Epilepsy

Complementary approaches

A few young people we spoke with had tried various complementary (alternative) approaches alongside conventional medicine (from a doctor) to try and manage their lives. People were interested in complementary therapies for various reasons. Some didn't 'like' conventional medicine and wanted 'to avoid' it, others wanted to explore different options, after having unsuccessfully tried many different types of epilepsy medication. 

Some people with epilepsy use complementary ways to try and lower the number of seizures they have, but there is no scientific evidence to suggest that complementary approaches can reduce or stop a person’s seizures. So it is important to keep taking anti-epileptic drugs and to talk to your doctor before using complementary approaches.

People talked about a range of different complementary approaches, including herbalism, homeopathy, aromatherapy*, massage and holistic therapy. Some had also tried meditation to help them relax. 

The main benefit of complementary approaches for those who used them was relaxation. Some had found help in meditation and aromatherapy* massage, for example, because it had helped relieve stress, which was often a trigger for their seizures.

Some people also felt that complementary approaches helped with depression and this, in turn, helped the epilepsy. One woman said her depression stressed her out and brought on more seizures but meditation reduced stress and so helped the epilepsy too.

Complementary approaches also gave people an opportunity to be 'proactive' and try gain control over their epilepsy and overall lifestyle.

One woman said she had looked into using complementary therapies to help her to lead a healthier lifestyle. This in itself had made her feel better about herself and helped release stress. She also felt complementary approaches had helped with the side effects of her medication and improved her overall quality of life.

Some young people said they were interested to find out more about complementary approaches and hear more about other people's experiences of them. Others said they were not interested in complementary approaches, mainly because they felt the medication was working well for them.

* Some aromatherapy oils stimulate the brain (making it more sensitive), which could trigger seizures for some people with epilepsy. These include: hyssop, rosemary, sweet fennel and sage.

Last reviewed May 2016

Last updated March 2012.

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