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This study examined the perceived efficacy of five different types of alternative medicine (acupuncture, herbalism, homoeopathy, hypnosis and osteopathy) and orthodox medicine in treating 25 common complaints ranging from cancer to the common cold. Subjects completed a questionnaire measuring their state of health; experience of complementary medicine; sources of information about complementary medicine; and perceived efficacy of orthodox and complementary treatments in the treatment of each condition. Personal accounts of treatment appeared to be particularly important sources of information on complementary medicine, and also highly valued in assessing its efficacy. Orthodox medicine was clearly seen, by the great majority of subjects, as being more effective in the treatment of most complaints, especially in the treatment of major, life-threatening conditions. Complementary medicine was seen as more effective in the treatment of minor and chronic conditions, though generally not superior to orthodox medicine. For some specific conditions complementary medicine was seen as the most effective treatment: osteopathy and acupuncture were both perceived as valuable in the treatment of back pain, and herbalism was perceived as a valid treatment for fatigue and stress; hypnosis was seen as useful in the treatment of a variety of psychological problems, and seen as superior to orthodox techniques. The fact that people are able to specify which complementary therapies are likely to be effective in which conditions should make researchers cautious about treatment 'complementary medicine' as an umbrella term. © 1994.

Original publication




Journal article


Complementary Therapies in Medicine

Publication Date





128 - 134