When we are at war, we use both conventional forces and unconventional forces. Conventional forces battle directly against the enemy, while special forces teach the host nation how to defend itself.

It is the same with healing forces. We have conventional medicine, which battles diseases directly, and unconventional, or special medicine, which helps the body fight its own diseases.

Special medicine has been called different names over the last two decades — unconventional, alternative, complementary and integrative — but it is here to stay. Recent research from Harvard shows that it has been growing steadily in popularity and use over the last 50 years. It draws from traditional medical systems that focus on holism and dynamism, such as Greek medicine, Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, Unani Tibb and Naturopathy.

The U.S. military is using acupuncture for pain management on amputees and burn patients returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. Army has a center that focuses on integrative medicine for soldiers and family use.

Nutritional and botanical supplements — along with dietary modifications taken from the world of integrative medicine — are used to enhance performance of combat soldiers. Special Forces soldiers are using acupuncture in war zones to help other soldiers maintain health and combat readiness, and veterans are using special medicine for health and stress recovery.

Civil affairs and humanitarian agencies are using special medicine in nations following both war and natural disasters. Organizations such as Acupuncturists without Borders and Naturopaths without Borders, for example, have provided health care in recent disasters.
Some of these organizations are able to build better immediate rapport with the people they are working with than organizations using conventional medicine, because of similarities to traditional medicine.

Service members and their families can access integrative medicine at their posts. Veterans can access integrative care at VA hospitals and through organizations such as Acupuncturists without Borders, which provides stress recovery to returning veterans. VA hospitals offer acupuncture, chiropractic and massage therapy to veterans, helping them with chronic pain and other health issues.

At both tactical and strategic levels, the U.S. military will continue to expand its use of special medicine in military operations, stability operations and nation rebuilding. Our response to disaster and providing of disaster relief will continue to include and expand upon the use of special medicine. Our own homeland security will depend upon our ability to investigate and implement special medicine for its quick response to security issues.

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