by Ross Walker

Over the past ten years, there has been a concerted effort by many elements of conservative medicine to label complementary medicine (CM) with varying stigmas such as it is useless, all it does is give expensive urine and even contradict the useless term by inferring that, complementary medicine may be harmful. 

I would therefore like to present some key points around this subject, refuting the nonsense trotted out by self-proclaimed critics of complementary medicine. Summarising a recent document put forward by a representative of the complementary medicine industry, “preventative health is the way forward and for those who are ill, integrative medicine will become the mantra”.

Policy and funding need to reflect the desired health future Australia needs, as opposed to what we accept today as standard medical treatment.

  • The President of the AMA, Steven Hambleton announced Health is about much more than hospitals and medical practices. It is also about the promotion of wellness.
  • The ACHRA announced real gains in Australian’s health will lie, not in continually (and unsustainably) providing more health care but in preventing people getting sick in the first place.
  • There has been a huge shift in the health mindset of consumers and health professionals.
  • The CM/IM industry services the growing consumer trend to better health and taking control of their health.
  • This contributes to Australia in many ways through reductions to the Government budget from less illness, GP visits, scripts, improved productivity at home and at work. Industry expansion means jobs, investment, research and exports.
  • CM’s are neither pharma nor food – they are low risk listed medicines and should be regulated according to the relevant risk and claims and evidence.
  • CM’s are not alternate medicines and no major player offers false hope of treatment or trades on the fear factor.
  • The more brands talk about health and drive positive promotion of taking control of one’s health, the better for consumers and the better for the budget and the better for the economy. 
  • There appears a strong link between better health behaviours and CM’s usage in both directions.


When you compare pharmaceutical treatment to complementary medicines, the risk of death from pharmaceuticals is 72,426 times greater. I make the analogy between a formula one racing car and a bicycle. Pharmaceutical drugs can be seen as a formula one racing car which will get you from A to B very quickly with the potential of crashing and killing yourself whereas the bicycle is much slower, much safer with a bit of exercise on the way but takes a lot longer to complete the journey. 

Conservative critics of complementary medicine state there is no evidence to support the use of complementary medicine. To use one source known as PubMed, which is a comprehensive online database for scientific research globally, the last ten years have shown 10,657 publications of complementary medicine research expanding 80 scientific journals in complementary medicine and 60 journals in nutrition. This is hardly a lack of scientific research and support. I must say, as a doctor I am neither in the complementary medical camp or the orthodox medical camp. I practice integrative medicine which combines the best bits of both and personally I believe that this is the best approach.