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Alternative medicine is a means of treating a symptom or illness outside of conventional Western medicine. Often, alternative treatments originate from Eastern cultures and use methods such as herbal remedies.
People have been using some alternative medicine practices for thousands of years — for example, Ayurvedic medicine has been used for more than 3,000 years. It began in India and emphasizes the use of natural practices, herbs, and diets to treat health conditions (
Although there isn’t always clinical research behind it, alternative medicine may sometimes be effective.
Today, many traditional approaches to healing have been incorporated into conventional Western medicine. For example, using acupuncture for nausea alongside chemotherapy is called complementary care.
These books offer a closer look at complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) techniques and how and when to use them.
- Best overall natural remedies book: “Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies”
- Best herbal medicine book for beginners: “Herbal Medicine for Beginners: Your Guide to Healing Common Ailments with 35 Medicinal Herbs”
- Best essential oils book: “The Essential Oils Apothecary: Advanced Strategies and Protocols for Chronic Disease and Conditions”
- Best for hormonal balance: “Hormone Intelligence: The Complete Guide to Calming Hormone Chaos and Restoring Your Body’s Natural Blueprint for Well-Being”
- Best on Chinese medicine: “Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine”
- Best on aromatherapy: “Aromatherapy for Self-Care: Your Complete Guide to Relax, Rebalance, and Restore with Essential Oils”
- Best on Ayurvedic practice: “Ayurveda Beginner’s Guide: Essential Ayurvedic Principles and Practices to Balance and Heal Naturally”
- Best for self-care: “Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care”
- Best for overall wellness: “Natural Health, Natural Medicine: The Complete Guide to Wellness and Self-Care for Optimum Health”
- Best for women’s reproductive health: “Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 20th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health”
CAM includes healing practices that differ from those of Western, or allopathic, medicine.
People who choose to stop using Western medicine altogether and embrace a broader approach to healing are using alternative therapies. Those who weave in these therapies alongside Western medicine are practicing complementary therapies.
It’s important for your physician to know about both approaches.
CAM encompasses acupuncture, herbal medicine, reiki, aromatherapy, and chiropractic manipulation intended to prevent or alleviate illness or disease (
- Vetting: All publishers have been vetted to ensure they meet Healthline’s business standards.
- Variety: CAM and natural remedies may be used to address a variety of conditions, ailments, and concerns. The books in this article cover a wide range of topics, including general wellness and specific conditions and methods.
- Author credibility: The authors of these books have long-term expertise and a reputation for being among the best in their field. Many are medical doctors or world-renowned speakers and educators.
- Online ratings: These books are all highly rated and recommended by readers.
Best overall natural remedies book
“Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies”
- Who it’s best for: anyone looking to naturally treat minor ailments and conditions at home to save money and a trip to the pharmacy
- Authors’ credentials: medical doctors
When you think about CAM and home remedies, you may wonder how the treatments work and whether they’re effective. “Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies” can bring you some clarity.
This book explains how to treat common health issues with home remedies. It also provides information on whether your symptoms could indicate a medical emergency and when it’s best to get a doctor involved.
The authors, Dr. Cindy A. Kermott and Dr. Martha P. Millman, are both medical doctors and hold master’s degrees in public health. They have contributed to other Mayo Clinic publications, transforming leading recommendations and research into health solutions that are easy to read and apply.
Best herbal medicine book for beginners
“Herbal Medicine for Beginners: Your Guide to Healing Common Ailments with 35 Medicinal Herbs”
- Who it’s best for: people interested in learning the basics about common herbs and how to use them at home for health and wellness
- Authors’ credentials: herbalists, educators, and speakers
For centuries, people have used plants to prevent and treat various ailments. In fact, many of today’s medications were developed from specific plant compounds that affect the human body (
“Herbal Medicine for Beginners” highlights the medicinal properties of 35 common herbs and how to use them for natural medicine at home. From soothing a sore throat to relieving a sunburn, the book introduces remedies that are easy to understand and make.
The authors, married herbalist duo Katja Swift and Ryn Midura, teach foundational, advanced, and clinical herbalism to students at the Common Wealth Center for Holistic Herbalism and pharmacy students in Boston. They’re frequent contributors to the Journal of the American Herbalists Guild and speak on herbalism nationwide.
Best essential oils book
“The Essential Oils Apothecary: Advanced Strategies and Protocols for Chronic Disease and Conditions”
- Who it’s best for: anyone interested in adding essential oils to their medicine cabinet to help manage symptoms of various conditions
- Authors’ credentials: aromatherapist, public health researcher, and chiropractor
Essential oils have antimicrobial, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties when extracted properly from specific parts of certain plants (
This book dives into the research behind these potent oils and provides recipes for food, drinks, balms, and aromatherapy blends.
Dr. Eric Zielinski is a trained aromatherapist, public health researcher, and chiropractor. He and his wife, Sabrina Ann Zielinski, educate millions of people on how to live naturally healthy lives via their website, NaturalLivingFamily.com.
Reviewers love the mix of scientific research and practical uses and recipes in “The Essential Oils Apothecary.”
Best for hormonal balance
“Hormone Intelligence: The Complete Guide to Calming Hormone Chaos and Restoring Your Body’s Natural Blueprint for Well-Being”
- Who it’s best for: women looking to understand their hormones
- Author’s credentials: medical doctor who is board certified in family medicine and specializes in obstetrics, herbalism, and midwifery
Hormones influence every part of a woman’s life, including fertility issues, sex drive, acne, and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Dr. Aviva Romm helps women better understand their health in her book “Hormone Intelligence.” She clarifies potential causes of hormonal issues and provides a 6-week plan to try to correct them.
Reviewers love the holistic approach to hormone health in this book. It offers a compassionate edge and a level of understanding that can only come from a book written for women by a woman.
Best on Chinese medicine
“Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine”
- Who it’s best for: a beginner who wants to learn more about Chinese medicine and Eastern approaches to health and wellness
- Author’s credentials: licensed acupuncturist and doctor of oriental medicine
For many generations, Eastern and Western medicines were at odds, and only a few practitioners used both. But that’s no longer the case — many healers and doctors now combine different approaches.
“Between Heaven and Earth” is a beginner’s guide that explains why ancient Chinese medicine can still be valuable today and how it can be used alongside modern Western practices.
Reviewers love that the book takes an approach that anyone can understand and find value in. It’s a great reference to keep at hand.
Best on aromatherapy
“Aromatherapy for Self-Care: Your Complete Guide to Relax, Rebalance, and Restore with Essential Oils”
- Who it’s best for: anyone interested in learning how to incorporate aromatherapy and essential oils into their daily life and self-care practices
- Author’s credentials: licensed acupuncturist and board certified diplomate in oriental medicine with a master’s degree in traditional oriental medicine
Aromatherapy goes well beyond the calming scent of lavender mixed into nighttime creams and bubble baths. In fact, you can use the art and science of aromatherapy in daily self-care practices to help you feel your best.
“Aromatherapy for Self-Care” includes profiles of 50 of the best essential oils to keep in your self-care arsenal. It also offers 100 remedies, recipes, and tips on using oils for total body, mind, and spiritual wellness.
Best on Ayurvedic practice
“Ayurveda Beginner’s Guide: Essential Ayurvedic Principles and Practices to Balance and Heal Naturally”
- Who it’s best for: those looking to understand the basics of Ayurveda and how to apply it to daily care practices
- Author’s credentials: Ayurvedic consultant, cooking teacher, and meditation teacher
While Ayurveda is an ancient system for wellness, its principles are still helpful in today’s modern and fast-paced world.
“Ayurveda Beginner’s Guide” is a great introduction to how Ayurvedic principles can benefit your modern — and possibly stressful — lifestyle.
Author Susan Weis-Bohlen explains the history and methods of Ayurveda and provides a 3-week plan to gently incorporate restorative Ayurveda techniques into your life. This book includes recipes, yoga, aromatherapy, meditation, and in-depth dosha descriptions.
Reviewers love the way the author easily explains Ayurveda and provides practical and useful ways to incorporate it into everyday living.
Best for self-care
“Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care”
- Who it’s best for: people looking to address the root cause of common symptoms with herbs and other natural solutions
- Author’s credentials: clinical herbalist
Popping aspirin for a headache or an antacid for an upset stomach might ease your symptoms, but it doesn’t necessarily address the cause of the issue.
In “Body into Balance,” author Maria Noel Groves shows you how to read your body’s signals to support health and wellness. You’ll also learn how to make and use herbal remedies and other natural remedies.
Reviewers love that the author makes it easy to safely prepare and use herbs and other botanicals.
Best for overall wellness
“Natural Health, Natural Medicine: The Complete Guide to Wellness and Self-Care for Optimum Health”
- Who it’s best for: people interested in making changes to their diet and lifestyle to prevent chronic disease and promote a long and healthy life
- Author’s credentials: medical doctor and internationally recognized expert in integrative medicine and healthy living
Preventive health means practicing behaviors that help protect you against diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Natural Health, Natural Medicine” is a combination of preventive health tips and CAM modalities.
The book offers healthy, simple recipes and tips for using CAM healing approaches. It also provides research on the link between diet and certain chronic conditions.
Reviewers recommend it as a blueprint for how to eat and live to prevent illness and as a resource for specific diseases.
Best for women’s reproductive health
“Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 20th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health”
- Who it’s best for: women interested in learning more about fertility and sexual health
- Author’s credentials: women’s health educator and speaker with a master’s degree in public health
Whether you’re looking to naturally prevent pregnancy or increase your chances of conceiving, “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” can help you understand and take charge of your sexual and reproductive health.
Traditional medicine often offers women artificial hormones and chemicals to address their sexual or reproductive health needs. Author Toni Weschler goes against this tendency by teaching women how to naturally prevent or promote pregnancy and take care of their bodies.
Reviewers recommend this book to all women who want to know more about how their body works.
Even though modern medicine offers solutions for most issues, many people try natural remedies first.
In a small 2018 study with 46 participants, the most common reason participants gave for trying herbal medicine was dissatisfaction with conventional treatments and medications (
While natural botanicals such as herbs and essential oils can have detrimental side effects if used improperly, they often have fewer negative side effects than conventional medications.
In many cases, natural remedies work to address the causes of ailments rather than only masking the problem by relieving symptoms.
While natural remedies may be beneficial for some ailments, there are times when you need to seek modern medical treatment.
If your symptoms are persistent despite the use of natural treatments, or if they last a long time, it’s a good idea to check in with a healthcare professional. This is true even for milder ailments such as headaches, sleep problems, or stomach issues.
Serious symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, an inability to stay awake, confusion, or trouble keeping fluids down may require emergency medical attention. If you experience any of these, it’s best to seek immediate medical attention rather than to experiment with natural remedies (6).
What is the study of natural remedies called?
The study of natural remedies is called naturopathic medicine.
The practices are sometimes referred to as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
What are examples of natural remedies?
Natural remedies can include body therapies, nutrition strategies, and other traditional approaches. Here are some examples (7):
- diet and nutrition
- traditional Chinese medicine
Do natural remedies work?
For centuries, people have used natural remedies to prevent and treat issues ranging from common annoyances to chronic health conditions.
Scientific evidence does not support the effectiveness or safety of all types of alternative practices. However, emerging and ongoing research backs the benefits of many of the methods (
Learn more about CAM here.
CAM practices may help prevent illness, promote general wellness, or complement traditional medical care for a number of ailments.
The books on this list can help you identify which CAM methods might benefit you and explain how to get started.
Always remember to consult a medical professional before adding any new dietary or herbal supplements or exercises to your routine.