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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)

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Last reviewed: October 2019

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