Complementary medicine describes a wide range of healthcare medicines and therapies. Many Australians use complementary medicine for specific health conditions or health benefits. To help Australians to make informed decisions about their health care, we support research into complementary medicine and publish information about the effectiveness of various treatments. 

Under the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992, National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has a responsibility to inquire into, issue guidelines on, and advise the community on, matters relating to:

  • the improvement of health
  • the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease
  • the provision of health care
  • public health research and medical research
  • ethical issues relating to health.

NHMRC is of the view that all health treatments, whether conventional, traditional or complementary, should be subject to a rigorous evaluation of the evidence for effectiveness. Complementary medicine is a broad term used to describe a wide range of health care medicines and therapies (forms of treatment that do not involve medicines).

Building the evidence base for complementary medicine has been a commitment of NHMRC over a number of triennia, commencing in 2006. A number of initiatives have aimed to stimulate research to investigate the use and effectiveness of complementary medicine and strengthen the integration of complementary medicine into the health care system. NHMRC broadened its focus in 2012–2015 to ensure that all health treatments, whether conventional, traditional or complementary, be subject to a rigorous evaluation of the evidence for their effectiveness. As such NHMRC committed to continuing to increase knowledge through the funding of investigator-driven research on complementary medicine.

Reviewing the evidence of effectiveness of natural therapies

Current Natural Therapies Review

The Australian Government has commissioned a review of the clinical effectiveness of 16 natural therapies that were excluded from private health insurance rebates on 1 April 2019. The 16 natural therapies are Alexander Technique, aromatherapy, Bowen Therapy, Buteyko, Feldenkrais, homeopathy, iridology, kinesiology, naturopathy, Pilates, reflexology, Rolfing, shiatsu, tai chi, Western herbal medicine and yoga.

The Department of Health has engaged NHMRC to assist in its review by commissioning evidence evaluations to help inform its current Natural Therapies Review. This review will update the 2014–15 review of the Australian Government Rebate on Natural Therapies for Private Health Insurance (Trove page snapshot dated 8 November 2018).

NHMRC has established a Natural Therapies Working Committee to oversee the evidence evaluations.

For more information on NHMRC's involvement in the current Natural Therapies Review, visit NHMRC Natural Therapy Review.

Talking with your patients about Complementary Medicine – a Resource for Clinicians

NHMRC, under the guidance of the Health Care Committee, has developed a resource for clinicians to facilitate discussion with patients regarding their use of complementary medicine.

In April 2014, NHMRC published Talking with your patients about Complementary Medicine – a Resource for Clinicians (Resource). This Resource aims to promote collaborative discussions between clinicians and their patients about the use of complementary medicine. The ultimate aim of the Resource is to better equip patients to make informed decisions about their health care.

The Resource is aimed at clinicians, including medical practitioners, nurses, nurse practitioners and allied health professionals. Whilst not the primary target audience for the Resource, members of the Australian community, who use or are considering using complementary medicine, may also find the document helpful.

Homeopathy review

Homeopathy is a type of complementary medicine that is commonly used in Australia and around the world.

NHMRC has reviewed the scientific evidence, under the guidance of the Homeopathy Working Committee, for the effectiveness of homeopathy in treating a variety of clinical conditions with the aim of providing Australians with reliable information about its use.

For more information visit Homeopathy.

Release of draft 2012 report

NHMRC released an unfinished draft report of an overview of systematic reviews of homeopathy that was started in 2012 as part of the Homeopathy Review, but never completed. There have been a number of enquiries about the draft report and requests for its release. NHMRC's Chief Executive Officer is aware of ongoing community interest in the content of this draft report, and that there is a substantial body of misinformation about it.

To address this misinformation, NHMRC is providing an annotated version of the report. This shows NHMRC's concerns with the report and why it did not progress to be used in the Homeopathy Review that produced the NHMRC Statement on Homeopathy and the NHMRC Information Paper: Evidence of the effectiveness of homeopathy for treating health conditions (2015). The report was never completed and has not undergone the usual NHMRC quality assurance steps. The Council of NHMRC has not considered it nor endorsed it.

Other activities

Research funding

NHMRC supports investigator-driven research into complementary medicine through its funding schemes such as Investigator Grants and Ideas Grants. Since 2012, NHMRC has provided more than $28 million in funding for scientific research into complementary medicine.


For further information contact:

Postal address
The Complementary Medicines Team
National Health and Medical Research Council
GPO Box 1421
Canberra ACT 2601
Email address