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Home > Complementary and alternative medicines. Herbal remedies and supplements.

Royal College of Psychiatrists. (2010) Complementary and alternative medicines. Herbal remedies and supplements. Royal College of Psychiatrists, London.


This leaflet is for anyone who would like to try complementary medicines for a mental health problem. It covers:
 Brain function and dementia
 Anxiety and sleep problems
 Depression and bipolar disorder
 Psychotic states
 Movement disorders
 Addictions
 Finding a practitioner
 Useful websites

What are complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs)?
They are ways of treating illness that have developed outside the mainstream of modern medicine. Many are traditional remedies that have developed in different cultures over the centuries. They include:
 herbal medicines
 foods
 nutritional supplements, such as vitamins and minerals
All these treatments can be used on their own, or with conventional medicine.

CAMs and mental health problems
Many CAMs have been used for mental health problems, but there is little good evidence to support their use. Some of these treatments may work, but most have not been thoroughly tested. The studies have often been too small to give a clear answer. We know most about the treatments for depression, anxiety and insomnia.

Despite the lack of evidence, people all over the world take CAMs, and many report that they find them helpful. Ultimately, whether taking CAMs is a good idea depends on individual circumstances. We recommend that you talk to your GP or mental health team first.

If you are considering taking CAMs, you should seek specialist advice if:
 you are pregnant or breastfeeding
 you want to give CAMs to children
 you are competing in sports to make sure that the CAM you are considering taking is not in breach of doping regulations.

How to use CAMs safely?
 choose a qualified practitioner who is a member of a recognised society
 ask about their qualification and experience
 ask about side-effects
 if in doubt, ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist
 tell the professionals involved in your care, including your CAM practitioner, about all your treatments and medications
 tell them if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant or breast-feed
 tell them about your physical health and allergies
 discuss your concerns about treatment
 seek medical advice if you experience unusual symptoms
 make special time for your treatment sessions
 find a reliable source for your information about therapies

 stop conventional medicines without telling your doctor
 believe claims for 'wonder cures'
 take high doses of supplements unless confirmed with an experienced health professional
 combine many different remedies
 take complementary medicines without knowing what they are for
 take somebody else’s complementary medicines
 give remedies to children without seeking specialist advice
 take remedies from an unreliable source - this includes the internet
 eat or drink raw plant material, such as flowers, fruits, leaves, seeds or the root unless you are sure it is absolutely safe (many plants are poisonous and need to be processed before they can be used safely)
 prepare your own teas and extracts unless you are sure it is safe
 smoke raw plant material
 pay large sums of money up front
 practice acupuncture or any other physical treatment on yourself unless you have been trained
 blame yourself if a treatment does not work.

{Click on link above for full factsheet]

Item Type
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Corporate Creators
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Place of Publication
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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