy has been proven to have mild side effects such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. There is also a chance that electromagnetic therapy may not influence one’s health or healing at all. Additionally, patients with implanted electronic devices such as pacemakers or hearing devices are advised to avoid electromagnetic therapy.

This medicine has had many contributions from researchers over the years. These contributions vary from the discovery of electromagnetism to the first medicinal energy device. The idea that magnets can influence the body date back to 4000 BC and has been developed ever since. According to Dr Pawluk, Cleopatra was reported to have worn a small magnet, believing that it will preserve her youth.


Image by RhythmMuswege on Canva.

Reiki is an energy-based practice in which practitioners lightly touch or hover their hands over the skin of the body. People with illness or pain are believed to have blocked the universal life energy from entering their bodies. By channelling and transferring this energy back into the body, Reiki practitioners help their patients feel deeply relaxed. While transferring this energy, practitioners’ hands are said to get hot.

Reiki is believed to treat one’s body, mind and spirit. Some Reiki practitioners use other items during their session, such as crystals and chakla healing wands, which are believed to remove negative energies. However, others have a strong belief that hands should be the only instrument used during a Reiki session. The energy-based medicine can be used to treat headaches, nausea and insomnia. Additionally, Reiki is often used to help manage the painful effects of cancer and caesarean births. There are no reported negative side effects of a Reiki session.

According to Medical News Today, the energy-based medicine was first developed by Mikao Usui in 1922. The Japanese Buddhist reportedly taught the Reiki method to about 2000 people during his lifetime. Since then, Reiki has gained popularity and is offered in many countries, including South Africa.


Image by Antonika on Canva

There are several different types of Qigong including martial, medical and spiritual Qigong. Medical Qigong is considered a CAM and, therefore, will be the main focus. Similar to yoga and Tai Chi, Medical Qigong encompasses meditation and a set of movements to benefit the mind, body and soul. It is considered to open the flow of energy through the same meridians used in Acupuncture.

This energy-based medicine is considered a journey, in which one learns and develops their movement, breath and intention. While Medical Qigong can be done alone, one can also receive help from a Qigong healer who practises their movements with the intention to nurse others.

Medical Qigong is one of the oldest examples of traditional Chinese medicine. Although its origin is not confirmed, many have dated the first mention of Qigong (in terms of improving one’s health) back to 1122 BC. Medical Qigong was developed within the Buddhist teachings and spread to China from there.

Qigong focused on health has been shown to help with inflammation and cardiovascular disorders, while also improving one’s overall wellbeing. In addition, Dr Louisa Silva proved that Medical Qigong can help autistic children better their frustrations, sleeping patterns, language and social skills. The rare side effects of Medical Qigong are headaches, nausea, hearing voices, body pains, dizziness and wild dreams. However, if practised properly with the help of a Qigong practitioner, these side effects can be avoided.

The holistic approach of CAM

Complementary and alternative medicines have a universal approach to treatment. This means they often encompass targeting more than just one body part. Several of these practices focus on the physical areas of the body in pain, as well as an unbalanced energy field or a harmful mindset. While aiming to treat certain illnesses and pains, CAM also aspires to improve one’s overall health and wellbeing.

Deciding to explore the unique and unconventional medicines can be a daunting step. They might seem strange and unrealistic. However, CAM practices are fairly easy to access, have rare and mild side effects and can leave one with a better perspective. Additionally, complementary and alternative medicines have proven to be successful in a variety of treatments of the body, mind and soul.

Hopefully, this three-part series of body-based, mind-based and soul-based CAM articles has left you inspired to try new things and informed about some of the most fascinating alternative medicines.

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