Complementary therapy is known by many different terms, including alternative therapy, alternative medicine, holistic therapy and traditional medicine. A wide range of treatments exists under the umbrella term of “complementary therapy”. Each treatment has its own unique theory and practice, which makes it difficult to offer a blanket definition. Perhaps a simple definition can be reached by comparing the philosophy of complementary therapies with that of modern (conventional) medicine.


Historically, modern medicine evolved out of an assumption that the mind and body are separate. Disease and illness were viewed as mechanical breakdowns and, generally, it was these breakdowns and the symptoms they caused that were treated. Complementary therapies aim to treat the entire person, not just the symptoms. Today, the gap between conventional medicine and complementary therapies is blurred. In the same way as modern medicine, many complimentary therapies are based on anatomy and physiology. In recent years modern medicine has widened its scope to include a more holistic approach to healthcare and has adopted therapies that originated in complementary medicine. You don’t always have to choose between conventional medicine and your preferred complementary therapy. They can often work well alongside each other.


Philosophies of complementary therapies

Complementary therapies tend to share a few core beliefs, including:

  • Illness occurs if the body is out of balance
  • The body can heal itself and can maintain a healthy state if given the right conditions
  • The whole person should be treated, not just the disease or the symptoms
  • The gentlest therapies must be tried first before harsher ones
  • There is no quick fix, since healing and balance take time
  • Natural products are preferable to synthetic ones
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