If you would like to talk to someone about epilepsy, our trained advisers are here to help.
Read more about the different complementary therapies
For most complementary treatments, there is not enough evidence to show if they are effective in helping to reduce seizures. But complementary treatments may help with relaxation and improve general wellbeing.
Some people with epilepsy say that using complementary treatments can help them cope with stress and feel more in control. As stress can be a common seizure trigger, doing something which reduces this may help some people with epilepsy.
If you are thinking of trying a complementary treatment, you may want to speak to your doctor to check it’s safe for you. Before having a treatment, it is a good idea to tell the practitioner about your epilepsy, and how to support you in the event of a seizure.
You might also want to find a practitioner who is a member of a professional body or voluntary register and check they have qualifications and insurance you are happy with.
More information on finding a complementary therapist is available on the NHS website.
Acupuncture is a treatment that involves very fine needles being inserted into certain points in your body. These needles stimulate nerves under your skin and in your muscles. This results in your body producing natural pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins, which can also make you feel good.
Some studies suggest that acupuncture can be a helpful treatment for epilepsy, but there is not enough good quality evidence to be sure.
The NHS website has more information about acupuncture.
Aromatherapy uses essential oils from plants to improve your health or mood. Some studies in animals suggest that certain essential oils may reduce seizures, but there has been very little research in humans.
Some essential oils are not recommended for people with epilepsy as they could make you more likely to have a seizure. These include rosemary, sage, thuja, cedar, hyssop, eucalyptus, camphor, pennyroyal, fennel and spike lavender.
The Federation of Holistic Therapists has more information about aromatherapy.
Many of our body functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure, happen without us thinking about them. Biofeedback is a type of therapy where you learn to recognise and control certain body functions.
Researchers have explored different biofeedback methods for treating epilepsy. Some methods involve being connected to an EEG and learning to control your brain waves. Another method measures the electrical activity on the surface of the skin (called Galvanic Skin Response) and teaches you to control it.
Studies have shown this can reduce seizures for some people with epilepsy.
The Mayo Clinic website has more information about biofeedback.
Herbal medicines have active ingredients made from plant parts or extracts. But being ‘natural’ doesn’t mean that these treatments are safe to use.
There is currently no good quality evidence to support the use of herbal medicines as a treatment for epilepsy. And some herbal medicines can cause side-effects or issues with other medicines.
For example, some herbal medicines, such as ginko biloba, could trigger seizures in people with epilepsy. And other herbal treatments, such as St John’s Wort, can interact with certain epilepsy medicines.
This would make them less effective and could make seizures more likely. Speak to your doctor before taking any herbal medicine.
The NHS website has more information about herbal medicines.
Massage is a hands-on therapy that aims to ease tension, help you relax and promote overall wellbeing. There are lots of different types of massage. Most involve a therapist using techniques such as stroking, kneading, rolling and pressing of the skin and muscles.
There is a lack of research into whether massage can be helpful in treating epilepsy. If the massage involves essential oils, check which ones the therapist is planning to use. As mentioned above, some essential oils are not recommended for people with epilepsy.
The Therapy Directory has more information about massage.
Music therapy uses different instruments and types of music to improve emotional wellbeing. There is a lack of good quality research into whether this broad approach can be helpful in treating epilepsy.
There have been some studies which suggest listening to certain pieces of music by the composer, Mozart, may help reduce seizures in people with epilepsy. This is known as the ‘Mozart effect’. The pieces of music researchers have used are the K448 and K545 sonatas. Further research is needed to better understand the Mozart effect and its effectiveness in treating different types of epilepsy.
Music therapy should be safe for most people with epilepsy. But a very small number of people have a type of reflex epilepsy called ‘musicogenic epilepsy’. This is where seizures are triggered by listening to music. If this is the case for you, speak to your epilepsy specialist before trying music therapy, as it could make seizures more likely.
The British Association for Music Therapy website has more information on music therapy.
Reflexology is a type of massage of the feet. It is based on the theory that different points on the feet, lower leg, hands, face or ears correspond with different areas of the body.
One study has suggested that using reflexology alongside epilepsy medicines may help reduce seizures. But there is currently not enough evidence to know if reflexology is an effective treatment for epilepsy.
The Association of Reflexologists has more information about reflexology.
Meditation and yoga
Meditation practices involve using different techniques to focus your attention and awareness to help clear your mind and achieve a state of calm. Meditation techniques can include breathing exercises, visualisation, and movement. Some common types include mindfulness meditation and yoga.
Mindfulness meditation involves paying more attention to the present moment, including your thoughts, feeling and surroundings. This helps improve mental wellbeing. But there is currently not enough good quality evidence to say whether mindfulness meditation is effective for people with epilepsy.
Yoga is an active form of mediation, where attention is focused through movement and breathing exercises. Some studies have suggested that certain types of yoga may help reduce seizures. But there is not enough good quality evidence to know if yoga is an effective treatment for epilepsy.
If you decide to take part in a yoga or meditation class, it is a good idea to tell the practitioner about your epilepsy and how to support you if you have a seizure. You could also do a safety check before doing these activities. This may be particularly useful if you plan to practice by yourself.
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