Complementary Therapies for Your Mental Health

Alternative therapies like acupuncture, herbal remedies, aromatherapy and martial arts relieve anxiety, stress and depression.Anil Coumar

Have you noticed that when you are feeling stressed or down, you can get ill more easily? This may be because of a link between your mind and your body's health.

Several treatments can cure the causes of illness but don't always treat the symptoms. Complementary therapies can work for some people with mental health problems, usually at the same time as other medical treatment. Some people use alternative therapies instead of medication, but it's important to discuss any treatment for mental health problems with your GP.

Alternative therapies can include:

These treatments can help some people with stress. But if you're taking medication ask your doctor before seeing a complementary or alternative therapist. If you know anyone who has tried one of the treatments ask them what they thought of it. It's important to decide what kind of therapy appeals to you, as what works for someone else might not work for you.

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that has been used for thousands of years. In Chinese medicine, life energy, known as 'qi,'(pronounced 'Chi') flows beneath the skin. When a person's qi is blocked or can't flow, they become ill. For a person to be cured, their qi has to start moving again.

In acupuncture, the acupuncturist talks to the patient to try to identify the problem. Then small needles are put into the skin at certain points and left in for a short time. The needles are used to help the flow of the qi.


"After years of feeling low, I tried acupuncture. I chose a woman and spoke to her first to see if I liked her. The treatment left me feeling much more relaxed...I feel a lot more balanced and in control of my life. I also had trouble sleeping before, and I sleep a lot better now." (Emily, a 23-year-old teacher who has been having acupuncture to treat her depression.)

There are no reported side-effects of acupuncture, but it's essential to make sure the needles are new - no good acupuncturist will re-use needles.

Acupuncture treatment can start at around $50 a session. Doctors can prescribe acupuncture, but it's unusual.

Herbal Remedies

Herbal remedies are also used in Chinese medicine. If you use this treatment, it's important to tell the herbalist if you're pregnant, or about any medication you're already taking as some medicines can react badly with herbs.

Continue reading to find out about how yoga, martial arts and aromatherapy can all help.


Aromatherapy uses extracts from plants and trees. These extracts are made into essential oils, which are very strong. They can be used in different ways:

  • Dilute the oils with water, put them in a burner and inhale them.
  • Sprinkle a few drops onto your pillow to help you sleep.
  • Add a few drops of oil to bath water.
  • Mix essential oils with vegetable oil and massage the mixture into your skin.

Aromatherapy oils can be used for relaxation and treating stress:

  • Lavender helps people to relax and sleep, and can relieve headaches.
  • Patchouli oil reduces anxiety and can help lift your mood.
  • Ylang Ylang makes you feel happier and helps you to sleep. But don't use too much, as it can cause headaches.

Books on aromatherapy can tell you which oils to use. Oils can be bought at chemists, health food shops and some high street stores. They can cost between £3 - £7. You can also see a qualified aromatherapist, although this can be expensive.

Martial Arts

Martial arts - hand and body movements mostly learned for self-defence - can help relaxation. T'ai chi and Aikido are two of the best martial arts for relieving stress and tension.

T'ai chi originates from China and has been practiced for thousands of years. It uses body movements and breathing to help clear the mind and body. T'ai chi is also used for self-defense.

Aikido originates from Japan. You don't need to be physically strong to practice Aikido - quick reactions and flexibility are what count. None of the movements are violent or aggressive but they can also be used to overcome attackers.

T'ai chi and Aikido classes are becoming more popular. Look for classes at your local sports centre.


Yoga exercise helps create a healthy body and mind. Yoga focuses awareness on your body and the space around you. Tension in your muscles is relaxed and you become more flexible. By focusing attention on your body, your mind can begin to work with a different outlook.

In most yoga classes you'll normally spend a few minutes concentrating on your breathing or meditating, then you'll perform stretches which can be performed while lying, standing, or sitting down.

There are several types of yoga including Hatha, Iyengar and Kundalini. Try different styles until you find one that suits you. It's also important to find a teacher that you like.

Sources: National for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Tai Chi Techniques That Helps With Relaxation And Eases Stress.



next: Complimentary and Alternative Medicine

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 2). Complementary Therapies for Your Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Last Updated: February 8, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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