NHS urged to reject homoeopathy
Good. They've been researching it for years, and there's never any evidence that it's an improvement on placebo, nor that the underlying theory is sound. I can think of a number of complementary therapies which the NHS would do well to fund, but I'm talking about the ones which work, which are backed up by a solid body of clinical evidence and which have strong training and regulatory systems in place. Aromatherapy does well in all respects. Acupuncture has a slightly dodgy theory but is properly-regulated and gets good results (and thousands of years of anecdotal evidence are surely worth something), though ironically the acupuncture currently on offer via the NHS isn't actually proper acupuncture. Not sure about the research with chiropractic, but I believe it's well-respected as effective, and it's got good regulation. Herbalism is a little tricky where dosage is concerned (different ways of ingestion e.g. tablets or tincture, natural herbs vary in the proportion of components and standardised extracts don't work quite the same way) but otherwise pretty sound, and St John's Wort at least really should be integrated into the NHS. I injured my back last year, sprained the sacro-iliac joint, and all the doctor could offer me was hefty painkillers which took the edge off the pain but did nothing else apart from make me all dopey, and certainly didn't treat the root problem. I had to spend around £200 over the course of a couple of weeks in seeing a chiropractor and getting professional massage, but that was the only way I could walk. The best analgesic for muscular pain I know is still topical application of Tiger Balm, though admittedly I seem to be painkiller-resistant.
Apart from the obvious advantages of increasing the range of treatments available, greater communication between orthodox and alternative medicine would be useful in a number of ways. For starters, the quacks need to be weeded out. You occasionally get people following complementary therapies instead
of going to their doctor, which is fine if we're talking about lavender oil for mild insomnia instead of sleeping tablets (generally a far safer solution, I think the efficacy is comparable) but utterly out of order if it's something which really needs to be treated by a doctor; it's even been known to happen with extremely serious conditions such as cancer. Anyone practising a respectable therapy who's part of a respectable regulatory body is forbidden to do this, of course, and in fact has an obligation to advise patients to get to the doctor when necessary. But people don't always know which practitioners to go to, which ones they'll be safe with, even which ones have been properly trained. The other problem is that doctors don't know enough about complementary therapies, and they need to know about any interactions which may occur. A herbalist I once consulted had a huge reference book which cross-referenced orthodox and herbal medications, and checked everything rigorously. However, the Family Planning Clinic put me on hormonal contraception without bothering to enquire whether I was taking any herbal medicines, and in fact I was taking a herb which turned out to be a hormone regulator and thus shouldn't be taken with hormonal contraception. I'd like to see patients with depression not only given the option of St John's Wort by their doctor, but able to monitor progress and make comparisons with other medication with the doctor properly as well, instead of feeling that their doctor will suggest one drug and their herbalist, if they're even seeing a herbalist, another, and they don't know who to trust. And another point: there's too much herbal medication available in shops that should in fact be prescription only, along with some essential oils. That said, herbal remedies in particular are usually milder than prescription medication, and while this means that they're more limited in what they can achieve or slower-acting, the side-effect rates and risk of addiction are correspondingly lower. This can be particularly useful for milder conditions, especially chronic ones where long-term drug use is problematic.