A new Oz study has found that alternative therapies to treat ailments is good for health of the people as well as the wealth of the nation.
The Access Economics report has found two-thirds of Australians use complementary medicines each year, slicing millions off the national health bill and improving the well being of many.
The report was commissioned by the National Institute of Complementary Medicine at the University of Western Sydney, and focused on five of the most common chronic ailments for which patients sought complementary treatment.
These were acupuncture for lower back pain, St John's Wort for mild to moderate depression, fish oils for warding off heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis, and the herbal preparation phytodolor for osteoarthritis.
The study estimated nearly 50 million dollars a year could be saved by using St John's Wort in place of pharmaceutical antidepressants, while fish oil supplements were "highly cost effective" in preventing further heart disease among those who had had heart attacks.
Alan Bensoussan of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine said the findings were broadly consistent with studies overseas.
"The bottom line in all of this is that it underscores the importance of an ongoing research effort to unlock some of the broader benefits of complementary medicine that we tend to dismiss too easily as a scientific community," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted him as saying.
Access Economics said the cost effectiveness of these therapies is even greater if the downstream effects of better health are calculated as well as direct savings to the health budget.