From the curious to the kooky to what seems plain crazy, some people will try just about anything to cure what ails them -- and celebrities are some of the most visible users of these nonstandard remedies.
Alternative medicine is generally described as practices that are not part of standard care and that may not be taught in a medical school.
For those not inclined to put all their eggs in a standard medical basket, there are a plethora of alternative treatments to choose from, ranging from highly common treatments that might be practiced in a hospital to those that are more obscure.
Some, such as homeopathy or ayurveda, have a long and rich history as traditional healing techniques. Others, such as chiropractic, are widely practiced and vetted. Studies have shown that these treatment systems can have positive and even curative effects on those who try them.
Some forms of alternative medicine have been gaining credibility, to the point where many major academic institutions and hospitals have departments devoted to complementary or alternative medicine. The National Institutes of Health established the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 1998 to "explore complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science," according to the company's Web site.
But other treatments are less likely to pass medical muster. The effects of treatments and therapies that deal with energies and purport to alter your mood or state of mind can be difficult to quantify. No one can prove that a gemstone necklace isn't increasing the wearer's energy and sense of well being, as gem therapy purports to do, nor is there a scientific way to measure any such feelings.
These techniques are difficult to study clinically so no one can be 100 percent sure that they work. On the other hand, no one can say with certainty that they do not work. And so, an alternative medicine seeker is left with the mantra: If it feels good, it is good.
Therein -- perhaps -- lays the healing power.
Alternative treatments left a lasting impression on actress Gwyneth Paltrow -- literally. In 2004, Paltrow showed up to a New York film premiere in a low-cut black dress and a line of circular welts across her back, according to BBC News.
At second look, many alternative health and Chinese medicine practitioners piped up with an explanation. Paltrow had apparently been treated with the ancient practice of cupping. Repeated calls to her publicist were not returned.
Practitioners apply a cup, or a cone, to the skin and create a vacuum with hot air, or simply through suction at the top of the cup. The suction brings blood to the surface and, according to Chinese medicine, can have various benefits on the body from stimulating blood flow, to relieving pain and drawing Qi energy to the area.
However, for all practical purposes those marks on Paltrow's back were hickeys. The suction on the skin draws blood to the surface, breaking tiny veins and causing a bruise.