From hypnotherapy and aromatherapy to natural products like essential oils, there are many types of alternative medicine in Singapore to try. Here, we look at five areas of complementary health aimed at holistic healing, including emotional and physical healing.
#1 Nutrition, probiotics and natural products
While conventional Western medicine focuses on individual areas of the body that are affected, alternative medicine (or complementary medicine), has more of an Eastern approach. It looks at the body as a whole and recognises how one component affects another.
This line of thinking is particularly important when it comes to what we put in our bodies. After all, our overall health has everything to do with our lifestyle and diet. Eating a balanced diet consisting of different food types can ensure that we get the essential nutrients we need to stay healthy and fight off infection.
Additionally, a nutritious and diverse diet means a more balanced microbiota – the microorganisms in our digestive system that play key roles in digestion, immune functions and brain-gut signalling. Everything from diet to age-specific and environmental factors contributes to the makeup of one’s unique microbiota, and how it develops and functions. An imbalance of microbiota is associated with a variety of medical problems including diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, inflammatory bowel conditions, autoimmune disorders and asthma, as well as food allergies and intolerances.
Here are some key dietary changes that can make a difference:
Organic agriculture prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides, whereas industrial agriculture practices focus on productivity, utilising synthetic fertilisers and pesticides to create visually appealing produce, free from imperfections, that consumers want to buy. Therefore, non-organic foods may have much higher pesticide, growth hormone and antibiotic residues than organic foods.
Something is officially organic when more than 95 percent of its ingredients are labelled “certified organic” by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or another accredited certifying agent. A product that’s “made with organic ingredients” contains 70 percent or less of certified organic products. Making the choice to eat more organically can remove some of the chemicals that, taken over time, can lead to chronic diseases and contribute to cancer.
Here in Singapore, online retailer Herbal Pharm has a great selection of natural and organic health foods, along with supplements and chemical-free beauty products from across the globe. We particularly love their range of yummy granola mixes with rolled oats and protein packed nuts. Other popular products include Herbal Pharm’s organic coconut oil and organic coconut sugar, and its wide range of tea leaves and granola mixes.
Supplements as alternative medicine
Even with a balanced diet, most people don’t get enough of the nutrients they need. Taking dietary supplements can be a good way to fill in those gaps in your diet.. Talk to your doctor about what supplements would be best for you, then get same-day delivery from Herbal Pharm. They’ve got everything from vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, evening primrose oil, collagen and brain-boosting Omega-3 fatty acids to specific supplements to support eye health, bladder function, immunity and more.
Add probiotics to your diet
Another type of complementary medicine is adding probiotics into your diet. Probiotics are live microorganisms that may improve or restore the gut flora. They can be found in fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh and miso, and fermented dairy products such as yoghurt, kefir and buttermilk.
If fermented foods aren’t your thing, you can boost the beneficial bacteria strains in your gut by taking probiotic dietary supplements. Singapore-based wellness brand Akesi has a great range of Bio-Fermented Tonics and Probiotic+ Powders that can easily be mixed into your morning tea or enjoyed as a “happy hour” refresher. We particularly love the brand’s Bio-Fermented Berry Spritzer, which is mixed with sparkling water for a delicious probiotic treat. The Bio-Fermented Turmeric Tonic is perfect for the person on-the-go, and is recommended as a quick anti-inflammatory probiotic shot. The three tonics are 100 hundred percent natural and Australian-made, with one tablespoon providing six billion CFU of eight carefully selected probiotic strains.
Also popular are the Akesi Probiotic+ Powders, which deliver diverse probiotic strains, plus the necessary prebiotics to feed the “good bacteria”. Whether you mix it into your smoothie or into your baby’s formula, it’s an easy way to get that beneficial bacteria into the gut of everyone in your family.
Aromatherapy is a holistic healing practice and complementary health tool that has been used for thousands of years to promote mental and physical health. Even today, aromatherapy remains popular as as an alternative medicine for its mood-boosting and stress-relieving benefits.
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the science and art of combining essential oils – concentrated plant extracts that capture the plant’s scent and flavour – to create blends that support holistic healing and relaxation.
How does aromatherapy work?
Aromatherapy involves essential oils, which can be inhaled with a diffuser or mist, or diluted and applied directly to the skin, to produce various medicinal effects.
Whether you use the oils aromatically or topically, the chemicals from the oils stimulate the area of brain that plays a role in emotions and behaviours. This, in turn, can have beneficial effects on the body.
Ollie is a Singapore-based online store that sources 100 percent pure, natural and sustainable essential oils directly from farmers and distillers around the globe. Ollie’s essential oils can be used to boost moods, relieve pain, improve sleep and alleviate symptoms of common ailments.
Looking to give aromatherapy a try? Here are some of the brand’s most popular essential oils and the health benefits associated with them:
- Mysore sandalwood: Helps calm nerves, and improve memory and focus; it’s perfect for meditation!
- Himalayan lavender: This oil helps with relaxation and improved sleep quality.
- Egyptian geranium: Whether you add some drops to your face wash or an aromatherapy diffuser, this floral-smelling oil is a natural mood booster, and is useful in reducing PMS symptoms like cramps and acne.
- Spearmint: The fresh-scented oil helps relieve itchy scalps and rashes, thanks to its cooling and antimicrobial properties.
- Peppermint: Just add some into your tea to soothe an upset tummy, heartburn or nausea, or mix it into your body lotion (along with some spearmint) to relieve itchy skin.
- Lemon: Not only does this type of oil help ease digestion, it also brightens skin, thanks to its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
- Australian tea tree: This powerful antiseptic and antioxidant can help fight infections and boost immunity. It’s also known to quickly remove acne, acne scars and blemishes.
- Himalayan cedarwood: Aside from clearing up phlegm and improving breathing, this antimicrobial also repels cockroaches! Try adding a few drops into your surface cleaner for a bug-free home.
Is aromatherapy safe as a form of complementary medicine?
When used in safe concentrations and in the right way, essential oils are perfectly safe. However, you should take extra caution when using them near areas with mucous membranes such as the mouth and eyes. When trying out a new oil, it’s a good idea to play it safe by doing a patch test first.
GARY OW, a hypnotherapist in Singapore, says everyone can be taken into hypnosis, as long as he or she wishes to. In fact, you already know what hypnosis feels like, because you have experienced natural hypnotic states when drifting off while watching TV or daydreaming, for example.
What is hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses relaxation techniques, focus and language to place an individual into a deep state of relaxation. Once in this state, some key physiological changes occur. For instance, you’ll feel more uninhibited, which can help unlock “blockages” in your brain; this gives you the ability to perceive things differently and embrace new ideas.
With these changes in place, your hypnotherapist can help you explore issues more deeply. He or she can also provide solutions that will remain in your unconscious mind, ready to utilise in day-to-day life. Eventually, your conscious mind adopts the newly implanted suggestions, allowing behavioural change to occur.
As a certified hypnotherapist in Singapore, Gary works with individuals who wish to break unhealthy habits, conquer anxiety and stress, resolve issues from the past or give some of their natural abilities a boost. For example, clients come to him to deal with everything from habitual problems like smoking, poor sleep patterns and overeating to more complex psychological issues, stress, anxiety and phobias – with the fear of public speaking being quite common.
How does hypnotherapy work?
Prior to placing a client into a hypnotic state, Gary spends time understanding their problem. Ensuring the client is comfortable, he starts by using an induction technique to promote relaxation. At the same time, he pays special attention to his tone and language.
While some individuals become hypnotised immediately, others take a lot longer, explains Gary. Once in that state, there are several hypnotherapy methods that can be used, depending on the person and the problem.
“If you suffer from a phobia, I’ll use suggestion therapy to help you see yourself in your phobic situation where you have a positive reaction,” Gary says. “If you have a problem with anger, I’ll use analysis to discover what triggers an outburst and offer more healthy alternative reactions.”
Is hypnotherapy safe?
Of course, Gary understands that many people are sceptical or scared of this type of alternative medicine. As for losing it completely, don’t worry. “In a trance, you’re projected into a safe space – the level in between consciousness and unconsciousness. So, you mightn’t pay attention to your surroundings, but you’ll always be in charge of your actions, behaviours and statements. You can always bring yourself back to awareness,” Gary says.
#4 Sound healing
According to Gary of Hypnohealing, humans have a natural inclination for sound therapy, much like a favourite song can lift our mood. He combines sound therapy with hypnotherapy to treat a number of conditions including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and habitual problems like smoking, overeating and poor sleep patterns.
What is sound healing?
Sound healing – or sonic healing – is a type of alternative medicine that uses sound waves and vibrations to treat health conditions. Instruments used to relax the body and mind may include gongs, Tibetan singing bowls and lyres.
“Ancient cultures used music as a restorative treatment for mental disorders, and they believed that sound can heal the body,” says Gary. “In fact, sound healing traces its origins from ancient Greece and Tibet, and shows up in various places along the Silk Road, throughout history.”
In more recent times, he says, “Evidence-based research has shown that certain sound frequencies can generate an uplifting effect to help people gain clarity of mind, boost morale and work more effectively.”
How does this type of alternative medicine help?
”Our bodies are 75 percent water, and water is a great conductor for sound vibration. As sonic vibrations travel through the body, they promote circulation, energy flow and rejuvenation,” says Gary. “As the sound frequencies sync up with the brain waves, participants may report de-stress responses in the body, as if their tensions are melting away. Others report a floating or drifting sensation.”
Deep vibrations from Tibetan, crystal and sonic bowls or tuning forks are said to be especially useful for “resetting” the body-mind connection.
Is this type of alternative medicine safe?
Like listening to music, there is no risk to sound healing. However, be sure you’ve found a “real McCoy”, says Gary. An authentic sonic healer doesn’t just strike the bowls during the session. Instead, a trained practitioner of sonic healing will strike each bowl and follow up with running the stick around the rim until the bowls “sing” with a clear, clean and resonant “oooh” tone. “This resonant ‘singing’ is interspersed with other simple rhythmic tonal patterns to break any monotony,” he says. “Modern sonic healers may even combine a base electronic playback with live instruments.”
#5 Osteopathic medicine
A holistic, drug-free and non-invasive form of alternative medicine, osteopathy focuses on the body as a whole and employs a range of hands-on manipulation techniques to restore function, decrease pain and prevent reoccurrence of an injury without the use of medication or surgery. And we’re not just talking about treating sports injuries or back problems. Osteopathy treatment can help with a whole range of conditions including headaches, arthritis pain, digestive issues, reflux, pregnancy aches and pains, colic in babies and more.
This article first appeared in the June 2021 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!