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What are complementary therapies?

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Complementary therapies are treatment procedures used to supplement conventional therapies. Complementary therapies are not limited to alleviate physical symptoms, but can also strengthen and support people on the levels of vitality, mind and spirit, meaning they have a holistic effect. Complementary medicine is an integral part of the treatment of many cancer patients and offers them valuable support.

Here we present some examples of therapies that, according to our experience, are often used in addition to the three classical pillars of conventional cancer therapy.

Anthroposophic medicine

Anthroposophic medicine combines conventional medical therapy approaches with humanistic knowledge about the human being. It thus sees itself as a complement to conventional medicine with a holistic or integrative medicine resulting from the union of the two approaches. It is based on the teachings of anthroposophy by Dr. Rudolf Steiner, whose goal is the study of the physical, mental and spiritual phenomena of the human being in relation to nature and the universe.

In anthroposophic medicine, modern diagnostic methods and therapies are used and supplemented with special preparations of mineral, plant or animal origin, as well as with artistic therapies and speech therapies, or with physical measures such as rhythmic massages. They act on the four members of the being, the physical body (form level), the etheric body (life force level), the astral body (soul) and the ego organization (spirit). Thus, the self-healing powers of the human being are activated and the human being is guided to take up responsibility for his or her health.

In this sense, anthroposophic medicine is based on a salutogenetic approach, which is concerned with staying and becoming healthy and not only with eliminating diseases or their symptoms.
Eurythmy therapy, artistic therapies and rhythmic massage are considered non-medicinal therapies. Mistletoe therapy also originated in anthroposophic medicine.

Mistletoe therapy

Mistletoe therapy is mainly used as an adjunct to standard oncological therapy with the aim to improve the quality of life of cancer patients. During mistletoe therapy, many patients experience a noticeable improvement in their general well-being, a normalization of sleep patterns, and an increase in appetite and performance. Tumour-related pain can be alleviated, the immune system strengthened, and the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy reduced. It has also been shown that treatment with mistletoe preparations can lead to an improvement in general condition and thus to a prolongation of survival.

Here you can find more information about mistletoe and about mistletoe therapy.

Eurythmy therapy

Eurythmy is an art of movement and means “the beautiful rhythm”. It is based on a view of the human being having a body, soul and spirit. Eurythmy therapy is a special therapeutic form of eurythmy. It aims at bringing the human being back into balance, both internally and externally. In eurythmy therapy, words, sounds or music are translated into movements in order to harmonize the organism and stimulate the vital forces.

Eurythmy therapy also has a meditative aspect and can help to “restructure oneself”. Patients whose lives have become uprooted because of their illness can regain their composure. In eurythmy therapy, they can find a way to actively participate in the recovery process themselves, as their physical and mental state is harmonized. In this way, physiological functions are strengthened and psychological imbalances are calmed down.

Art therapies

In anthroposophic medicine, art therapies such as therapeutic sculpting, speech therapy, painting and music therapy are used to help patients to regain their own creative abilities. This way, a cancer patient can again be stimulated to actively and creatively engage with his or her environment and gain new energy to shape their life. The joy of artistic activity and the results of one’s own work have a positive effect on the patient’s self-healing powers.

Rhythmic massage according to Dr. Ita Wegman

Rhythmic massage primarily affects the fluid flow and respiration of the entire organism. Blood and lymph carry the body warmth. Through specially and intensively trained hands, Rhythmic Massage stimulates the fluid currents in the body via the subcutaneous tissues, can loosen solidified and compacted structures and bring them back into flow. As a result, the patient feels lighter, parts of the body with reduced blood circulation are revitalized and warmed up, shallow breathing deepens, exhalation is promoted and pain and tension can be eased.

In addition, the rhythm underlying all living functions is restored to normal. The self-regulation of functional circuits such as sleeping (regeneration) and waking, appetite and elimination are stimulated. In addition, processes that have fallen into passivity can be reactivated and disharmonies can be balanced. The person thus regains his strength and energy.

Rhythmic massage thus aims to stimulate the self-healing powers through positive skin stimuli. It is particularly suitable as a complementary therapy for patients whose immune system is weakened, e.g. due to ongoing or recently completed chemotherapy.


Classical homeopathy is a method of treatment in which potentized preparations are used with the aim of stimulating the patient’s self-healing powers. The medicines are selected individually according to the principles of homeopathy proposed by Samuel Hahnemann. Symptoms or disturbances of the vital force on the physical, psychological and emotional level are addressed.

The combination of homeopathic medicines with conventional methods such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy often serves to alleviate side effects such as nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and constipation, as well as to improve the quality of life and strengthen the mental health of patients. The homeopathic treatment itself does not cause any side effects.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Acupuncture

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), illness and discomfort are seen as imbalances of the body’s energies. The aim is to rebalance these and thereby strengthen the self-healing powers. TCM includes therapeutic measures in terms of nutrition, exercise, herbal medicine and physical therapy methods, which are individually tailored to the patient.

Acupuncture as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine is a widely established treatment modality. Acupuncture (Chinese “zhen jiu”) means “burning and pricking”. It involves inserting very fine steel needles into clearly defined anatomical points or areas of the body called acupuncture points. It is also possible to stimulate the acupuncture points by other techniques such as plucking, heating or electrical stimulation. In addition to classical Chinese acupuncture, there are other forms such as ear acupuncture.

Acupuncture and TCM are also used as part of holistic cancer treatment to alleviate the effects of surgery and improve tolerance of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Symptoms such as fatigue, pain, loss of appetite and sleep disturbances may respond to these methods.


Phytotherapy or herbal medicine uses the healing properties of medicinal plants and herbs to alleviate physical and mental complaints. Active ingredients extracted from medicinal plants are used, which are processed into teas, tinctures, ointments or oil. Medicinal plant extracts can be applied internally and externally. Many medicinal plants such as chamomile, calendula, arnica, sage and rosemary are well known as folk remedies.

In oncology, phytotherapeutic remedies can be used to alleviate therapy-related side effects and disease-related complaints. For example, there is good experience with ginger for the prevention and treatment of nausea and vomiting, calendula extracts are successfully used to prevent radiation dermatitis, and black cohosh is used to relieve post-menopausal symptoms due to anti-hormone treatment.


The idea of treating tumours by means of overheating (hyperthermia) is about 100 years old and is now systematically applied and researched. It has long been known that cancer cells react more sensitively to heat than “healthy” cells, especially when heated to more than 42°C. The term “hyperthermia” includes various procedures in which the body temperature can be raised to temperatures up to 43° C on small or larger tissues areas. Hyperthermia has proven helpful as an adjunctive treatment for large, inoperable tumours, or, when there is insufficient response to conventional procedures, to improve their effectiveness. In local or surface hyperthermia, superficial tumours or metastases are heated by a targeted external application of ultrasound, microwaves or radio waves. Deep hyperthermia, on the other hand, also heats larger regions of the body, reaching deeper tumours and metastases.

Mind-body medicine

Mind-body medicine (MBM) is a medical concept based on an inseparable connection between mind, soul and body. It aims to awaken and strengthen the health-promoting potential that naturally exists in every human being. The goal is to build people’s self-efficacy in the long term and to motivate them to initiate changes that will lead them to a health-promoting lifestyle.

Thus, mind-body medicine focuses on factors that strengthen the development and maintenance of health (= salutogenetic approach). These factors are very diverse and include the areas of nutrition, exercise, relaxation, stress management, mental training and attention training. High scientific standards are applied to the methods used, corresponding to the currently valid scientific standards of conventional medicine.