There haven’t been many upsides to the outbreak of Covid four years ago, but if there are any, then one of them might just be the fact that it has allowed the natural health sector to properly find its way into the public consciousness.
A new study published recently suggests the global natural health market will rise to more than £1bn over the next six years thanks to a post-pandemic spike in interest from the public in alternative rather than traditional care options.
Although the report doesn’t detail where this newfound interest has come from, it doesn’t take insider knowledge to hazard a guess at what the triggers are likely to be.
A primary reason why people are more inclined to look at complementary and natural care solutions is almost certainly that it is now more difficult than ever to get an appointment with your GP.
As I write, 1,420 days have passed since the UK went into enforced lockdown and GP surgeries closed their doors. It is 932 days since the legal restrictions ended. Yet GP surgeries are still adopting digital screening appointments before agreeing to a face-to-face consultation.
Two years and 202 days after we supposedly returned to normal life, getting to see your GP in person still feels alarmingly akin to pulling teeth.
I’ve heard stories – many of them, in fact – about GP surgery receptionists, presumably still tipsy on the increased hold they had over their communities, demanding to know patients’ reasons for insisting on a face to face appointment and becoming prickly and difficult when the patients refused to disclose what may well have been delicate medical details.
In this climate, where being able to have open access to the one health professional who probably knows most about you has become exponentially difficult, it’s hardly a surprise that many people are choosing to explore how acupuncture, hypnotherapy, functional medicine, or clinics like ours that specialise in natural treatments might help them to become or stay well.
Another reason why we are now seeing interest in alternative health options being piqued is that the early days of the pandemic, when little was known about the virus and the search for a vaccine was in its infancy, prompted many people to look at how natural medicine might provide a cure, or at least some protection.
Even now, long after Covid19 has ceased to pose a serious threat to life, there remains a high degree of hysteria within the public clinical health sector around what doctors can and can’t say about the efficacy of natural remedies in providing some immunity and protection against the coronavirus.
It is only a little more than six months since Sarah Myhill, a GP in private practice, was suspended by the BMA for suggesting on social media that Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Iodine rendered the Covid vaccine ‘irrelevant’.
So, I am naturally cautious about summarising the arguments around that particular topic. Yet whether you support the vaccine or not, many people retain interest in finding out whether natural medicine holds answers – either in whole or in part – to some of the health issues we face in our modern world.
And finally, our world continues to be dominated by the digital explosion. Time is telescoping inwards as technology – and the knowledge and opportunity it brings – grows ever faster.
In 2024 we have access to vastly more information than we did even a year ago. And while we need to always be cynical about the ‘truth’ we find online, the internet grows only at the same rate as our thirst for information.
Put simply, if we had no desire to acquire knowledge, there would be no need for the internet.
In the investigation of crime, three things dominate: motive, means and opportunity.
The same is true when it comes to the rising popularity of natural and alternative remedies in the treatment of myriad health conditions that we all experience or are vulnerable to in our day to day lives.
The pandemic gave us a motive to be more curious about our health. The internet gives us the means to acquire knowledge. The absence of easy access to conventional clinical care created the opportunity to do so.
And the reality of all that is that we are now in a better position as a global community to have greater control over our wellbeing.
While public health agencies continue to broadly reject opportunities to raise awareness of the benefits of integrative health partnerships with complementary and alternative medical approaches, the public itself has clearly taken that matter into its own hands.
The non-conventional medical sector is growing. People are becoming more health conscious, more open to the possibilities and opportunities that a more natural approach might bring, and less inclined to take the health establishment at face value.
Natural health is not a standalone answer to every health issue. We need clinical medicine to treat a wide range of conditions that natural approaches can’t tackle alone.
But we also need patients to have greater control of their own health needs by arming them with the knowledge and information that allows them to make informed choices about how they want to be cared for.
It seems that process is happening, whether the National Institute for Clinical Health Excellence and the government like it or not.