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Alternative medical treatments

Yoga, homeopathy, probiotics— Americans spend billions of dollars on alternative treatments like these every year. But do they actually work? Consumer Reports reveals whether these and other alternative treatments actually deliver on their promises and whether they’re safe.

For chronic pain caused by osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, there is evidence that alternative treatments like meditation, yoga, and tai-chi can actually help. And a lot of people do yoga to relax or to promote flexibility, or because they enjoy it. There is evidence that regularly practicing yoga can help ease depression, help with lower-back pain, and even reduce blood pressure.

Mindfulness techniques including yoga, certain forms of meditation, and deep breathing may also help with relieving stress.

Suffering from sleep problems? There is evidence that taking melatonin can help with specific conditions, such as those related to jet lag or shift work. But it may have a minimal effect in treating other sleep problems, like insomnia.

The first thing you do shouldn’t be to take pills or something like melatonin. But there is something you can try called cognitive behavioral therapy. It can help you disrupt poor sleeping habits and set you on a better course to healthier sleep.

While these alternative treatments can work, there are many others that don’t have evidence to support them. Some can even be dangerous, like kratom. It’s promoted as a safe pain reliever but could be as addictive as opioids and has been linked to at least 44 deaths. So it’s important to do your research, be choosy about alternative health practitioners, consider how much it could cost you, and think holistically.

When you’re interested in alternative treatments, the more serious the problem, the more cautious you should be. Before trying any new plant, you should always talk to your doctor
first.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2018 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org.