Alternative or Complementaire

Sophie Duncan
5 min readJan 16, 2023

French luxury sets a world standard. France’s Viticulture, perfume and fashion are icons of today’s infatuation with luxury.

However, you don’t have to spend very long in rural France to notice a fastidiousness about quality in the ordinary realm too. The principle of égalité strikes deep.

Although France is a super medicalised society, the French have not thrown out traditional remedies with the bathwater. In matters of health worthy traditions, that have all but disappeared in the English speaking world, are still a common part of life for many in France.

Here I will tell you a few of my favourites. At the end I will share a French pharmacy online that I find excellent.

An alternative luxury

In Britain something ‘alternative’: a natural soap, homoeopathy, essential oils or ‘paraben free’ is thought of as a chic and exclusive thing. Old fashioned remedies have paradoxically become ‘new wave’. Even alternative and a little bit pretentious, generally in the ‘first’ world.

In France natural health remedies and an elaborate range of dietary supplements are not considered alternative. They are complementaire. Cherished, certainly since the war, and maybe forever — and they are available in every town.

Herbal preparations are widely available at markets

Each pharmacy has a phytologie section (the study of plants and their remedies), a range of aromatherapies and supplements that, in the UK, you will only find in chemists in very smart neighbourhoods, or Holland and Barrett.

The debate about the efficacy of homoeopathy simmers in France as well. Homoeopathy draws scepticism as it claims to heal by putting specific vibrational wavelengths into a pill. Please don’t quote me on that. People love or hate it. King Charles is a firm believer, but most people are not.

Whether you believe in it or not, homoeopathic pills and ointments that cost a bomb in the UK, are half the price in France, and available over the counter and on prescription.



Sophie Duncan

I write about France, Oxford, dogs, love and more. Sign up for my newsletter today, find Beyond Paris - a Short Guide to Rural France on Amazon