5 of the best complementary therapies

Sarah Hughes

Complementary therapies are used by millions of people to help with wide ranging health issues and are used alongside conventional medical treatments prescribed by doctors or specialists for both mental and physical conditions and diseases. Below are our top 5 complementary therapies to consider for people looking at holistic ways to support their traditional medical treatments.

It’s estimated that around 9 million people across the UK use some kind of complementary or alternative medicine (1) and use in England has grown by 4% between 2005 and 2015 according to national survey conducted by Ipsos MORI (2). They most commonly sought treatments to help with musculoskeletal conditions (68%), particularly back pain (38%). The second most popular reason was support with a mental health condition (12%), including stress, anxiety or depression (7%) and sleep problems, tiredness or fatigue (4%) and around 11% had therapies to support general wellbeing and prevent ill health.

They are also used by people with serious diseases such as cancer to help them feel better and cope better with symptoms caused by their disease or side effects caused by the treatments they are having. Many complementary therapies take a more holistic approach and concentrate on relaxation and reducing stress which can help calm emotions, relieve anxiety and increase general sense of health and wellbeing.

  1. CBD therapy

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil comes from the cannabis plant and has become a popular complementary therapy for a range of conditions over the past few years with many people using CBD oil to help with health issues such as pain management, reducing inflammation, anxiety, stress relief, improved recovery and sleep disorders.

CBD refers to cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating extract from cannabis that does not have the psychoactive properties of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Unlike THC, CBD does not get people "high." CBD oil contains CBD mixed with an inert carrier oil, such as coconut oil or hemp seed oil. You can try the Premium Full Spectrum Oil 5% CBD from Encasa Botanics, this oil is extracted from ‘A’ grade white widow CBD flowers and possesses the following basic components: CBD, Terpenes, Chlorophyll and THC in their natural ratios – these are extracted straight from the plant and synergise perfectly together producing what is known as the 'Entourage Effect'. For users of CBD, one frustration may be the inconstancy of the quality in full spectrum oils – a lot of this will depend on the harvest so Encasa Botanics have sourced farmers in Europe that are up and coming in the industry and produce excellent quality plants and extracts to ensure a high quality end product.

CBD comes in many different forms so if the oil doesn’t take your fancy you can try it in forms including capsules, creams and balms, sprays, vape liquid, drinks and edibles. Encasa Botanics also offer vape liquids made with CBD Isolate as the need may arise where an instant dose of CBD is required and this would be the quickest method of absorption

The effect that a person may get from using CBD may differ according to how they are taking it and side effects of CBD may also vary depending on the form consumed so if one form doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean that another wont.

Studies and research into the use of CBD show promising results for the treatment of many different ailments with CBD, although some of these claims are better supported by research than others and many are subject to ongoing investigations or need further studies.

  1. Acupuncture

Probably one of the best-known complementary therapies, acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which can be traced back as far as 1000BC and is based on Qi or energy flow and involves the insertion of fine needles into various parts of the body to stimulate or relax the body.

It’s also one of the most widely researched. According to the British Acupuncture Council more than 1000 studies are carried out globally each year into the effectiveness of acupuncture with a wealth of evidence showing that acupuncture is a valid healthcare choice - so much so that you can be referred for acupuncture on the NHS. NICE recommends considering acupuncture as a treatment option for chronic tension type headaches and migraines, but it can also be used to treat other musculoskeletal conditions including chronic pain, joint pain, dental pain and post op pain. There are also countless other conditions and symptoms that acupuncture has been said to help with such as allergies, fertility, anxiety, insomnia, osteoarthritis, hyper tension and hormonal issues.

If you haven’t had it before, the thought of having needles inserted into your body may be terrifying, but it’s definitely not the painful procedure that you may imagine. A licenced practitioner will use a minimally invasive method that uses tiny needles to stimulate nerve rich areas of the skin surface in order to influence tissues, glands, organs and various functions of the body. The risks of acupuncture are low if you have a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner using sterile needles with common side effects include soreness and minor bleeding or bruising where the needles were inserted. However, not everyone is a good candidate for acupuncture so be sure to check with your doctor first.

  1. Reflexology

A study conducted by the Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT) in 2018 found that reflexology is the most popular holistic therapy in the UK and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a versatile and safe therapy that is achieved through the manipulation of pressure points on your hands and feet via massage and micromovement techniques and it can relieve a wide variety of symptoms and be tailored to any individual at any age, making it accessible to everyone (health condition dependent of course).

Based on the principle that areas of the body are connected to reflex points or zones in our feet, head and hands, this ancient Chinese practice aims to restore health and boost wellbeing by balancing bodily energy and promoting healing.

Like most holistic therapies, it can help to reduce tension, ease anxiety and aid relaxation; however, there are specific things that reflexology can target such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other digestion issues, back pain and topical pain, headaches and migraines, asthma and respiratory issues, menopausal symptoms and hormonal imbalances.

Generally, reflexology is very safe, even for people living with serious health conditions (please check with your doctor first before receiving treatment) so it is no surprise that reflexology is top of the holistic therapy popularity list.

  1. Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a holistic medicine which uses specially prepared, highly diluted substances which are given mainly in tablet form, with the aim of triggering the body’s own healing mechanisms. A homeopath will prescribe medicines according to the patient’s specific set of symptoms, and how they experience them, taking into account their overall level of health. Homeopathy is based on the principle of “like treats like” – that is, a substance which can cause symptoms when taken in large doses, can be used in small amounts to treat similar symptoms. For example, drinking too much coffee can cause sleeplessness and agitation, so according to this principle, when made into a homeopathic medicine, it could be used to treat people suffering from sleeplessness and agitation.

  1. Herbal medicine

The two most common types of herbal medicine used in the UK are Western and Chinese herbal medicine. Less common types include Tibetan or Ayurvedic medicine (Indian).

They are plant-based medicines that are made with active ingredients from different combinations of plant parts including the leaves, flowers and roots. Each part can have different medicinal uses and both fresh and dried plant matter are used, depending on the herb. Trained medical herbalists will use them to treat a wide variety of conditions, but just like conventional medicine, they will have an effect on the body and should therefore be used with the same care and respect as the medicines prescribed by your doctor.

The aim of herbal medicine is to restore your body, so that it can protect, regulate and heal itself with a whole-body approach that looks at your physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Practitioners may use different parts of plants. They might use the leaves, roots, stems, flowers or seeds. Usually, they combine herbs and you take them as teas, capsules, tinctures, or powders. Manufacturers make many drugs from plants, but herbalists don’t extract plant substances in the way the drug industry does. Herbalists believe that the remedy works due to the delicate chemical balance of the whole plant, or mixtures of plants. And not from one active ingredient.

These are our top 5 but the list of complementary therapies could go on and on - others you may want to consider include mindful exercising like yoga and tai chi, energy therapy such as reiki and relaxation techniques – like hypnotherapy and meditation. There are also many “out there” complementary treatments and therapies which we are not so convinced about, for example - magnet healing and crystal therapy are two controversial treatments we’ve found where none of the evidence promoted by those selling the products or service seems to add up, so if you are considering these, make sure you do your research beforehand to ensure it’s an avenue you definitely want to explore.

Whatever therapies you decide to try, it’s vital that you check in with your doctor before you proceed with any of them and discuss the therapy you are interested in, so you can participate in the treatment under medical guidance.

  1. https://collegeofmedicine.org.uk/complementary-medicine-roundup-december-2017/
  2. https://blog.fht.org.uk/2019/09/03/complementary-therapy-gaining-popularity-in-england/

Keep up with the top stories from Reader’s Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.