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The book begins with a general explanation of complementary medicine (practices that can be used in conjunction with traditional Western medical protocols) and the components of wellness. Several questionnaires are included in this section, which may make the book more suitable to individual ownership, rather than inclusion in a library collection. The major portion of the book deals with various therapies, diagnostic techniques, and treatments. To make it a more valuable resource to the user, the book includes tips on finding a practitioner, relevant addresses, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index.
Graphics include photographs, drawings, and charts, all captioned to offer additional information. Some are quite small, others are almost full-page. An occasional illustration, especially those covering the middle of a two-page spread, interferes with the reading of the text. Cross-references within the text consist of page numbers that direct readers to other sections of the book. Related information is included in colored boxes placed around the edges of the text.
All the therapeutic information follows the same format. Each entry includes a history of the therapy and rates its value in terms of evidence of effectiveness in research, the opinion of doctors about the therapy, whether a trained practitioner is required, and compatibility with conventional medicine. Precautions are also included. Many of the therapies include first-person testimonies. The sections on ailments are organized by body system and include causes and symptoms, prevention, conventional treatments, complementary therapies (with ratings), and cautions. Cancer, AIDS, and chronic fatigue syndrome are addressed separately. Women's and children's health issues receive several pages of coverage each, but men's health warrants only a two-page spread.
This reference work is a good starting point for the public library patron who is interested in learning more about these alternatives. However, after becoming more knowledgeable, readers will need to look elsewhere for more detailed information. Although the authors (a doctor and a medical journalist) are British, American readers will not have any problem with the text.