Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Complementary therapies — an overview

1-minute read

Complementary therapies include a variety of practices and treatments usually outside of evidence-based, conventional medicine. They might be described as 'alternative', 'traditional' or 'holistic' therapies.

Complementary therapies may be used alongside conventional medical treatments from your doctor or healthcare provider. This may be helpful for some conditions, especially when there is evidence to support the use of complementary therapies. Your doctor is best placed to advise you on where complementary therapies may help.

Alternative therapies can mean treatments that are used in place of conventional treatment from your doctor or healthcare provider. This can be harmful where there is no evidence for these therapies and they replace or delay treatments that are evidence-based and advisable, or if they have side effects.

Complementary therapies have become increasingly popular in Australia, not only to improve wellbeing but to deal with illness. Around 2 out of 3 Australians say they have used some sort of complementary therapy recently.


NSW Health (Complementary health), Nature (Steel, McIntyre, Harnett et al. Complementary medicine use in the Australian population: Results of a nationally-representative cross-sectional survey Sci Rep. 2018; 8: 17325), Cancer Council NSW (Complementary therapies)

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2019

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Complementary therapies

The facts Many people use complementary therapies to support medical treatment. Complementary therapies are not a replacement for adequate medical tre...

Read more on SANE Australia website

Complementary therapy for kids

Complementary therapies such as chiropractic and naturopathy are often used alongside conventional medicinal treatments, both for adults and children.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Complementary Therapies - Asthma Australia

Complementary therapies for asthma management are not generally part of “standard” medical care. If you’re seeking complementary therapy for managing your asthma, here are the steps to take.

Read more on Asthma Australia website

Complementary Therapies - Living with Illness - Patients and Carers - Community

Many people use complementary therapies in palliative care. 'Complementary therapies’ describes treatments that are used alongside conventional medical treatments.

Read more on CareSearch website

Complementary therapies | Cancer Council

Find credible information on complementary and alternative therapies. Can CAMs help cancer patients relieve symptoms and improve well-being?

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

Menopause - Complementary Therapies - Australasian Menopause Society

Dr. Anna Fenton discusses complementary treatment therapies for menopausal symptoms.

Read more on Australasian Menopause Society website

Complementary Therapies and mental illness.

What are complementary therapies? These are ways of helping yourself stay healthy which complement medical treatment. While these can be useful, care needs to be taken, especially when you have a mental illness. Some people use them instead of medical treatment or without consulting their doctor – this can be dangerous as substances used in ‘natural’ therapy are not required to undergo the same rigorous tests for safety as prescribed medications. The term ‘natural’ is also misleading, as most prescribed medications are actually derived from natural substances too.

Read more on Mi Networks website

Complementary therapy during pregnancy

About half of Australian women consult a complementary therapist while pregnant. Here's what you should know about integrative medicine and pregnancy.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Natural Treatments for Acne | Complementary Therapies | All About Acne

Theres a lot of interest in using complementary therapies or natural treatments for acne. Weve reviewed some of the more popular therapies that have been shown to help improve your skin.

Read more on All About Acne website

Complementary treatments and therapies — Arthritis Australia

‘Complementary therapies’ are any treatments or therapies that are not part of the conventional treatment (such as medicines or surgery) of a disease

Read more on Arthritis Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo