The next time you’re out in public, sandwiched in a pack of people—picking up groceries, dropping off dry cleaning, getting your car’s oil changed—look to your left and then to your right. Of the three of you, one of you has probably indulged in some form of reflexology or visited an herbalist.

This is likely because, according to a 2015 survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health, one in every three Americans has sought out cures for their conditions—from chronic to purely cosmetic—through alternative medicine. This loosely defined range of homeopathic medical therapies is often regarded as unorthodox by Western physicians.

But that hasn’t prevented millions of Americans from spending billions—yes, billions—of dollars every year on books, supplements and visits to what are often called “complementary health practitioners” that, with certain exceptions, are not covered by insurance.

Within, we take a closer look at Houstonians’ options for everything from acupuncture to cupping, speaking with practitioners and patients alike to find out what makes reflexology different from massage, why you’d want to stick a candle in your ear, and how aromatherapy—yes, aromatherapy—can aid in the care of cancer patients. Hey, who are we to argue with results?

In This Feature:

How Acupuncture Went from 'Alternative' to Accepted

Not that long ago, it was illegal for acupuncturists to practice in Texas without a medical degree or supervision. Two Houston acupuncturists helped change that.

05/25/2017 By Jeanne Lyons Davis

Seeking Healing With Herbs

"For just about every condition there is in standard medicine," says Houston master herbalist Mark Hammer, "there are answers in Chinese medicine."

05/25/2017 By Alice Levitt

Cupping Is Making Its Mark in Houston

This ancient Chinese practice gets the blood circulating.

05/25/2017 By Marianella Orlando

If You'd Like to Pull Stuff From Your Ears, Candling Is For You

While not accepted by the medical community, candling can sure be satisfying.

05/25/2017 By Roxanna Asgarian

The Essential Facts About Essential Oils

The practice of using plant-based essential oils to promote healing offers—yes!—real health benefits.

05/25/2017 By Sarah Rufca Nielsen

Reflexology Is More than Just a Foot Massage

Soothing your aching hands, feet and ears can also help the rest of your body.

05/25/2017 By Jeff Balke