It’s one of the cardinal principles of natural medicine that treatment should aim not only to treat illness but also to enhance wellness. According to this ideal, a proper course of treatment should improve your sense of general well-being, enhance your immunity to illness, raise your physical stamina, and increase mental alertness, as well as resolve the specific condition you took it for.
Unfortunately, while there can be little doubt that this is a laudable goal, it is easier to laud it than to achieve it. Conventional medicine tends to focus on treating diseases rather than increasing wellness, not as a matter of philosophical principle, but because it is easier to accomplish.
Probably the strongest force affecting wellness is genetics. Beyond that, common sense steps endorsed by all physicians include increasing exercise, reducing stress, improving diet, getting enough sleep, and living a life of moderation without bad habits, such as smoking or overeating.
Beyond this, however, it is difficult to make strong affirmations, and the optimum forms of diet and exercise and other aspects of lifestyle remain unclear. In fact, they may always remain unclear, as it is impossible to perform double-blind, placebo-controlled studies on most lifestyle habits. (For information on why such studies are irreplaceable see
Principal Proposed Natural Treatments
Although no natural treatments have been proven effective for enhancing overall wellness, two have shown promise: multivitamin/multimineral tablets
In order to function at our best, we need good nutrition. However, the modern diet often fails to provide people with sufficient amounts of all the necessary nutrients. For this reason, use of a multivitamin/multimineral supplement might be expected to enhance overall health and well-being, and preliminary
For example, in one double-blind study, 80 healthy men between the ages of 18 and 42 were given either a multivitamin/mineral supplement or placebo and followed for 28 days.
Furthermore, several, although not all, studies have found that multivitamin/multimineral supplements can improve immunity in older people.
For more information, see the article on
The herb Panax ginseng has an ancient reputation as a healthful “tonic.” According to a more modern concept developed in the former USSR, ginseng functions as an “adaptogen.”
This term is defined as follows: An adaptogen helps the body adapt to stresses of various kinds, whether heat, cold, exertion, trauma, sleep deprivation, toxic exposure, radiation, infection, or psychologic stress. In addition, an adaptogen causes no side effects, is effective in treating a wide variety of illnesses, and helps return an organism toward balance no matter what may have gone wrong.
From a modern scientific perspective, it is not truly clear that such things as adaptogens actually exist. However, there is some evidence that ginseng may satisfy some of the definition’s requirements.
Several studies have found that ginseng can improve the overall sense of well-being. For example, such benefits were seen in a 12-week, double-blind trial that evaluated the effects of
extract in 625 people.
Similarly positive findings were reported in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 36 people newly diagnosed with diabetes.
A 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 120 people found that ginseng improved general well-being among women age 30-60 years old and men age 40-60 years old, but not among men age 30-39 years old.
Other results suggest this as well: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 30 young people found marginal benefits at most,
In addition, ginseng has also shown some potential for enhancing
Other Proposed Natural Treatments
Besides Panax ginseng (discussed above), certain other herbs are regarded as adaptogens
"Green juices" made from such substances as
Levels of the hormone
In some branches of alternative medicine,
Practitioners and other proponents of yoga have long claimed that its gentle stretching exercises, special breathing techniques, and deep meditative states enhance overall health. However, to date, there is only limited evidence that yoga improves general wellbeing and quality of life.
Numerous other alternative therapies are claimed by their proponents to improve overall wellness, including
For a discussion of homeopathic approaches to general wellness, see the
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Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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