Alternative medicine: fact or fiction?

Print Friendly

Complementary and alternative medicines have something of a mixed reputation; to some, alternative remedies are little more than snake oil while to others they are a great way to increase wellbeing and live a healthier life.   

With plenty of controversy on the subject, there are strong opinions on both sides – and just as many of us in the middle left scratching our heads. If you’ve seen the debate in the press but have never read much about it, here’s a brief overview to bring you up to speed.

Types of complementary medicine

Simply put, complementary medicines are treatments that fall outside of mainstream healthcare and are typically used to increase wellbeing and help with minor ailments rather than treat serious illness. Complementary or alternative medicine is actually an umbrella term that encompasses a range of very different treatments, all based on their own unique set of principles. Some of the most popular include:

  • Homeopathy
  • Acupuncture
  • Osteopathy
  • Chiropractic
  • Herbalism

An important thing to note about complementary medicine is that is is intended as a complement to mainstream medicine rather than a replacement for it. Much of the industry is self-regulated, making it essential to find a trusted, reputable practitioner if you intend to try any form of complementary medicine.

The effectiveness of these treatments is hotly debated; many of these methods do not have a substantial body of scientific evidence that supports their effectiveness, and instead relies on testimonials to support its claims.

However, there are still a number of advantages to complementary medicine that make these treatments worthwhile for many people who believe in them – typically these appointments involve working closely with a practitioner who uses a very holistic approach, taking into account general wellbeing, emotional state, lifestyle and diet.

Many of us approach our health and wellbeing in a much more disjointed way – taking antacid to relieve heartburn, rather than looking at what in our diets could be causing it, for example. Complementary medicines often bring the big picture back into focus, helping us connect the dots between lifestyle and wellbeing in a way that we perhaps hadn’t done before.

Understanding the controversy

Homeopathy in particular has come under intense criticism in recent months because studies have repeatedly shown that treatments have no scientific basis; there is no evidence that “like cures like” treatments at the core of homeopathy are effective as a treatment for any health condition.

As a self-regulated industry, some homeopaths have made strong claims as to the effectiveness of treatments with little or no tangible evidence to back it up – this leads to a lot of misinformation and clouds our ability to assess the suitability of homeopathy and set realistic expectations about how these treatments can contribute to our wellbeing.

As more scientists and doctors come forward and new studies are published, there is a growing body of evidence that counters many claims made by homeopaths and the suitability of its treatment – until reforms are made the general public is in danger of accepting false information and putting hopes into a treatment that ultimately will have little or no effect.

If you’re interested in educating yourself further on the topic, you can find detailed information on the NHS website. There are also a number of interesting articles in the Guardian about homeopathy and how herbal remedies need to be taken in context.

Have you ever used complementary medicines? Do you believe they are worthwhile or should be avoided?


The following two tabs change content below.

Silversurfers Features Editor

Hello there! I’m Rachel and I’m the Features Editor for Silversurfers. I work behind the scenes to bring interesting, informative and entertaining subject matter to the Silversurfers community. I hope you enjoy the features we have shared with you. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with us, we love to hear from you!

Latest posts by Silversurfers Features Editor (see all)

Not a member?

Join the silversurfers community today! It's free, easy to do, and is packed full of features and amazing offers!

Join the community!
Click here if you have forgotten your password
29th Dec 2015
Thanks for voting!
Wedding anniversary

Community Terms & Conditions

Content standards

These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.

You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.

Contributions must:

be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.

Contributions must not:

contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.

Nurturing a safe environment

Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.

We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!

More Wellbeing

Are you affected by SAD? Winter Night And Old Lane
It's normal to feel a little bit blue when winter rolls around. Short days, long nights, cold...
Dealing with dry skin this winter Skincare
Skin is the body's largest organ, the protective outer layering that acts as a barrier from the...
Strange home remedies CHIANGMAI THAILAND -JULY 22 2016: Product shot of Listerine Original Antiseptic Mouthwash. In thailand sale and made from Johnson & Johnson Thailand.
In times of pain and discomfort, painkillers and ointments are often the go-to option for most...
Small acts of self care that can make a big difference Woman meditating at the sea with tea cup
Self care is a common theme we regularly see promoted in the media - but what does it mean, how...
Looking after your mental health Sad Mature Woman Suffering From Agoraphobia Looking Out Of Window
Good mental health is as important to your wellbeing as physical health, yet is rarely treated...
Healthy habits for women over 50 Senior Woman In Fitness Clothing Stretching On Beach
Each stage of life brings with it a new set of opportunities and challenges, and turning 50 is no...
Beat Stress for Men's Health Week Overworked, depressed and exhausted businessman at his desk with a pile of work or concept for frustration, stress and writers block
This week is Men's Health Week, a national initiative that aims to help increase awareness about...
Incontinence - It’s No Laughing Matter Lifestyle image
The sudden desperate urge to go to the toilet when away from home is something many people face...
How and why we should begin breaking barriers for older generations breakingbarrierssilversurfers
When do we stop growing and start aging? Is it at 21, 30, 50? When we reach middle age and become...
Brace yourself for allergy season Young man in yellow canola field blowing his nose and suffering
Spring and summer are the seasons everyone looks forward to most – apart from allergy sufferers...
Incorporating mindfulness into the everyday Woman meditating at the sea with tea cup
By now you’ve probably heard about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation touted in the news...
Tackling cold sores Lips affected by herpes, shown red.
From the second you feel that familiar tingle on your lips and you know a cold sore is soon to...