By Arianna Davis
If you had searched for U.S.hospitals offering nontraditional therapies like acupuncture or herbal remedies 16 years ago, you would have found that only about 8 percent of them could help you. By 2012, a full 20 percent had complementary and alternative medicine options. Take a look at three innovative approaches.
In January, the Cleveland Clinic became one of the first academic U.S. hospitals to open a Chinese herbal therapy center, which uses more than 500 ingredients, from aloe to willow bark, for conditions that persist despite traditional interventions. Patients meet with an herbalist and are typically prescribed herbs in pill form. So far, the clinic has treated more than 100 people—including an allergy sufferer who didn't experience lasting relief with antihistamines, but was almost completely cured with herbs.
Farm to (Hospital) Table
Everyone should eat right, but it's especially important for cancer patients. In fact, one study found that a compound in many fruits and veggies may improve the body's response to chemo. In 2012, Cancer Treatment Centers of America partnered with a local farmer to plant vegetables behind its Phoenix-area hospital, making it the first cancer clinic to operate an organic farm. Now nearly 70 acres, the farm yields 60 types of produce, including Tuscan kale and Romanesco cauliflower, for daily meals. Patients are encouraged to help with the planting. "Our goal is to give them the best shot at survival by ensuring they eat nourishing, fresh food," says executive chef Frank Caputo.
Music as Medicine
Capitalizing on music's healing power, physicians and nurses at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York launched a music therapy program in 2010 in the behavioral health unit and have since expanded to other areas of the hospital. A music therapist leads those suffering from cognitive impairment or traumatic brain injury in group workshops (like drum circles) to alleviate pain and stress. "Many patients wouldn't engage in other activities like art therapy," says Maria Hale, the hospital's vice president of patient advocacy. "But in every music session, even the most disengaged person starts tapping his foot."