(NaturalNews) It used to be called alternative medicine, but herbal and homeopathic remedies have gone mainstream as new research by Mintel indicates approximately a third of Americans are swapping OTC medicines for natural products to overcome common ailments. Wider availability and a more holistic, proactive approach to personal healthcare are key reasons behind the trend which saw retail sales reach an all time high of $6.4 billion in 2012, up almost 3 percent in 2011, a growth of 16 percent over the past five years.
With Americans increasingly likely to suffer from more than one chronic health problem, greater numbers are taking matters into their own hands and doing their own research. Mintel health analyst Emily Krol says:
The sector is primed for continued success as US consumers increasingly seek products that are natural and organic, particularly as it relates to healthcare. This is especially true for families with small children as many OTC medications are unsafe for children under the age of two.
The fact that so many users of homeopathic remedies are confident about them relieving their symptoms suggests that once people have used these products and experienced the effectiveness, they may be more inclined to use them in the future.
People who use homeopathic remedies were found to be healthier than those who don't. They are more likely to eat a diet high in natural and organic foods and take other preventative measures to protect their health, such as taking vitamin supplements and visiting the doctor regularly.
UK following America
A similar trend is reported by The Complementary Association (CMA), http://www.the-cma.org.uk, the UK-based membership organization for complementary medical practitioners, natural healthcare therapists, training schools and natural health companies, which recently conducted its own online survey.
Jayney Goddard, President of the CMA told NaturalNews.com: "There is undoubtedly an upward trend in the popularity and use of a wide range of complementary medical approaches. We have noticed that this trend is highly notable in the increase in sales of homeopathic medicines and herbal products. On conducting informal surveys via The Complementary Medical Association's website, we find that respondents give several reasons for why they choose to look after their health with these modalities."
Top three reasons cited by The CMA's respondents:
1. Effectiveness. Homepathic medicines actually work, and results are often very rapid.
2. Inexpensive. The cost of these medicines compares well against paying for prescriptions. In locations where people don't pay for prescriptions, or pay very little, e.g. Scotland, people still consider these medicines to provide value for money.
3. Safe. There is a perception that pharmaceutical drugs are often dangerous, with many undesirable side-effects and that often they don't work. People feel safer with a more natural, holistic approach.
The sector is booming in other ways. Goddard adds: "We have noticed an increase in practitioner and training school membership numbers, which indicates that more people are entering the profession, and that there is an increasing need for more training schools and colleges. So, overall, the profession as a whole is growing exponentially - not just the sales of natural healthcare medicines."
Such is the popularity of natural remedies, that the UK's fourth political party, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), has introduced a policy stating that doctors should be able to prescribe herbal medicines. It's a move that has prompted chair of the government's All Party Group on Integrated Healthcare, David Treddinick MP, to call for the same if the practitioners are properly 'qualified', and for the statutory regulation of homeopathy.