August 4, 2008

Alternative Healing Paths Ailing Executive Finds Help, Starts Web Site to Help Others

By Janet Forgrieve

Two decades ago, Sonja Torres was sick. She was sick from the allergies that had plagued her since she was a child, and she was sick of doctors telling her they were just chronic conditions that she would just have to live with and medicate for the rest of her life.

So, she started searching for solutions she liked more, first finding acupuncture and later a slew of other alternatives that appealed to her largely because, over time, they worked. As Torres slowly rid herself of sickness, she also gradually educated herself on alternative therapies, becoming a resource to friends and family who noticed her recovery and sought answers of their own.

"Twenty years ago, these were things you couldn't really find so easily," she said. "As I got better and better, I started trying to help other people do the same."

Torres was an MBA-toting corporate executive who also spent time working in local politics in California. It was on the West Coast that she met Victor, a webmaster who convinced her that they should combine their talents professionally as well as personally.

Four years ago, the couple started after moving to Castle Rock. The site is designed to drastically widen Torres' audience for information and referrals. Today, the site offers information and listings for 104 alternative therapies, all in response to overwhelming feedback from users.

Advertising and practitioner and product listings support the Web site. It gets more than 1 million hits and about 40,000 new visitors per month. The company markets itself in magazines like Body + Soul and others aimed at its likely demographic, which basically is anyone seeking to replace treatments that aren't working or to augment conventional medical regimes, she said. allows visitors to search for practitioners by specialty and geographic area, thus proving user- friendly. Part of the reason for starting the company was that the existing sites Torres found weren't offering the breadth of information people wanted, she said. She adds information and listings on new therapies quarterly and only adds new ones if she's received at least six requests. Each new therapy includes a definition and research along with practitioner listings.

The site is among many others devoted to the same topic. Here's a sampling:

The Alternative Medicine HomePage


The site was created and is maintained by a medical librarian, Charles B. Wessel, M.L.S., Health Sciences Library System, University of Pittsburgh.

This one's a treasure trove of academic and government research into complementary and alternative medicine in general and specifically for HIV/AIDS, and also is home to a forum called "quackwatch," where members can share information on health care frauds.

MedLine Plus: Complementary and Alternative Medicine

* complementaryandalternativemedicine.html

Part of Medline Plus, from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, this site's section on complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, offers introductory articles, statistics and research on several therapies, from "About Art Therapy" to "Use of Magnets for Pain."

The overall Medline site aims to cover all topics, so it isn't comprehensive on any one topic.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine


This site, part of the National Institutes of Health, delves deeper into research and includes sections on applying for research grants and checking out published results from various CAM-related trials. Most of the published results listed deal with the effects of herbal and plant-based supplements on certain conditions.

It's also got a comprehensive list of clinical trials, as well as some pages devoted to training and career opportunities for practitioners. It doesn't offer up names of practitioners but does give a comprehensive page of advice on what to consider when seeking out a CAM practitioner. Alternative Medicine


A substantial mix of reported stories and blog entries on complementary and alternative medicine topics from "acupuncture to yoga," this page from is a great place to connect with others who share similar nontraditional medical interests or ask questions of a panel of medical experts. Its directory of practitioners is heavy on massage therapists and chiropractors and light on most other specialties.

Alternative Medicine Foundation


The Alternative Medicine Foundation is a Maryland- based nonprofit. From the consumer's perspective, the most helpful section of this site seems to be the General Resource Guide, which recommends - but doesn't sell - a host of books on CAM-related topics and offers links to journal articles, Web resources and referral services.

It also offers a list of CAM abbreviations and what they mean.

Alternative Health News Online


Created by journalists, the site seeks to bring a comprehensive collection of Web sites on the topic, along with a healthy dose of skepticism to the subject. The site's home page advises readers that practitioners and devotees of alternative medicine methods are likely to wax enthusiastic whether the practice warrants it or not; that "alternative health and healing covers everything from pure hogwash to promising and proven therapies"; and that consumers should run unconventional new therapies by their doctors.

The site includes a What's New page of recently posted information and updates and offers an e-mail newsletter and recommendations for further reading.


What does it mean?

Alternative medicine

Any system of health care or specific treatment that is not widely accepted by conventional medicine or not taught in its medical schools. It is a term best used for systems or treatments that function to replace a conventional treatment. Examples would include acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, herbs and chelation therapy. The term describes a relationship to conventional medicine. What is considered "alternative" could change as the establishment changes what it finds acceptable. Many years ago radiation therapy was alternative medicine, whereas many herbs were conventional medicines found in the official United States Pharmacopoeia.

Complementary health care

A non-primary care system of health care or specific treatment that is not widely accepted by conventional medicine. The treatment is not usually expected to replace a conventional treatment but rather augments or complements it. Examples could include massage and dance therapy. The term describes a relationship to conventional medicine.

Integrative medicine

The practice of combining alternative, complementary and conventional therapies to take advantage of the strengths of each system and to offset their weaknesses.



Popular therapies

Castle Rock-based lists information on and practitioners of 104 alternative and complementary therapies. Some of the most popular, according to company founder Sonja Torres:

* Acupuncture

* Chelation therapies

* Sound therapies

* Emotional freedom techniques

* Guided imagery

* Blood chemistry analysis

Originally published by Janet Forgrieve, Special to the Rocky.

(c) 2008 Rocky Mountain News. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.