HEALTH: SO, WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES?

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The Independent Culture
Acupuncture: Needles in the lung area can deflate the lung; over the heart and spinal cord they can cause nerve damage. Also, needles may be "lost" in the body or carry infections. Last year, 60 people in north London were infected with hepatitis B after receiving an obscure form of acupuncture that involved re-injecting their blood.

Shiatsu: Not suitable if you are pregnant, or have tumour activity or problematic joints.

Reflexology: This treatment may stimulate contractions in pregnant women.

Herbal remedies: They may be harmful, or interfere with prescribed medicines. This year, the Government put an emergency ban on aristolochia, used for eczema, urinary and rheumatic conditions, after two women suffered kidney failure.

Aromatherapy: Not suitable for pregnant women or children. Side-effects can include burns, rashes, sickness and miscarriages. Essential oils can also interfere with medication.

Osteopathy: Can aggravate weaknesses, in the wrong hands. In 1994, a London man died from brain-stem damage after an osteopath manipulated his neck while treating his tennis elbow.

Eva Johansson

The Institute for Complementary Medicine, a charity committed to high standards of training, has put together a register of practitioners. Contact: www.icmedicine.co.uk

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