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More than 75 per cent of Australians use complementary medicines. Here’s a checklist to make sure you’re getting the most out of them.

Know what you’re dealing with

Complementary medicines include vitamins, minerals and nutritional supplements, herbal medicines, traditional medicines, homeopathic medicines and some aromatherapy products. The effectiveness of any treatment depends on the individual person and your specific condition – no medicine is a universal cure, so you need to find out if the medicine is right for you.

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Seek advice

Do your research before you take something new, including talking to your doctor or complementary medicine practitioner. Always read the label and make sure you take the correct dose.

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Find an accredited practitioner

Just like you’d look into your GP’s qualifications, look at your complementary medicine practitioner’s qualifications. Are they accredited and registered with one of the professional bodies, such as the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society?

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Ask about fees

While there are no Medicare rebates for consultations with complementary medicine practitioners, private health funds may entitle you to one. To avoid costly surprises, always discuss full costs before undergoing treatment.

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Watch for side effects

No medicine, even natural or herbal medicine, is completely free of side effects.
Just because complementary medicines can be bought without a prescription doesn’t mean they’re less powerful.

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Don’t mix medicines

Always speak with your doctor before mixing any medications or supplements to find out if it’s safe. For example, St John’s wort,  used to alleviate depression, can interact with several commonly used prescription medicines, including the oral contraceptive pill.

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Be informed

There’s a world of info on
the web, but be careful.
Some sites provide wrong or misleading information so look for quality websites, including government-endorsed sites or those of a respected national health organisation.

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Buy local

We all love online shopping, but buying medicines from overseas websites
can be dangerous. Australia has some of the strictest regulations in the world for complementary medicines, and products from overseas may contain illegal or harmful substances. Don’t risk it.

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