What You Need to Know
- It is estimated that almost 50 per cent of the population has tried some kind of alternative therapy, with osteopathy, acupuncture or herbal health remedies the most popular.
- Opinion is divided on the effectiveness of alternative health solutions, so do your homework before you invest in such treatments.
- Osteopathy is a manipulation technique that aims to treat muscle, nerve and joint problems. It is available on the NHS in certain parts of the country.
- Similarly, chiropractors use their hands to diagnose, prevent and treat joint, muscle and ligament conditions, concentrating specifically on the spine.
- Acupuncture can be used for a wide variety of problems, though its is primarily used to ease pain and discomfort.
- Homeopathic remedies are dilutions of mostly natural substances that are mixed with either alcohol or water to create the remedy. They are also used to treat a range of conditions.
- The British Complementary Medicine Association lists practitioners across the country for a variety of different complementary and alternative therapies.
Complementary and alternative medicines such as acupuncture and osteopathy are increasingly used in the NHS and Brits spend more than £350 million a year on natural remedies.
Almost 50 per cent of the population has tried osteopathy, acupuncture or herbal health remedies and the Government has made some treatments available on the NHS, spending £12 million on alternative treatments between 2006 and 2009.
Complementary and alternative medicine
But complementary and alternative medicine (Cam) covers a wide range of treatments and therapies, some of which have been deemed effective by the NHS and others which have been condemned for the lack of evidence that they offer any health benefits at all.
The five most popular Cams in the UK are: osteopathy and chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, homeopathy and herbal medicine.
Potential Benefits of Alternative Therapies
Evidence presented to a House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology showed that acupuncture and herbal medicine can be as effective as conventional medicines.
Other treatments, such as crystal therapy, traditional Chinese medicine and iridology, however, were condemned because there was little evidence that they worked.
Osteopathy is a manipulation technique that aims to treat muscle, nerve and joint problems. Osteopathy is based on the idea that problems with the structure of your body can have an effect your internal organs. A registered osteopath will use their hands to find and treat damaged parts of your body using gentle stretching, massage and manipulation of the muscles and joints.
Although the NHS says that there is little evidence that the treatment is effective, it is accepted by many doctors and is available on the NHS in some parts of the country.
It is suitable for almost anyone, including children, pregnant women and the elderly and can be used to treat low back pain and neck pain, arthritis and sports injuries as well as mobility problems and occupational ill health.
Similar to osteopathy, chiropractors use their hands to diagnose, prevent and treat joint, muscle and ligament conditions, concentrating specifically on the spine.
It is based on the belief that misalignment of the spine causes health problems and that spinal manipulation corrects these misalignments, curing the problem, improving the efficiency of your body's nervous system and enable natural healing.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which provides the NHS with guidance on medical treatments, recommends chiropractic treatments for acute lower back pain and it has also been suggested for headaches and migraines, asthma, leg pain and sciatica and some sports injuries.
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine which involves inserting very fine needles at specific points – known as acupuncture points – in the body.
According to the NHS, around three million people undergo acupuncture in the UK every year.
It is based on the idea that the needles in treatment stimulate your body’s natural energies, helping to balance them. It is available on the NHS with some therapists taking a more scientific approach, basing treatment on the idea that based on the idea that the needles stimulate nerve endings and alter the way your brain functions, particularly in how your body responds to pain.
Acupuncture can be used for a wide variety of problems, primarily to ease pain and discomfort, including post-operative pain, migraines and nausea, as well as arthritis, dental pain, asthma and even depression.
Homeopathy is based on the idea that “like cures like”. Homeopaths believe that a substance that can cause a symptom can also help to relieve it.
Homeopathic remedies are dilutions of mostly natural substances that are mixed with either alcohol or water to create the remedy. Homeopaths believe that the more diluted a substance, the more powerful its effects. You can also get homeopathic remedies in the form of sugar-coated pills, granules, powders, creams and ointments.
Homeopaths treat a range of chronic conditions, from arthritis, eczema and migraines, to digestive disorders, menopause and allergies.
Herbal remedies are made from plants or plant extract and have been used since the beginning of human history.
Many conventional medicines stem from the active ingredients of a plant. For example, aspirin comes from the bark of willow trees and digoxin – a medicine used to treat heart failure – comes from the foxglove plant.
Your herbal practitioner should take your medical history into account before recommending any herbal remedies. If you're taking any other conventional medicines you should double check with your GP before taking herbal remedies as they can affect the way your medication works.
Common herbal remedies include:
- St John's wort to treat depression
- Echinacea to treat the early stages of a cold in adults
- Ginger to relieve the sensation of feeling sick and vomiting
Green tea has great natural health benefits too.
A highly treasured speciality green tea is DoMatcha Tea. It is used frequently in Japanese cooking and baking and in health foods and western style beverage creations, like Matcha lattes and green tea smoothies.
- The British Complementary Medicine Association lists practitioners across the country for a variety of different Cam therapies.
- For dietary advice you can visit the British Dietetic Association, the Nutrition Society or the British Nutrition Foundation.
- One great natural remedy is a restful night. Find out more by reading our guide to the importance of sleep.