Sue Wilson opens The List’s special New Year look at complementary health. by picking her way through the bewildering array of techniques and practices, and wonders if they can all be trusted.

Over the past few years. the side-by-side evolution of public concern about health and environmental issues has fostered an ever-more widespread desire for a more ‘natural' way of living. Many aspects of ‘unnatural‘ conventional science drugs. food additives. pesticides are being viewed with

suspicion. One of the most conspicuous results of these developments has been something akin to a ‘Big Bang‘ in the alternative health market. with a bewildering proliferation of therapies and

therapists promising to improve any .

aspect of your physical. mental.

might not. While a great many people have undoubtedly been helped by

of choices now available has given rise to widespread public confusion. _Working out the pros and cons even of well-established therapies likc herbalism. homoeopathy.

increasing (and often well-founded) .


emotional or spiritual well-being you might think of. plus a good few you

alternative treatments. the plethora



in the Doctor, and be ready to

help him with the Case History.

acupuncture and osteopathy is difficult enough; faced with a choice between metamorphic technique. crystal healing. polarity therapy. neuro-linguistic programming and past-life regression. my instinct is to reach for the paracetamol.

‘What unites most alternative therapies.‘ says Jonathan (‘logstoun—Willmott. director of the lidinburgh Natural Health Centre. ‘is that they all recognise the innate self-healing power that each of us has, and work to enhance people‘s ability to use it. It‘s an approach that requires almost no drugs or

medicines. no surgery. has no side effects. and is 80—90 per cent successful in what it does. We’ve all

The NHS charter states that homoeopathic treatment must be provided if patients request

it and it there are doctors trained to give it.

heard the kind of propaganda which 4 says that you can only get better with an antibiotic. or with surgery to remove the offending part, but there

are lots of situations where. with the right kind of qualified. knowledgeable help. our bodies will do the healing for us.’

Without necessarily disbelicving such claims, many people find the vagueness of much alternative health terminology problematic. ‘Dynamic self-healing cnergy‘ sounds great in theory. but what does it actually mean? Does a dream therapist mean the same by it as an acupuncturist does? A therapy may claim to ‘bring movement out of old patterns of illness'. but will it cure a headache? A migraine? A brain tumour? Sweeping claims such as ‘most chronic and acute physical problems are tackled through easy movement sequences‘ or ‘slimmers can often be given treatment to improve their metabolic rate‘ carry a real risk of raising false hopes in those who are most vulnerable.

‘Sick people are desperate people; they they will look to anything that might make them better.’ says herbalist Dec Atkinson. who runs Napier‘s Herbal Dispensary and Clinic in Edinburgh. ‘Patients are

. being harmed at the moment because therapists are taking on cases they‘re not qualified to deal with.‘ In the current ‘frec market'. virtually anyone can go on a weekend course or two, set themselves up with a brass plate on the door and letters after their name and start charging people for treatment. It‘s a situation most reputable therapists Clogstoun-Willmott among them are anxious to change. The registering bodies for most therapies are currently working overtime to establish greater uniformity in training and standards. spurred in part by the approach of 1992; new EC regulations will require many aspects of alternative health care to


The List 20 December 1991 -— thanuary 1992 85