Complementary Medicines Industry

Table of Contents

About the Complementary Medicines Industry in Australia

What are complementary medicines?

Complementary medicines encompass a wide range of products, from vitamins and mineral supplements to herbal medicines, aromatherapy products, and traditional systems of medicine like Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine.

As the name suggests, these products are designed to complement conventional medical treatments, offering a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.

These products are regulated as medicines by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which means consumers can have confidence they meet rigorous safety and quality standards – which is one of the reasons Australian products are popular all around the world.

Around three-quarters of Australian households use complementary medicines, particularly those with higher education and income levels.

Complementary medicine, including traditional and integrative therapies, are recognised globally, including by the World Health Organisation, and actively recognised by governments such as Australia’s large trading partners, Indonesia and China, for their health benefits.

Why use complementary medicines?

With more than 80% of Australians living with a long-term health condition, health has never been more critical, and consumers are increasingly and actively investing in their health and making lifestyle changes.

There has been a decline in the national smoking rate and per capita alcohol consumption. However, obesity levels are set to rise, posing a significant public health challenge.

The ageing population further intensifies the focus on health, while the busier lifestyle of the younger population contributes to increased consumption of fast food with high-fat content along with less vegetable and fruit consumption.

With such serious health challenges, it’s no surprise that many are choosing complementary healthcare solutions.

This focus on preventative and holistic health is reflected in the rising popularity of complementary medicines, such as vitamins, dietary supplements, and products that promote mood and relaxation.

Since COVID more than ever, Australians are seeking natural ways to manage their health and wellbeing, and the complementary medicines industry is responding with a diverse range of high-quality products and services – based on science.

What in the past may have been considered discretionary spending is now viewed as an important investment in people’s own health.

The complementary medicines industry in Australia: an industry snapshot

The complementary medicines industry in Australia doesn’t just make a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of Australians, it is also a significant contributor to our economy.

The industry has demonstrated robust growth, with annual revenue reaching approximately $6.4 billion in 2023, up 7% from the previous year.

This growth is underpinned by Australia’s reputation for high-quality, rigorously regulated products. Our stringent safety standards have earned us a stellar reputation on the global stage, with international demand for Australian complementary medicines continuing to rise.

Complementary medicine is one of the few manufacturing sectors, including to largely remain on domestic soil and achieve significant growth and global demand. It supports almost 40,000 jobs directly and indirectly.

Australian complementary medicines as an export industry

Complementary medicines are an Australian export success story, and in 2023, exports hit $1.2 billion. The strong international demand is driven by the superior quality and safety of our products, which adhere to some of the world’s most stringent regulations.

Our industry’s dedication to excellence has not only solidified our domestic market but also established a robust presence in the global marketplace. The clean, green, and safe image of Australian products resonates strongly with consumers worldwide, who seek reliable and effective health solutions.

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the export market for Australian complementary medicines achieved phenomenal growth. While exports dipped slightly during the pandemic, the industry has bounced back in a big way, solidifying Australia’s position as a billion-dollar export market for complementary medicines products.

The role of complementary medicines in preventative health

One of the most promising opportunities lies in the increasing focus on preventive health. Many Australians are turning to complementary medicines and allied health practitioners, such as naturopaths, to improve their health and wellbeing. This approach is often used alongside conventional medical treatments, providing a more holistic health solution, and addressing both the symptoms and the underlying causes of health issues. For example, therapies like acupuncture are commonly employed for pain relief.

And the demand for these therapies is set to rise further, given Australia’s ageing population and the increasing incidence of chronic diseases and comorbidities. This demographic shift is prompting more individuals to seek out preventive measures and integrative health solutions to maintain their quality of life.