8 Alternative Therapies Worth Considering

Natural medicine on wooden table backgroundHere at Mark’s Daily Apple, I avoid writing off anything without first investigating it. I keep one foot in the “alternative” health world and one in the “conventional” realm, making sure to maintain a skeptical—but openminded—stance on everything. There’s no other way to do it, if you’re honest. At least as far as I can tell.

No, not every alternative therapy works. A lot of it is pure hogwash. But whether we’re talking about off-label uses of conventional drugs and illegal drugs, natural pharmacological agents, or downright outlandish-sounding interventions, some therapies are worth considering. Not trying, necessarily. Considering.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of them:

Curcumin for Depression

The standard treatment for serious depression is the antidepressant. For years, researchers have been trotting out studies which pit curcumin—the primary phytonutrient in the spice turmeric—against conventional antidepressants or placebos.

  • In 2014, curcumin improved symptoms in patients with major depressive disorder, showing particular efficacy in people with atypical depression.
  • In 2015, researchers discovered that curcumin raised levels of certain biomarkers with proven antidepressant effects.
  • Also in 2015, researchers found that curcumin made antidepressants more effective.
  • And this year, researchers again confirmed the benefits of curcumin in major depression.

Exercise for Depression

To their credit, doctors are quick to recommend exercise for the treatment of “physical” ailments like osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, sarcopenia. It works, and it’s obvious and broadly accepted that it works. But evidence is emerging that exercise can also be an effective primary therapy for depression.

It’s especially good for people who don’t respond to SSRIs. In one study, 30% of folks whose depression did not respond to antidepressants experienced complete remission using exercise. In another, exercise improved self-rated sleep quality in depressed patients.

Psychedelics for Depression, Addiction, and Anxiety

Turn on, tune in, drop out… of your addiction, intractable depression, and crippling anxiety? Maybe.

In patients with terminal cancer, a single dose of psilocbyin (compound in “magic mushrooms”) abolished depression and anxiety. That’s “end of life” anxiety and depression, by the way—the realest stuff around. Other studies have similar results.

Ketamine is a powerful sedative that in smaller doses produces psychedelic effects. More recently, it’s emerged as a rapid antidepressant, with single doses abolishing drug-resistant depression within 24 hours and lasting up to three weeks.

Ibogaine is an African psychedelic whose characteristics make it untenable for recreation but promising for addiction therapy. It’s been used to produce remission of severe opioid addiction. It’s effective against alcoholism and nicotine addiction, and it shows promise against methamphetamine addiction.

It goes without saying that these are all powerful substances that also happen to be illegal in most places. Exercise caution. Several ibogaine clinics are doing good work in Mexico, so that’s an option.

Red Light for Joint Pain, Macular Degeneration, Thyroiditis, Cellulite, and Hair Loss

Shining infrared light on your bum knee and expecting anything to happen sounds ridiculous, right? Well…

There are other effects, too.

  • Applying red light to the eyes of seniors with macular degeneration significantly improved visual acuity after just two weeks. The benefits lasted for at least three years. Yes, years.
  • Applying red light to the skin covering the thyroid gland in patients with autoimmune thyroiditis for ten sessions improved thyroid function. Placebo did not.
  • A red light-enhanced comb appears to stimulate hair growth in both men and women with hair loss.
  • Red light may even help smooth out cellulite, though the jury is still out.

Fecal Transplants for Antibiotic-Resistant C. diff Infections

A friend of mine’s father passed from cancer a decade back. While the cancer ultimately did him in, one of the severest blows occurred when he picked up a nasty case of antibiotic-resistant C. diff in the hospital on a routine check with the oncologist. He was stuck there for weeks. Nothing worked. There’s no question he lost several months or years from dealing with the ramifications of constant watery diarrhea and poor sleep (from being woken up by his rumbling stomach).

I wish I knew about fecal transplants back then, because they are the single most effective (and in many cases, only) way to treat drug-resistant C. diff infections.


Modern sterility, medicine, and hygiene have eliminated helminths, yet our immune systems, which evolved in the presence of these parasites, expect them. There’s good evidence that our immune systems are “overactive” without a parasite load to attack, and this has given rise to the increase in asthma, allergies, intestinal diseases, celiac, and even multiple sclerosis.

Helminthic therapy—literally giving yourself worms—sounds gross, but it really does seem to help people deal with some of these conditions.

Forest Bathing for Stress, Diabetes, Hypertension, and Immune Health

Strolling along a wooded path sure is pleasant, but evidence out of Japan—where forest walks known as “forest bathing” are a cornerstone of modern medicine—shows that it can treat disease and ill health. It lowers stress and reduces cortisol, improves blood glucose control (compared to the same amount of walking in a city setting), reduces blood pressure, and increases the activity of cancer-fighting natural killer cells. What’s best of all? Many of these effects last for weeks after a single visit.

But don’t just go once a month. Go as often as possible. Get your green space (even if you’re not sick).

Low-Dose Naltrexone for Seemingly Everything

At normal doses, naltrexone blocks opioid receptors, inhibits GABA activity, and prevents dopamine release, making it great for alcohol or opioid addiction. At low doses, naltrexone blocks opioid receptors just enough to provoke the release of our natural opioids, the endorphins, which helps balance out the immune response and reduce inflammation. A growing number of clinicians are now using low-dose naltrexone as an off-label drug to treat conditions like multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, autism, chronic pain, and cancer.

As the immune system and inflammation both play major roles in seemingly every health condition, low-dose naltrexone is also being explored by clinicians in many other fields, including fertility and autoimmune diseases.

That’s it for today, folks. I’d love to hear from you.

What alternative therapies are you curious about? Which ones have you used? Are there any you’d like me to explore further?

Thanks for reading!

Primal Kitchen Mayo

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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82 thoughts on “8 Alternative Therapies Worth Considering”

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  1. Hi what happened to the Mother Fix of All Ailments:
    Chicken Soup

    1. LOL. Now bone broth is all the rage wildgrok … so chicken bone broth for the body and soul. 🙂

  2. Red and infrared therapeutic laser light therapy really works! Saved my friend’s foot from amputation!

    1. Dislocated shoulder, chucked the orthopedist/PT and went for several sessions of laser light therapy, then red LEDs at home, among other things. Now 9 months later, no frozen shoulder, no painful PT, good ROM, no pain.

      1. CDB comes from marijuana. THC for the mind and CBD for the body. CBD oil is an oil extraction of the compound from the cannabis plant. Look into the CO2 extracted CBD to stay away from butane extracted CBD…. Or just smoke some weed (different strains have higher or lower amounts of THC vs CBD)

      2. Maybe meant CBD oil? The non-psychoactive cannabis. Cannabidiol
        Many espoused uses
        Available (in CA) OTC

      3. I would guess Linda meant CBD oil, which is extracted from cannabis.

  3. Wow, I’m fascinated by the red light therapy! And totally believe in the “forest bathing” thing. Curcumin seems to be pretty much good for everything, and I had heard of the studies about exercise and depression. I would go so far as to say that exercise probably has some type of preventative effect against depression.

    1. Wonder if we-all should think about “exercise helping depression” the other way round. If you’re locked in a cell, or trapped in a small area (i.e., no exercise), THAT could be making/helping the body to feel depressed? We always seem to say: “exercise helps depression,” rather than “NON-exercise leads to increases, supports,may lead to depression.” (90% of problem solving in accurately defining the problem?)

  4. Has anyone tried supplementing with fulvic acid or humic acid? I just recently have started hearing about it being a great source of trace minerals. Would love to hear anyone’s experience with it if they’ve tried it or even better a full post on it by Mark.

    1. I have been taking fulvic acid for a month and haven’t noticed any change on how I feel. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t helping, though.

    1. Sulforaphane is a compound found most abundant in cruciferous vegetables. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if they make some sort of isolated supplement as well. It is a interesting and powerful little compound. Particularly good for heart health. It reduces the inflammation in the arteries and helps to dissolve plaque buildup. The dosage is tricky for a therapeutic amount, just eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables. They need to be cooked to because raw cruciferous vegetables are high in goitergens. They hamper with thyroid function. Try steaming, that’ll eliminate the goitergens but won’t remove many nutrients.

      1. Check out Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s podcast, FoundMyFitness. From what I understand of it, you don’t want to cook cruciferous vegetables in order to maximize sulforaphane. She also recommends some supplements, but says broccoli sprouts are the best food source of it, and cites different studies and dosages. It’s really interesting stuff, helping autism patients, inflammation, and the secretion of toxins like benzene, which we absorb from our environment.

    2. If you are interested in sulphoraphane you should check out Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s podcast on Found my fitness.com. Or check out the Joe rogan experience episode 901. Dr. Rhonda is his guest and she goes deep into the science and benefits of sulphoraphane.

    1. Matthew, if you’re referring to cold laser therapy (also known as low level laser), it works quite well for injuries. So does alternating heat and ice. Otherwise, if there’s a freezing-your-butt-off therapy, I haven’t heard of it.

  5. IV vitamin C is considered “alternative” but it has helped more people live longer than any conventional therapies for cancer and other diseases. Check doctoryourself.com for the history.

    1. I make ‘liposomal vitamin C” at home. (Apparently, doubt there are many studies?) liposomal vit. C actually puts MORE C into cells than even IV. Taking vit. C pills (again, not solid on the numbers) means your cells get less than 30%? (lower?) of what you take; most you pee out. (There’s a tale form Australia of a guy who was expected to die — he was hanging on with IV “C” — but the hospital gave up/stopped; so his family began making and bringing in liposomal vit C and the guy later walked out of the hospital!)

      It’s not hard to make — involves ascorbic acid, distilled water, lecithin, and an ultrasound machine (like a good jewelry cleaner). I make about 3 C every other week. Drink about a shot glass and half every day. The ascorbic acid is dissolved in water, the leciithin is blended like hell into other water, the asc. acid is then added and blended lightly — the whole shebang goes into the ultrasound machine for a half hour or so. (I use two silicate beakers sitting in tap water in the ultrasound- makes for easier cleanup; started just using the mix IN the ultrasound — much harder to clean up!)

  6. I always use “alternative” therapys. Haven’t been to a md for 20 yrs. I sure dislike the new terminology tho.. Forest bathing? Earthing? Try a walk in the wood and walking barefoot.. new age names for age old things. Lol!

    1. I agree. I mostly use tried and true alternative techniques, and have done so for years. I’ve never found that doctors did me much good, and one a few occasions they made me worse. I’ve also found that most issues will get better without medical intervention if you have the patience to give them a little time. My own theory (tongue-in-cheek) is this: 85 percent of what ails a person will eventually get better on its own; 10 percent will need some sort of professional treatment; and the remaining 5 percent, well, you’re probably just stuck with it.

  7. As a professional pianist, I have had problems with tendinitis for over two decades until I learned about the benefits of magnesium oil. Everyone knows how Epsom salts is great for tired muscles. The active ingredient in Epsom salt is magnesium. Magnesium oil is kind of like Epsom salts on “steroids”. Apply directly to the area where it hurts – it’s great for tired muscles, joints, sore back and neck, etc. just wipe it on and then wash off after it dries after about 15 minutes. Have aloe vera ready to apply in case it itches.

  8. infrared light is amazing for joint pain and really confortable to have on the belly too 😀
    I think 2 things that are worth mentioning in this article are: saunas and acupunture! used for a long long time in many ancient civilizatons as well and with proven results

    1. would like to hear more about regular saunas and the infra red saunas

  9. Red light therapy works so well. I have significant arthritis in both feet and ankles and light therapy works wonders for pain and stiffness.

  10. Some other herbals may be mentioned as well. Ive been taking boswellia as an alternative to Ibuprofen. So far my joint pain is under control.

  11. Red light sounds interesting, I use a light box 10,000 lux but it’s blue light. It helps keep circadian rhythms in balance. What else is red light good for? I might need one of those too.

  12. I’d love to hear your take on neurofeedback/neurotherapy. We have seen cognitive improvements in our son (age 10) and improvements in his epilepsy. A practitioner just opened in our town who is using neurofeedback as well as other treatments for ADHD. Here’s a good site to start: https://www.neurotherapydallas.com/

    1. EEG therapy is wonderful. Got fed up with the drugs for depression (Paxil gave me panic attacks, Prozac affected my short-term memory); found a child psychologist who was willing to work with me on a self pay basis. After a couple of months I had reached a deep level he had never seen before. After that, started Holosync. Depression never recurred! Much calmer, better able to cope, very seldom experience anger or upset.

  13. Mark, what is your view on hydrogen enriched water? There seem to be a fairly big number of studies (600+) showing it’s pretty incredible health benefits, and Japanese seem to have it widely available commercially, but tampering with my drinking water doesn’t somehow agree with me, for some reason. What does everyone think?

  14. Hi Mark, a friend of mine has recently started trying out different alternative therapies for childhood trauma and to improve his relationships with key people in his life, as well as to boost immunity. I’m specifically referring to use of ayahuasca, San Pedro, and Kambo (frog poison). What are your thoughts on the efficacy and safety of these natural medicines?

  15. Never commented on this site before, although I’ve been a follower for years. But I want to relate my experience with depression. I’d been suffering from low mood for some years and tried both talk therapy and SSRIs. Neither worked particularly well, and when I complained to my doctor his response was to offer to up my dose of citalopram. Since I had significant side effects already I wasn’t keen to go there.

    I decided, on the basis of much research, to make my own prescription: as much outdoor time as possible and a weekly sunbed trip when it wasn’t, lots of spicy food, and two or three trips to a local gym each week, doing heavy lifting not cardio. I work with a personal trainer for one hour per week. It’s far cheaper than my talk therapy used to be and I walk out feeling like a million bucks. Every single week.

    I guess I can never say I’m “cured” but I certainly feel better than I have in years and years.

    1. Wow! That’s great. We’re animals and we need to move! We need the sky!

  16. Thank you for the depression therapies. I am going to add some circumin to my routine. I have been wrestling with depression and increasing anxiety the past few years and some days have been pretty bad. I refuse to take antidepressants. No one knows I am dealing with it because I am high functioning, but being in my head space is absolutely exhausting.

    1. Try Vit D3. A simple blood test can tell if your blood level is low.

  17. Good read and none of this is really that far-fetched IMHO … with the exception of Helminthic therapy (I read Melanie’s blog, interesting) and not familiar with naltrexone. The one alternative therapy I read a lot about and I’m very skeptical regarding is Reiki. I suspect the power of the mind and the placebo effect is in play, if you are absolutely convinced on a molecular level this person is manipulating energy and healing whatever it is you want healed, it might do the trick for you.

    1. Second level Reiki practitioner here – it works for me. I was skeptical too, until I went for a session, then decided to go for the training. A good resource by a former NASA scientist is Hands of Light by Barbara Brennan.

  18. We really want to try the light therapy, but could someone recommend one to buy? The reviews on Amazon are mostly fake.

    1. Hi Diana. Funny how these things are often synchronistic. We have just done major research into the benefits of Near Infra Red in terms of tissue healing and not having big money to spend, checked out Dr Wilson’s design


      we have now purchased 4 x 250W bulbs and lamps designed for heating lizard aquariums etc. The bulbs are currently in shipping so we have not tried it yet.

      The best bulbs are pobably these:

      RubyLux NIR-A Near Infrared Bulb
      All the best

  19. I truly would be dead (depression) without energy healers. Ancient Chinese medicine deals with our bodies’ energy systems.

    I also refuse to take antidepressants. Things that have helped: daily cod liver oil, paleo diet (grains and sugar=low mood), and Mintran from Standard Processing. Sunshine. Walking.

  20. I’m hoping for a follow-up article on the alternative therapies that are totally hogwash. (For example: earcandling, in my opinion.)

  21. How about visceral mobilization? Does anyone have an opinion on this? Thanks!

  22. Yes, since you asked…..I think I know how you feel about homeopathic remedies, but I think more investigation is warranted. My experiences, as well as those of my dentist, doctor (and her nurses) has convinced us of the wonders of using Arnica Montana as recommended. It is quite something how it works to heal bruising and trauma quickly, with no side effects and at very low cost. Granted, some homeopathics may not work as expected but that is the very nature of homeopathy. One has to study the very long history of it to get a grasp but I see nothing wrong with trying. It is at least as effective( and much less troublesome ) than some of the above mentioned items.

    1. Vit D 3 is also great for depression, especially the kind caused by not being in the sun in winter. It also helpsthe thyroid work.

  23. Hi Mark,
    Thanks for this article. I’d love to see you write about proliferation therapy. I’ve avoided some major intervention using this to heal a jaw joint.

  24. Great article! Would love to hear your thoughts on other alternative therapies, such as, Floating (epsom salt magnesium floats), cryotherapy, and hyperbaric oxygen chambers.

  25. Mark, how about oil pulling and all the benefits touted about it? Some websites say it can cure just about everything, while others (actual dentists) say at most it’s a good mouthwash replacement and nothing more.

  26. Hi Mark,

    Good post and certainly leaves it open for a lot of discussion.

    I would be another person to recommend sulforaphane and a great product in combination with it is GliSODin. Cell-logic does both of these products and combines them in an awesome multivitamin. Both of these compounds are emerging nutrigenomic compounds and there is hours and hours of interesting reading out there, so check them out.
    GliSODin is a gliadin bound (don’t freak out – it’s not as bad as it sounds) compound of superoxide dismutase sourced from the Cucumis melon. There is emerging research that it may be helpful in asthma, atherosclerosis, autism and a host of other diseases where free radicals play a part.

    The other great alternative product I love is liposomal vitamin C. Again a great therapy for any condition where there is a high oxidative stress load from free radicals.

    1. Hi What form of DMSO do you use. I have very arthritic knees and have tried all sorts.

      1. Hi Catherine, I use the cream in the orange container sold on amazon. It took it a week to start working but it has been great. Also, something else that really helped my knees were the exercises and gait improvements recommended by Pete Egoscue in his books.

        1. Thanks for this. One thing that does help is massaging my knees and the calves and thighs above and below. My shiatsu practitioner recommended this because the knee structure is quite constricted

  27. So I am really hoping there are some very careful practitioners out there monitoring the helminthic therapy. I live in Ethiopia where all manner of intestinal parasites exist in droves. I de-worm every 6 months, and even with that, often feel lethargic, sick, bloated … and I’m a privileged person with access to meds. For most of the population, intestinal worms are associated with malnutrition, chronic anemia, muscle wasting and lots of kids end up missing school. It’s not something to take lightly, and don’t underestimate the advances brought by good food and water hygiene that mean most modern-day Groks don’t actually struggle with worm-induced sickness unless they want to.

    1. Picking up random parasites in unknown numbers from the environment and controlled dosage helminthic therapy are vastly different situations. There are absolutely helminths that you don’t want to have in your system at all and any helminth species in excessive numbers can be problematic, but my very small colony of Necator americanus has taken me from a total health melt down to an increasingly normal life in a matter of months. You can read my story at https://colonyofme.com/escaping-autoimmune-hell-helminthic-microbiome-immune-support/

  28. “A skeptical but open-minded stance on everything” is definitelty the right attitude to adopt, but I have to admit I’m much more skeptical than open-minded when it comes to pharmaceuticals, which possibly gets me into trouble with regards to my chronic inflammation issues. I really, really want the solution to come about through diet and appropriate exercise. The Forest Bathing really rings true for me. Nothing seems to loosen me up and release stress like a walk in the high plains and woods. Although once a month I like a trip to town and to take in a gallery, museum and a spot of shopping. It’s a different experience, A Day On My Own. It reinvigorates me on different levels. I’ve done Low Dose Naltrexone, but I was doing so much other stuff at the same time that I don’t really know if it had any effect. Where and how do you do Red Light Therapy?

  29. Forrest bathing, for me also known as hunting. I often say to my wife when going hunting that I am just “going to sit in the woods”. Can’t tell you how many times I easily could have harvested an animal but instead just watched it. It is such great therapy for stress! Once in a while I come home with great food too! Also not surprisingly I fall asleep while out there as well.

  30. You are right to be skeptical of both worlds. I have been seeing a Naturopath, and have had amazing results for everything from heartburn to high blood pressure with her diet and supplement recommendations. So until I hit a brick wall with her therapy, I’m not anxious to return to the medical establishment’s pharmaceutical solutions. These are good things to look into. Thanks.

  31. Started sleeping (!) with my red LED bulb (this one: RubyLux ALL RED LED Bulb Small in a $5 candlestick lamp base from WalMart) glowing in my bedroom (otherwise, the room is very very dark). I put the ‘lamp’ on the bedside table opposite the ‘direction’ I usually sleep in (lie facing; although I do wake up nearly every morning on my back, so I’m not ‘avoiding’ the light). It’s not a bright lamp (can’t read by it, can barely see around the room by it, but with the normal light off– the room is bathed in red.

    First thing I noticed — starting the very first morning — is that I awaken with a completely clear ‘brain.’ No grogginess, no slow-moving almost confusion. I awakened at the same time as before (I still also get up two hours after going to sleep to pee), and I’m not less-than-bright until after coffee! Been doing it now for a couple weeks: still awaken ‘clear.’

    Started the whole thing so I could hold the lamp (LED: never gets warm) against my throat; specifically thyroid. Dave Asprey says the red light travels an inch or so through the skin. I do NOT point it at my eyes however! I did buy a red LED “floodlight,” which I have set on top of the desk organizer in my computer room; (when I remember to turn it on) it ‘floods’ the corner the back of my monitor faces. Mostly, I forget it’s there.

  32. My own personal Pilates program specifically targeting my particular areas of weakness, greater postural awareness (this also came from the Pilates practice) and a new pillow helped me fix my major issues with a stiff and sore neck, bursitis in both of my shoulders and general stiffness in my back. I was all locked up and a year later I am 80% better. The root cause of all of this was hypermobile joints. No MD suggested exercise as the cure for my problem, probably because they had no idea of the cause of the problem. Modern medicine needs to get better at figuring out what the cause of a problem is, so that it can get better at providing cures.

    Here’s the link to the pillow that helped me. I sleep on both my back and sides and I could never find a pillow that was comfortable for both positions until this one. It’s the Therapeutica sleeping pillow.


  33. We love craniosacral therapy. It is so gentle and relaxing yet it provides much pain relief for my wife’s MS symptoms that it’s almost like magic. I suspect that other energy based therapies would work similarly.

    We’ve also got a Himalayan salt crystal lamp. I’m not sure if it really does much, but it casts a very soft, pretty light (it’s pink) when getting ready for sleep. I can actually sleep through the night without it bothering me. It’s also supposed to release ions or something like that.

  34. My little brother went to an ayahuasca ceremony and it cured him from a bad heroin/opioid addiction. It worked like magic. He’s been drug free for over a year now but he also moved and severed all contact with his drug life friends/dealers.

    I’m starting LDN as soon as my prescription gets in. I’m very excited to see how it helps my autoimmunity issues.

  35. I would submit another potential technique, a diagnostic technique I used recently called biomeridian scan. The measuring device is a hand connector which connects a separate electrical line to the 5 fingers of the hand. It takes a while to do a full scan, maybe 10-15 minutes. Why I would recommend it is that the results appeared to be very accurate, at least to the extent that all my major complaints I came to the doctor with were registered as the top issues, it also gave more detailed information which shed more light on my situation. This is considered a “scam” if you check quackwatch or similar sites, not that I normally do.

    A comprehensive blood panel and this test were the main diagnostic tools used besides a detailed history and discussion with the doctor.