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Around The World In Alternative Medicines

William Cooper

Marketing Director

Modern medicine as we know it has certainly made leaps and bounds in terms of improvement over the last 30 or so years. With the advances in medicine and technology, over the previous 15 years, we have an increased life expectancy by 10 years and deaths from communicable diseases decrease.

That, however, comes with a caveat–research shows that deaths from heart disease, strokes and chronic kidney damage have increased. This is perhaps indicative that while people are living longer, they aren’t living healthier. We take a look at the most popular forms of alternative medicines from around the world and how they can compliment medical treatments to help with health conditions.

Male doctor chiropractor or osteopath fixing womans leg with hands movements during visit to therapy clinic - Around The World In Alternative Medicines
Chiropractic and osteopathy treatments are popular across the world / GETTY IMAGES

Alternative medicines and the countries where they are thriving

With waiting times at the doctors being a nightmare, on the rare occasion that you manage to get an appointment, it would not be counterintuitive for people to seek out other medical practitioners. That is where complementary alternative medicine (CAM) comes in, with techniques that have shown to help with a wide array of ailments–however, it is certainly not a cure-all type of magical medicine.

We have compiled a list of countries and forms of alternative medicine, to determine which forms are most popular and where in the world they are most commonly being utilised, using Google Search data.

Also, don’t forget to check out our international health insurance, to ensure that you’re able to get the medical care you need when you need it. Without further ado, let’s get this underway.

What are the most popular forms of alternative medicine worldwide?

Based on the number of Google searches worldwide, the most popular forms of alternative medicines worldwide are:

Rank

Alternative Medicine

Number of annual Google searches

1
Fasting
70,080,000
2
Chiropractic
17,820,000
3
Gua sha
12,491,000
4
Chakra
11,335,000
5
Thai massage
10,885,000
6
Acupuncture
8,907,000
7
Reiki
7,953,000
8
Feng shui
6,523,000
9
Ayurveda
5,500,000
10
Echinacea
4,759,000

The top 5 most popular forms of alternative medicine from around the world

The top 5 most popular forms of alternative medicine worldwide - Around The World In Alternative Medicines

1/ Fasting

Number of annual Google searches: 70,080,000

Fasting is probably better known as a popular dieting trend, however, it can also be used as a form of alternative medicine.

Fasting promotes better metabolic health and can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation – which is one of the ways the body fights disease, however too much can be bad. It may also contribute to the prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases – two prevalent health conditions that people often deal with.

2/ Chiropractic

Number of annual Google searches: 17,820,000

Many people may lump this in with massage, however, chiropractic practices are somewhat different to those applied to the much more vague school of massage. Massage is a practice that targets muscles, whereas chiropractors are concerned with the spine and its alignment.

It is used to treat back, shoulder and neck pain, as well as osteoarthritis. It can also be used to treat a herniated spinal disc, where adjustments are made to your back to realign your spine.

3/ Gua Sha

Number of annual Google searches: 12,491,000

Gua Sha has recently been making a comeback in the skincare community, this ancient form of Chinese alternative medicine is used to increase the skin’s circulation, specifically and most commonly in the face. The Gua Sha is a stone or massaging tool that is rubbed against the skin, which scrapes away dead skin while massaging.

However, in many cases, it is used to scrape away the skin to cause mild petechiae to release “unhealthy body matter”. It is used to treat joint pain, arthritis and even headaches.

4/ Chakra

Number of annual Google searches: 11,335,000

Many of you will have heard of Chakras from Avatar the Last Airbender, despite that, it has applications in the real world too. The belief is, that everyone has seven chakras, the crown, the third eye, throat, heart, solar plexus sacral and root chakras and these are the centre of your life energy.

The focus is on using exercises and techniques to maintain the alignment of your chakras, which in turn maintains your health.

5/ Thai Massage

Number of annual Google searches: 10,885,000

A Thai massage has a few subtle differences from a regular massage, you lay on a mat instead of a table and the practitioner manipulates your body to stimulate your organs and increase flexibility.

Similar to Chinese medicine and chakras, it involves working with the body’s energy pathways to influence good health.

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Top 20 most popular forms of alternative medicine worldwide - Around The World In Alternative Medicines

Reiki healer doing treatment session to calm bearded man - Around The World In Alternative Medicines
Reiki treatment is one of the most popular forms of alternative medicine / GETTY IMAGES

In which countries is alternative medicine more common?

Alternative medicines are most common in the following countries:

Rank

Country

Number of annual Google searches

Population

Annual Google searches per 100,000 people

1
Canada
8,131,740
37,742,154
21,546
2
United Kingdom
11,923,230
67,886,011
17,564
3
United States
50,603,100
331,002,651
15,288
4
Switzerland
1,224,670
8,654,622
14,150
5
Netherlands
2,398,300
17,134,872
13,997
6
Belgium
1,169,060
11,589,623
10,087
7
France
5,815,080
65,273,511
8,909
8
Germany
7,264,210
83,783,942
8,670
9
Malaysia
2,595,880
32,365,999
8,020
10
Algeria
3,318,320
43,851,044
7,567

Countries where alternative medicine is more common - Around The World In Alternative Medicines

Top 5 countries where alternative medicine is more common

1/ Canada

Annual Google searches per 100,000 people: 21,546

A study shows that in 2016, around 79% of Canadians had used at least one type of complementary alternative medicine in their lifetime, making it no surprise that it ranks as our country where its use is most common. Over the last year, Canadians logged 21,546 searches per 100,000 people for an extensive list of nearly 200 forms of alternative medicine.

2/ United Kingdom

Annual Google searches per 100,000 people: 17,564

Another study in 2015, by the University of Bristol, showed that only 16% of the population actively used alternative medicine. While this is considerably lower than in Canada, there are plenty of degrees to study alternative medicine in the UK – it does seem to be something that is gradually on the rise.

3/ United States

Annual Google searches per 100,000 people: 15,288

According to CNN in 2015, about a third of the USA’s population used or had tried a form of alternative medicine. The most common and conventional forms of alternative medicine used in the USA are chiropractic practices, herbal and dietary supplements and also acupuncture.

4/ Switzerland

Annual Google searches per 100,000 people: 14,150

Alternative medicine has been growing in popularity and usage in Switzerland since 2007, and in 2012 when the government ran a survey, 25% of the population aged 15 years or older had used alternative medicine in the last 12 months. It’s popular to the point that a country as small as Switzerland can compete with the UK, USA and Canada in this ranking. Finally, Switzerland has a national company based in Geneva called Swiss Alternative Medicine, offering training, information and personalised treatments.

5/ Netherlands

Annual Google searches per 100,000 people: 13,997

In the Netherlands, there aren’t as many university courses that allow people to study alternative medicines, so people who practice things like acupuncture and massage therapy have to study abroad to do so. Massage and chiropractic therapies are the most commonly used in the country, coming first and second as the most searched – with over 13,997 searches per annum.

Top 50 countries where alternative medicine is more common - Around The World In Alternative Medicines

Woman sitting in a lotus position doing Chakra meditation - Around The World In Alternative Medicines
Chakra meditation is a popular alternative medicine / GETTY IMAGES

In which cities in the UK are alternative medicine more common?

Based on the number of annual Google searches per 100,000 people, the UK cities where alternative medicine is more common are:

Rank

City

Number of annual Google searches

Population (2019)

Google searches per 10,000 people

1
Bristol
160,660
463,405
3,467
2
Manchester
163,730
547,627
2,990
3
Liverpool
134,150
494,814
2,711
4
Glasgow
163,260
626,410
2,606
5
Newcastle
72,730
300,196
2,423
6
Edinburgh
123,700
518,500
2,386
7
Leicester
81,650
355,218
2,299
8
London
2,041,020
8,908,081
2,291
9
Nottingham
72,340
331,069
2,185
10
Birmingham
236,640
1,141,374
2,073

The top 5 UK cities where alternative medicines are more common

Top 5 UK cities where alternative medicine is more common - Around The World In Alternative Medicines

1/ Bristol

Number of annual Google searches per 10,000 people: 3,467

First up, we go to the south of England, where we have Bristol, with a total of 3,467 annual Google searches per 10,000 people and a vast array of healthcare centres that practice complementary alternative medicine methods.

2/ Manchester

Number of annual Google searches per 10,000 people: 2,990

Next, we go north, up to Manchester which again has a few holistic and CAM centres – it would appear its application emphasises the “complimentary” here. With the exception of the College of Naturopathic Medicine, which believes in “natural medicine and healthy food”.

3/ Liverpool

Number of annual Google searches per 10,000 people: 2,711

Liverpool, Manchester’s bitter rival in many ways, comes next with 2,711 annual Google searches per 10,000 people. Liverpool has its own Yelp page, with the best holistic and naturopathic health centres in the city and the ATCM clinic that specialises in acupuncture and Chinese traditional medicine.

4/ Glasgow

Number of annual Google searches per 10,000 people: 2,606

Further north still, to Glasgow where the focus here seems to be on herbal medicines – with a clinic that has a sole focus on such. There are, however, some holistic medical centres too, which use modern medicine alongside CAM.

5/ Newcastle

Number of annual Google searches per 10,000 people: 2,606

In the last top-five spot and our third northern city, we have Newcastle coming in with 2,423 Google searches per 10,000 people, making 60% of the top five cities in Northern England. Newcastle has multiple CAM and holistic treatment centres, namely Clinic Naturae and Newcastle Sanctuary House, the latter specialising in massage therapy, reiki and reflexology.

Which countries have free healthcare for expats?
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Top 40 UK cities where alternative medicine is more common - Around The World In Alternative Medicines

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Methodology

Firstly, we acquired several lists: an exhaustive list of alternative medicine and then cut that down to the top 100 from our Google search data. We then took the 40 most populated UK cities and the 50 most populated countries in the world. Some countries were omitted due to them not providing Google search data.

Once those lists were formed, we used Google Keyword Planner to gather search data for the three factors. The countries were then worked out for searches per 100,000 people, due to the sheer size of some of the countries and the UK city searches were calculated to per 10,000 people.