Complementary Health has grown in popularity in Australia both in terms of complementary medicines and visits to complementary health practitioners.

The term “complementary and alternative therapies” refers to a diverse group of practices and products not considered part of evidence-based, conventional medicine. While complementary therapies are used together with conventional medicine, alternative therapies are used instead of conventional medicine.

There is evidence to support the use of some complementary therapies, but alternative therapies are typically unproven or have been shown to be ineffective.

Many people believe that complementary therapies are safe because they are 'natural'. This is not always true, especially if taken in doses that do not occur naturally in food.

Complementary and alternative therapies may not provide you with any benefit, and may actually cause harm. For example, some complementary therapies may have important unwanted effects (side effects), or may interact with conventional and prescribed medicines or with each other. If you are considering using complementary or alternative therapies, it is important that you discuss this with your doctor to minimise the risk of harm.

Regulation

The Commonwealth Government regulates the provision of complementary medicines through the Therapeutic Goods Administration and its Complementary Medicines Branch

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency regulates the following health practitioners:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners
  • Chinese medicine practitioners (including acupuncturists, Chinese herbal medicine practitioners and Chinese herbal dispensers)
  • chiropractors
  • dental practitioners (including dentists, dental hygienists, dental prosthetists and dental therapists)
  • medical practitioners
  • medical radiation practitioners (including diagnostic radiographers, radiation therapists and nuclear medicine technologists)
  • nurses and midwives
  • occupational therapists​
  • optometrists
  • osteopaths
  • pharmacists
  • physiotherapists
  • podiatrists
  • psychologists

The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission manages complaints regarding health providers.

Suggestions to stay safe

  • Consult with your doctor before taking a complementary or alternative medicine.
  • Buy Australian-made complementary medicines that are labelled 'Registered Aust R' or 'Listed Aust R'.
  • Be an informed consumer. Medical misinformation is common on the internet, and products manufactured outside Australia may be unregulated. Consult with reputable websites about complementary medicines and therapies.
  • Be wary of complementary and alternative medicines for sale on the internet. The products may be out-of-date, poor quality, fake or dangerous. There is no protection under Australian law if the product is bought from overseas.
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Page Updated: Wednesday 2 December 2015