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Five Alternative Treatments That Work

It's hard to decipher all the hype about alternative medicine. How do we know what works and what doesn't?

Well, CNN got the lowdown from experts in the field on which alternative treatments actually work for what.

Here are highlights:

  • Acupuncture for pain: Hands, down, this was the No. 1 recommendation from our panel of experts. They also recommended acupuncture for other problems, including nausea after surgery and chemotherapy.
  • Calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B6 for PMS: When pre-menstrual syndrome rears its ugly head, gynecologist Dr. Tracy Gaudet encourages her patients to take these dietary supplements. "They can have a huge impact on moodiness, bloating, and on heavy periods," says Gaudet, who's the executive director of Duke Integrative Medicine at Duke University Medical School.

There are more so

  • St. John's Wort for depression: The studies are a bit mixed on this one, but our panel of experts agreed this herb — once thought to rid the body of evil spirits — is definitely promising. "It's worth a try for mild to moderate depression," says Dr. Andrew Weil, founder and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. "Remember it will take six to eight weeks to see an effect." Remember, too, that St. John's wort can interfere with some medicines; the University of Maryland Medical Center has a list.
  • Guided imagery for pain and anxiety: "Go to your happy place" has become a cliché, but our experts say it really works. The technique, of course, is more complicated than that. "In guided imagery we invite you to relax and focus on breathing and transport you mentally to a different place," says Mary Jo Kreitzer, Ph.D., R.N., founder and director of the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota.
  • Glucosamine for joint pain: "It's safe, and it looks like it's effective," says Dr. Frederick Hecht, director of research at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. "It may be the first thing that actually reverses cartilage loss in osteoarthritis."

If you've had any experiences with any of the above, I'd love to hear about them in the comment section below.


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