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Complementary health is an approach to illness and disease that uses non-standard treatments as a way to aid healing and promote good health. There is rapid growth in complementary health from people looking for treatments or methods that will complement conventional medical practices.

TCM Herbs

Years ago the term alternative medicine was used to describe non-conventional healthcare systems but as it developed to be used alongside conventional treatment the term complementary medicine was adopted. The word ‘complementary’ now defines the group of disciplines itself rather than the relation between conventional and unconventional, a testament to its popularity and effectiveness.

The demand for complementary health treatments has increased by a third in the last ten years treating conditions such as arthritis, back pain and migraines. Complementary health places great importance on treating the person as a ‘whole’ and complementary health practitioners will often be heard using the term ‘holistic’ to explain this approach.

Many complementary health practitioners look to restore balance in the mind and body to facilitate healing. The complementary health approach is to examine a person’s previous medical history, lifestyle, diet, work environment and symptoms.

Taking all this into account, a complementary health practitioner can make a diagnosis and tailor a treatment program to suit the individual that will address all these factors.

The Official Point of View

The Ministry of Health of Malaysia as well as the Malaysian Medical Council defines complementary health treatments using the term “Traditional & Complementary Medicine” (T/CM).

Malaysian law further definse it as “a form of health-related practice designed to prevent, treat or manage ailment or illness or preserve the mental and physical well-being of an individual and includes such practices as traditional Malay, traditional Chinese medicine, traditional Indian medicine, homeopathy and complementary therapies, but excludes medical and dental practices used by a medical and dental practitioner respectively“.

The published policy of the Malaysian government is that “Traditional / complementary medicine (T/CM) system shall be an important component of the healthcare system. It will co-exist with modern medicine and contributes towards enhancing the health and quality of life of all Malaysians.

With the passing of the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Act 2013, the practice of T/CM in Malaysia would be subject to regulation and licensing under the auspices of the Ministry of Health and the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Council.

Complementary Health Terms and Definitions

Below are some of the various terms and definitions that come under the banner of complementary health.

  • Complementary Therapy
    Complementary Therapy offers various forms of treatment that are outside conventional medical practices. Complementary therapies typically work alongside traditional treatments and include therapies such as massage, acupuncture, shiatsu, reiki, naturopathy, Chinese herbal remedies and nutritional supplements.
  • Alternative Therapy
    Alternative therapy offers various treatments that can be used instead of conventional medical, surgical or pharmacological practices. Historical evidence shows the use of alternative therapies for centuries particularly in the Far East. Alternative therapies include massage, acupuncture, herbal and nutritional supplements.
  • Complementary Medicine
    Complementary Medicine can be therapeutic and diagnostic. Complementary medicine describes healthcare systems, techniques and practices that are non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical but used alongside conventional drugs and surgery treatment.
  • Alternative Medicine
    Alternative Medicine is a range of healthcare disciplines and systems that are provided as an alternative to conventional healthcare. Alternative medicine includes chiropractic, hypnosis, naturopathy and cultural based healing practices.

Using Complementary Health for Healing

Complementary health practitioners are referred to as complementary therapists, alternative therapists, holistic therapists, alternative medicine therapists or complementary medicine therapists. Practitioners are also bound to a code of ethics and practice put up by industry regulating bodies as well as the Ministry of Health.

Complementary health disciplines are continually being developed and branching out from existing disciplines. Some therapies that are considered to be complementary (such as acupuncture, osteopathy and chiropractic) are now included as standard care in Malaysian public health institutions.


What Is Complementary Health?
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