Alternative and Complementary Medicine

Printer-friendly version

Alternative medicine refers to medical systems that do not fit in with conventional medicine.

Complementary medicine (or therapies) refers to those methods which can be used alongside or to ‘complement’ conventional medicine.

The Department of Health recommends that only those therapies that are statutorily regulated or have robust self-regulation should be made available through public funding.

If you are contemplating the use of CAM, always do as much research as possible about the therapy and the practitioner, talk to your GP to see if you can access it via the NHS. If you know someone who has tried a particular therapy, ask their views and see if there were any benefits or problems that weren’t obvious or considered.

Below is a list of therapies that you may see advertised or are offered as complementary or alternative treatments for certain complaints.


Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles into the skin at particular points on the body, to prevent or treat ill health or maintain good health. This is thought to stimulate the body’s ability to heal.

Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique works by helping you to identify and prevent the harmful postural habits that aggravate, or may be the cause of, stress and or pain.


Aromatherapy is the use of plant oils for preventative care, healing and general well-being.
Essential oils can be used in different ways, including massage, bathing and inhalation. When essential oils are inhaled, the part of the brain that is connected to smell is stimulated and the impulse is transmitted to the emotional centre of the brain.


Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of India. It emphasises creating balance in the body through diet, lifestyle, exercise, and body cleansing, and on the health of the mind, body, and spirit.

Bowen Therapy

Bowen therapy involves a series of detailed gentle moves combined with rest periods, which are performed over a period of up to an hour. The goal is to cause a reset of the body systems and reinvigorate the body’s self-healing processes.


The main use of Chiropractic is for musculoskeletal disorders such as neck, shoulder or other joint problems, spine and posture problems, as well as muscle problems, sciatica, RSI, sports injuries and it can also be useful in the treatment of migraine. Chiropractic is concerned with mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the effects of these disorders on the nervous system and health in general.

Chinese Herbal Medicine

Chinese herbal medicine (is an integrated system of primary healthcare that also utilises herbal medicine, massage, exercise and diet.
Based on the concepts of yin and yang, the tradition holds that energy known as qi (pronounced chee) or “life energy” flows through the body’s meridians (a network of invisible channels through the body). If the flow of qi in the meridians becomes blocked or there is an inadequate supply of qi, then the body goes out of balance and fails to maintain harmony and order, and disease or illness follows. This can result from stress, overwork, poor diet and environmental conditions.

Colour Therapy

Colour therapy uses coloured rooms, light bulbs and other methods to impart mental and spiritual balance. Therapists can provide recommendations for incorporating certain colours into one's home, wardrobe and other places to promote health and healing.


Counselling is a process where clients are helped in dealing with their personal and interpersonal conflicts by a third party therapist.

Craniosacral Therapy

Craniosacral therapy is a gentle, hands-on method of treatment, which involves a practitioner applying very light touch to the body (usually no greater than 5 grams) to evaluate and enhance the functioning of a body system called the craniosacral system.

Crystal Therapy

The aim of this therapy is to restore wholeness, balance and health on levels of emotions, mind, spirit as well as the physical body.

Flower Therapy

A form of energy medicine using extracts of flowers that can be used in conjunction with traditional counselling. It offers an alternative treatment for daily stress, mild to moderate mood concerns, fears and anxieties and other emotional issues.


Western Herbal Medicine is a treatment system based on the idea that plant-based medicines can be used in their natural form to help the body while it heals. Herbalists use the whole plant products in teas, oils, creams, or ointments to address many different conditions. Many herbalists believe that whole plant medicines are generally gentler than some other kinds of treatments, and may be safer for use in some instances.


Homoeopathy (sometimes spelt homeopathy) is a system of medicine founded by Samuel Hahnemann at the end of the 18th Century. It is based on the theory that diseases are curable by those drugs which produce effects on the body similar to symptoms caused by the disease. (similia similibus antur).


Hydrotherapy is supervised exercise in a warm pool. The physiotherapist uses the properties of water to help ease stiff joints and strengthen weak muscles. Hydrotherapy may include continuous tub baths, wet sheet packs or shower sprays.


Hypnotherapy is the use of a state of relaxation varying from very light to deep and is used for treating such conditions as addictions, anxiety, depression, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, phobias and stress.


Iridology is the analysis of patterns and structures in the iris of the eye which locates areas and stages of inflammation throughout the body. It reveals body structure, inborn strengths and weaknesses, health levels, and changes that take place in a person's body according to their way of life.


Kinesiology uses simple, safe, precise muscle testing procedures to find problem areas, to get to the cause of the problem and not just deal with the symptoms of a problem. Kinesiology uses massage, nutrition, energy reflexes, and counselling to balance holistically.


Magnotherapy is an alternative form of treatment for the relief of pain. High density magnets draw fresh blood to the affected area which in turn stimulates blood flow which carries away toxic materials which cause the pain. This not only brings great relief from the pain but also speeds up the healing process.


Massage is one of the oldest, simplest forms of therapy and is a system of stroking, pressing and kneading different areas of the body to relieve pain, relax, stimulate, and tone the body.


Naturopathy is a system of medicine based on the healing power of nature. Naturopathy is a holistic system, meaning that naturopathic doctors try to find the cause of disease by understanding the patients body, mind, and spirit. Most naturopathic doctors use a wide variety of therapies and techniques (such as nutrition, herbal medicine, homoeopathy, and acupuncture).


Nutritional therapy is a system of healing based on the idea that food provides the medicine we need to obtain and maintain a healthy state. In other words our food is our medicine and our medicine is our food. Many disorders, ranging from fatigue, energy loss, insomnia and depression, to backache, skin complaints, asthma, and headaches can be relieved effectively with nutritional therapy.


Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment, usually by manipulation, that focuses on musculoskeletal problems. Osteopaths believe that the problem lies with an impairment of blood supply. Osteopaths use their hands both to diagnose and to treat abnormalities in the way the body is working.


Physiotherapy is the treatment of disease, defects, or weaknesses by physical remedies, such as massage, special exercises, hydrotherapy etc, rather than by conventional drugs


Radionics is a technique of healing using extrasensory perception (e.s.p.). It is not directed at the physical body so much as at the energy fields around it. The patient can be with the practitioner or many miles away - distance is irrelevant.


Reflexology maps out the reflexes on the hands and feet to all the organs and the rest of the body. By applying acupressure and massage-like techniques to these reflex points, the related body parts are positively affected, and blood, nerve and lymphatic systems are rejuvenated thus improving supply.


Reiki incorporates elements of other alternative healing practices such as spiritual healing, aromatherapy, auras, crystals, chakra balancing, homoeopathy, meditation and naturopathy. It involves the transfer of energy from practitioner to patient to improve the body’s natural ability to heal itself through the balancing of energy.


Shiatsu is a combination of pressure and assisted-stretching techniques believed to be beneficial for stress, fatigue, improved circulation of the blood, aches and pains in joints and muscles as well as promoting increased vitality, energy and stamina. The treatment stimulates the flow of lymphatic fluid, releases toxins and deep tensions from the muscles, stimulating the hormone and immune systems.

Yoga Therapy

Yoga is a holistic system for promoting homoeostasis at physical, mental and emotional levels. When this balance is disturbed by illness, or the stress created by illness, yoga can help restore it, and help cure or manage the illness.

We strongly advise you to always consult your own doctor or healthcare provider before any change of treatment.