Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Power of Prayer

Prayer has been purported by some to be very powerful. Others disagree. Yet, there are studies that show definite positive psychological effects, such as improved marital relationships, life and religious satisfaction, existential well-being and an overall purpose for life. It has also been found to be an indicator of happiness (Freeman, 2009)

Some other beneficial effects from prayer include a reduction of stress and pain. People pray for many different reasons. For one, it may be spiritual or religious. For another it may be a medical diagnosis such as cancer or AIDS (Freeman, 2009).

Prayer has been called 'mystical' to some because they do not understand it. Whether they try to understand or not, prayer has a power that really is beyond describing in scientific terms. In some, prayer assists to decrease the intensity of pain or the excruciating emotional events taking place in one's life. One thing is sure, however, and that is the reduction of anxiety, stress, and pain  making dealing with life much easier.


Freeman, L. (2009). Complementary and alternative medicine (3rd ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.

We all Love a Massage!

Massage is based on the idea of aiding the ability of healing, to help the body heal itself. How does it help us to heal ourselves? The mechanisms are classified into mechanical, physiologic, reflex, body mind, and energetic.

Mechanical mechanisms include compression, stretching, shearing, and broadening of tissues.

Physiologic mechanisms refer to the organic processes of the body such as changes at the cellular level, and changes at the tissue and organ system level.

Reflex mechanisms is when the pressure or movement in one body part affects the pressure or movement in another body part.

Mind-body mechanisms this is the interplay between the mind, body, and spirit. It also includes emotion, immunity, and health or disease processes

Energetic mechanisms is the change in the body's flow of energy. This is related to the acupuncture points used in acupuncture therapy.

Some of the effects on the body from massage include better sleep, decreased anxiety, decreased blood pressure, decreased muscle tension, increased blood flow to the limbs, and improved mood state.

Interestingly, the research shows mixed results of effectiveness with massage therapy. Some areas where it does show beneficial effects include decreased behavioral symptoms in children with both ADHD and autism. It has also been

shown to enhance the motor and muscle functioning of children with Down's syndrome (Freeman, 2009).

There are contraindications for massage therapy, so use caution, These contradictions include nausea, severe pain, fever, or a recent severe injury, rashes, open wounds, herpes simplex, bleeding, acute inflammation, cardiac arrhythmias, decreased sensation, and under the influence of alcohol and recreational drugs (Freeman, 2009).


Freeman, L. (2009). Complementary and alternative medicine (3rd ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.

Using Herbal Supplements Safely

It is to the detriment of many that because a "medicine" or "herb" comes from a plant that the safety of it is never questioned. Many herbs that were originally used in the culinary sense such as garlic, onions, ginger, parsely, sage, rosemary, and thyme have been found to be beneficial to the body. On the other hand, is it well known that nutmeg can be toxic when used in amounts of more than one whole nutmeg? (Freeman, 2009)

Though herbs can be used safely and with helpful benefits, many people do not report to their doctors that they are using them. Perhaps this is because they fear their doctor will disapprove. Important reasons remain, however, to report the use of herbs to your doctor. There are many different compounds and elements that may react with certain medicatons, but they may also react with other herbs as well (Freeman, 2009).

Scientists do not know much about herbs, much to the dismay of several people. There are many conditions that make the study of herbs so difficult. One condition is that there are so many herbs and the scientific study of herbs is in it's infancy. Herbs often contain so many different chemicals and compounds, it is a tedious process of study. Other issues that intervene with research include how each and every herb interact differently, based on the content of the soil in which they are grown, the time of year it is harvested, and the portion of the plant that is used.

When looking for herbal supplements, make sure to read the labels carefully. You should see "standardized extract" on the label. This means that there is a guaranteed amount of the herb within each pill or capsule. Remember to discuss with your doctor the use of herbal supplements. And always be cautious when using them. Just because they come from a plant, are called "natural" (as many people will tell you!), they can be helpful, but may still carry potential danger. Be safe when using herbs!


Freeman, L. (2009). Complementary and alternative medicine(3rd ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.

Do you know the history of medicinal herbs?

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that nearly 80 percent of the world population (or 4 billion people) use herbal supplements for a variety of health ailments. The use of herbs has become one of the most utilized form of complementary and alternative medicine (Freeman, 2009).  However, how did the use of herbs begin? What is the history of herbal use?

Have you ever noticed a chimpanzee swallowing (and make no mistake here, the chimpanzee is not chewing this) a plant otherwise thought of as an herbal medicine. This herb is called Aspilia and it has a bad taste. Hence the reason why the chimpanzees will swallow it and not chew it. If you observe closely, the chimpanzee will even grimace. They eat these before dawn, because the sun can release dangerous chemicals in these plants. The Aspilila can kill parasite, fungi, and bacteria.  It is also used for stomachaches and wound care. Wounds are often dressed with crushed leaves, rubbed into the wound (Freeman, 2009).

There is evidence that even Neanderthals used herbs. In the 1960s, a Neanderthal man was found buried with the herbs that were obviously used to treat him. There were eight different types of herbs that were used. Would it surprise you that seven of the herbs are still in use today? (Freeman, 2009).

For more information on the history of herbs you may view:


Freeman, L. (2009). Complementary and alternative medicine (3rd ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


A form of energy healing, Reiki is a Japanese method of stress reduction and relaxation. This then leads to healing. Reiki is used through the "laying on of hands" sending a life energy to the other person. When a person's life energy is depleted, Reiki assists to correct this. When someone receives a treatment, they generally feel relaxed, calm, happy, and more healthy.

Reiki can be used with children and babies. This form of energy healing is also used safely with pregnant women. It can also help animals and plants! Some of the illnesses that Reiki has been used to treat are bee stings, headaches, colds, flu, and tension and anxiety. It has also been known to decrease adverse side effects to some medical treatments, including chemotherapy, post-operative pain and depression.

Reiki is not a religion. Anyone can practice Reiki or get Reiki treatments no matter what their beliefs are. Any who receive or practice Reiki are not asked to change their beliefs or religion. Reiki is also safely used with medical treatments and psychological treatments as well, however it is recommended that before using Reiki, a person should discuss with their medical provider if it is the right treatment for them.

Does Reiki really work? Cuneo et al (2011) studied the effects of Reiki on work-related stress in registered nurses. Stress is a common word among nurses. Stress levels are often high in nurses because of stressors within their environment. Some of these are interruptions resulting in less time to complete their work, being short staffed, frequently taking students, leadership and management styles within the work environment, professional conflict and always the emotional stress of caring for others being the main stressor. This study showed that nurses' stress levels decreased while receiving Reiki treatments. Yes, Reiki does work!

Cuneo, C.L., Cooper, M.R.C., Drew, C.S., Nauom-Heffernan, C., Sherman, T., Walz, K., & Weinberg, J. (2011). The effect of Reiki on work-related stress of the registered nurse. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 29(1), 33-43.

International Center for Reiki Training. (2013). Retrieved from

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Meditation is similar to relaxation. One might even wonder if they were in fact the same thing. However, several studies have found a significant difference between the two.  It is based within the brain rhythms. In meditation there are increased beta rhythms and decreased alpha rhythms. In relaxation, alpha rhythms are increased (Freeman, 2009).

Meditation calms the mind and in some instances the mind goes into a state of what some call transcendence. In scientific terms it is known as the Blank-Out Phenomenon.  This mental state is thought to clear the mind and break up mental thoughts and mechanisms that are unproductive. When one comes out of the blank-out, they report feeling like they can sense the world more vividly, their mind essentially feels clear of outside disturbances (Freeman, 2009).

There are different types of meditation. One is called transcendental meditation.  Transcendental meditation was developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  Herbert Benson also developed a type of meditation that is not associated with any religion as some feel uncomfortable participating in the transcendental form.  It is called Respiratory One Method.  Mindfulness meditation is another form. It has been used as an intervention in chronic pain, drug use, and in post traumatic stress disorder.  It is also known as Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation. An interesting note is that mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase cognitive abilities in elderly people (Freeman, 2009).

Though meditation has been shown in studies to be effective for many people, there are contraindications to beginning meditation without careful observance and training from a professional. People with a psychiatric history  should be aware that meditation may result in psychotic episodes.  Some studies suggest that meditation causes seizures in those with epilepsy, and yet other studies show that it is very useful in those with epilepsy.  Further research is needed before the outcome of this question is known (Freeman, 2009)

For more information on meditation, please visit:

Freeman, L. (2009). Complementary and alternative medicine: A research-based approach (3rd ed.).

St. Louis, MO: Mosby.


Did you know that relaxation is one of the most commonly used forms of complementary medicine? In fact, relaxation therapy has been used to treat several medical disorders such as eczema, nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy, high blood pressure, gastroesophageal reflux, epilepsy, irritable bowel syndrome, heart attack,  mental health problems and pain (Freeman, 2009). 
There are two types of relaxation. One is somatic,  which refers to muscle relaxation through listening to the body’s sensations.  The second is cognitive relaxation. Cognitive relaxation refers to using a mental image, focusing on a thought, a sound, or breathing. In addition to using a mental focus, the practice of having a nonjudgmental attitude is included. This relaxes the body and the mind at the same time (Freeman, 2009).

When relaxing, the body causes the autonomic system to go into a calm state. The autonomic system is the system that when excited causes the fight-or-flight response. When relaxing, it goes into a resting phase.  This resting phase has health benefits on the cardiovascular system and it also boosts the immune system. Relaxation causes a release of endogenous (within the body) opioid  type substances called endorphins. This is how pain can be decreased through relaxation (Freeman, 2009).

Freeman, L. (2009). Complementary and alternative medicine: A research-based approach (3rd ed.).
        St. Louis, MO: Mosby.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Stressful Life Events can have Detrimental Effects on Your Immune System

The fight-or-flight reaction is something we are all aware of.  It kicks into action with chemical messengers called epinephrine and norepinephrine, among others.  Your heart beat increases, your blood pressure increases, your hands sweat, you feel anxiety, and the list goes on.  The purpose of this reaction is for protection.  This is a result of acute stress.  So what happens if certain life events cause chronic stress?

Chronic stress is caused by life events.  Life events include adjusting to a new marriage, losing a loved one, especially a spouse or a child, fear, social isolation, divorce, caregiving for an ill family member, becoming disabled as well as many other events in life.  The chemical messengers released during the fight-or-flight reaction remain at higher levels, and this causes stress on the body. The body is ready for acute stressors, but it cannot handle chronic stressors.  Chronic stress suppresses, dysregulates the adaptive immune responses, and depresses the function of certain immunoprotective cells (Dhabhar, 2013).

One research study identified the biological stress of baby piglets being weaned early.  One of the most stressful life events in a pig's life is the weaning from the sow.  This contributes not only to intestinal dysfunction, but it also contributes to a decreased immune system.  The combination of these outcomes results in reduced pig health, growth, and feed intake, especially during the first week after the weaning (Campbell, Crenshaw, & Polo, 2013).

The same occurs in humans when life events become chronic stressors. Physiological stress causes decreased immunoprotection, resulting in acute infections such as pneumonia, sinus infections, and  decreased capability of the body to accept the protective mechanisms of vaccinations. For example, only 50% of caregivers of patients with Alzheimer's disease responded to flu vaccinations, due to the chronic stress from the caregivine (Freeman, 2009).  Other detrimental effects of decreased immunoprotection include problems with inflammatory disorders as well as autoimmune disorders (Dhabhar, 2013).


Campbell, J.M., Crenshaw, J.D., & Polo, J. (2013). The biological stress of early weaned piglets. Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology, 4, 19-22.

Dhabhar, F.S. (2013). Psychological stress and immunoprotection versus immunopathology in the skin. Clinics in Dermatology, 31, 18-30.

Freeman, L. (2009). Complementary and alternative medicine (3rd ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby.

Let's Begin with CAM

During this modern age, information abounds on the internet.  Not all  information on the internet is correct.  But how do we know if the information is feeding us opinions or if it is honestly information that has been shown through research to be effective? The drive for knowledge, especially for taking control of our own health, is intense. Being educated about the true versus the bogus is essential to reaching for excellent health. Let's get started with some valuable information regarding complementary and alternative medicine and how it can help  to improve your health.

As part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health  opened a branch called the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). The purpose of this branch was to open a way for the research of these approaches to  health care  that have been (and still are to a certain extent) purported by Western Medicine to be a pseudoscience. The research is compelling in many aspects, although research on CAM is limited at this time. Time will bring more research-based information about CAM.

What is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)?  NCCAM (2013) defined complementary as a "non-mainstream approach together with conventional medicine" (p.1).  Alternative is defined as a "non-mainstream approach in place of conventional medicine" (p.1). NCCAM states that it is not very common for one to use alternative medicine, but the use of complementary methods is widespread.

There are many different methods of complementary medicine. A few of which include natural products such as dietary or herbal supplements, acupuncture, massage therapy, meditation such as mindfulness meditation, movement therapies like Pilates and Structural Integration, relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation. Others include spinal manipulation, Tai Chi, and yoga.

Complementary and alternative medicine bring together mind-body integration.  Freeman (2009) informs us that the mind-body integration occurs via interactions within the body itself to increase the functioning of the immune system.  These interactions occur through the endocrine system, the nervous system, and the immune system. In the next blog post, we will move through how life events effect these body systems to decrease immune function. Associated with the pathways between these body systems, chemical messengers possess the capacity to modulate the immune system. Cell behavior and physiologic responses to the affected immune system then affect health outcomes whether the outcome is increased immunity or decreased immunity. The next blog we will discuss how these pathways are changed and immune systems depressed through life events.


Freeman, L. (2009). Complementary and alternative medicine (3rd ed.). St Louis, MO: Mosby.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2013). cam basics. Retrieved from

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Welcome to my blog! I am Jenny Decker. I am a master's prepared registered nurse and I teach pre-licensure nursing students at a university.  My area of teaching focuses on the care of the older adult. I truly love caring for these people and have a special love for older adults dealing with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.  Currently, I am working on a PhD in psychology, with a specialization in Health Psychology. 

As for this blog, I hope to be able to incite you with a passion to learn more about Complementary and Alternative Medicine. In addition,  I will be your guide for topics related to Health Psychology in general.  In short, this blog will guide you through many aspects of reaching for a better healthy you!  Please feel free to jump in and comment on anything you want, as well as interact with me, too!

Hang on tight, because here we go!