Complementary therapies refer to those taken in addition to other treatments (not instead of) and are primarily herbal in nature. Some people will choose these complementary therapies instead of conventional treatment to maintain liver health, to manage symptoms or side effects or because conventional treatment has been unsuccessful. Complementary therapies also include such things as massage, reiki, aromatherapy, acupuncture and reflexology. Many people in Australia use complementary therapy, and people living with hepatitis B and/or C are no different.
All alternative therapies can assist the healing process (if tried, they can have a positive effect be it mind, body or both). This may be due to the time out when the individual can focus on things other than an illness; the positive effect produced by the therapy itself or even the relief of allowing another to help or assist with your illness.
Vitamins and herbs
Not all herbs or combinations of herbs are good for the liver and caution should be exercised when using herbal remedies. ‘Natural’ does not necessarily equal ‘safe’- after all, oleander is natural and so is deadly nightshade, but you wouldn’t want to eat them! The other thing to bear in mind is that herbal medicines, just like pharmaceutical medications, may interact with each other or with pharmaceuticals and this interaction may not be beneficial. Interactions between drugs, natural or man-made, may reduce the effectiveness of the medications, or boost the effectiveness to such an extent that drug levels may be dangerously toxic.
Vitamins and minerals are usually obtained in adequate levels from a balanced diet. Excessive levels of some vitamins and/or minerals, for example vitamin A and iron, can be harmful to the liver and it is recommended that people obtain advice from a reliable source.
For further information on vitamins and herbs please view a copy of our information sheet, Complementary therapies: Vitamins and herbs. Another good source of information may be found on the HCV Advocate website at http://www.hcvadvocate.org/.
Mind, body & soul
Massage, reiki, acupuncture and aromatherapy are all forms of complementary therapy, some of which may be combined such as aromatherapy and massage or reiki. A brief summary of some of these therapies is offered below and more detailed information is provided in our information sheet Complementary therapies: Mind and body.
Research has shown beneficial effects are achieved from massage in managing or alleviating the symptoms, such as chronic pain or depression, of a number of illnesses. Touch is the core ingredient of massage therapy which is the systemised manipulation of soft body tissues to prevent and alleviate pain, discomfort, muscle spasm and stress. There are a number of types of massage therapy including Relaxation, Remedial, Sports, Aromatherapy, Reflexology and Oriental.
Originating in China over 2000 years ago, acupuncture is one of the oldest and most commonly utilised complementary therapies in the world. The technique most scientifically studied involves manipulation by the hands or electrical stimulation of thin, metallic needles penetrating the skin to balance the yin (feminine) and yang (masculine) forces of the body and allow qi (vital energy) to flow through the body along pathways known as meridians. Research has shown the acupuncture is beneficial for stress relief, helping to stop smoking and for pain relief.
This is similar to acupuncture but instead of needles it uses gentle pressure on the meridian pathways. It is considered a less intrusive therapy for those that do not like the idea of the acupuncture needle procedure and has the same benefits as acupuncture.
“Treatment using scents” is perhaps the best description of aromatherapy. Botanical oils are used for the relief of pain, skin care, easing of tension and fatigue or to invigorate the whole body. Application of these oils may be by direct inhalation, massage, diffusion, ingestion or direct skin contact. Aromatherapy stimulates the olfactory nerves, thereby affecting the brain and nervous system. Examples of aromatherapy include Lavender oil which is commonly used for the treatment of headaches, for relaxation and it may also help with sleep disturbance; and Rosemary oil which is said to stimulate memory and improve or assist in study.
While aromatherapy is beneficial for the mind/body state; it can also produce adverse affects on those who are particularly sensitive to certain aromas. It is therefore wise to first test the individuals with a small ‘aroma test’ to ascertain any unwanted reactions. The scents that are responsive with the individual will also help produce a positive sense of wellbeing that can enhance treatment responses.
Caution should be exercised when using aromatherapy on women who are pregnant and we recommend that pregnant women use only an accredited aromatherapist.
Meditation works by bringing the brainwave pattern into an alpha state, a level of consciousness which promotes healing. Use of meditation for healing is now new and it has been proven to be effective in lower blood pressure, improving exercise performance in people with angina, relieving insomnia and general relaxation and stress reduction.
Originating in India, yoga uses a variety of slowly and smoothly performed postures in combination with specific breathing and meditation. Reported benefits are extensive and include positive impact on every body system, including gastrointestinal.
A Japanese word translating loosely to ‘free passage of viral life force energy’, reiki is believed to have originated in Tibet several thousand years ago. Reiki practitioners seek to restore order or balance to the energy of the body by channelling energy in a particular pattern. This encourages deep relaxation, a detoxifying effect and new vitality.
Based on the principle that certain reflex points relate to the whole body reflexology applies pressure to these points, thus stimulating the body’s own natural healing process. Reflexology may be applied to the hands, feed or ears. Circulation, nervous and lymphatic systems are stimulated through reflexology.
Always advise your medical and complementary practitioners of any medications you are using and therapies you are undertaking. It is important that both western and traditional medicines complement each other rather than work antagonistically.
Page last updated: Friday 15 July, 2011