Complementary medicines

Complementary medicines

Complementary medicines — also called herbal, natural and alternative medicines — include products containing herbs, vitamins, minerals, nutritional supplements, homoeopathic medicines, certain aromatherapy products and traditional Chinese medicines.

Find out more about using complementary medicines wisely, and why there may be less known about their effectiveness, side effects and interactions.

Read about the evidence for some commonly used complementary medicines such as:

Find out about the evidence for using complementary medicines as companion products.

As with all medicines, tell your health professional about any complementary medicines you are taking — that way you can avoid potentially harmful interactions with your prescription or pharmacy medicines.

Information for health professionals  

Read about fish oil supplements and cardiovascular disease, and evidence summaries for complementary medicines as companion products to prescription medicines.

Related information - complementary medicines


(Media release)
17 May 2016 ABC’s Four Corners episode on complementary medicines is a reminder that people should take medicines with care. Read more about alternative remedies.
03 Jun 2015 Chronic pain is best managed with a multidisciplinary plan that covers lifestyle factors, but self-management skills are important, too. Read more.
(Media release)
19 Dec 2014 NPS MedicineWise reminds all Australians that complementary medicines can cause side effects & interact with other over-the-counter and prescription medicines.
09 Dec 2014 Fish oil supplements may be helpful in the treatment of some health conditions, such as high blood triglycerides or rheumatoid arthritis, but for others, like high blood pressure, the evidence is mixed. Find out more.
01 Sep 2014 There are risks associated with buying any medicines online, particularly when the products are from an overseas-based website or have been manufactured overseas.
(Tool / resource)
13 Aug 2014 MedicineList Plus smartphone app - free download for iPhone and Android. Keep important information about your medicines in one place. You can edit and update all your information, and set alarms to remind you when to take your medicines.
27 May 2014 Ivy leaf extract (Hedera helix) is used in complementary medicine products to treat cough and cold symptoms. However, there is insufficient good-quality clinical evidence about its safety and effectiveness in children under 18 years.
(Consumer publication)
02 May 2014 A small amount of research has been done in humans, but has not shown that Garcinia cambogia helps with weight loss. Importantly, there is limited evidence available about the long-term effects and safety of taking Garcinia cambogia. Clinical research studies are also unclear about whether it can reduce your appetite or improve your capacity to exercise.
(Consumer publication)
05 Mar 2014 Many people in Australia take glucosamine supplements, but it is not yet clear how effective it is for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Some studies have shown that it could protect the cartilage in joints, while others have shown no significant benefit. Read more.
(Consumer publication)
04 Sep 2013 There is some research into certain complementary medicines that shows there may be a benefit in using them. However, there is a lack of evidence from good clinical trials to support the effects of many complementary medicines.