Complementary therapies

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More than 40 per cent of GPs provide access to alternative or complementary therapies. See what is available through the NHS.

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The major complementary therapies have been with us for millennia. Acupuncture has been used and refined in China for at least 1,500 years, and the use of medicinal plants is probably as old as humankind itself. Many of today's pharmaceutical drugs are in fact synthetic versions of herbal medicines.

Complementary therapy clients report that their relationship with the practitioner is an important factor in the healing process - good therapists are skilled at helping people to feel more positive about their health. As quality of care is a factor, so is quantity. Complementary therapy practitioners take a holistic approach to their clients' health, and spend more time developing patient profiles and listening to their concerns. 

The scientific basis for complementary therapy

Science has neglected research into complementary therapies, with the result that there is little scientific evidence to support - or refute - the claims made for most complementary approaches. It is not even known if some complementary therapies are safe, let alone effective.

If you are taking conventional medicines it is important that you consult your GP before taking any herbal medicines, as they can affect each other.

The lack of evidence is, of course, simply that. The UK Government is keen to regulate complementary therapies and is encouraging rigorous scientific work to establish their merit. Many of the professional bodies are supporting research, while independent scientists and even pharmaceutical companies are also conducting studies.

We are grateful for the generous support of Dr Naim Dangoor CBE
and the Exilarch Foundation

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