A lternative approaches to treating illnesses and maintaining a healthier lifestyle – embraced by an estimated 20-40 percent of Greeks dissatisfied with the results of traditional Western medicine and drugs – are to be the focus of a three-day conference-cum-exhibition starting in Athens today. The first event of its kind in Greece to address the increasingly popular field of alternative therapies, Naterra Vera 2002 combines a comprehensive exhibition of natural products and services with a string of three all-day seminars presented by dozens of experts shedding light on some of the 120 alternative therapies being practiced internationally. Starting with the relatively broadly used acupuncture and homeopathy, practitioners will examine reflexology (the application of pressure to areas on the hands and feet corresponding to other parts of the body to relieve stress), osteopathy (the correction of joint and tissue abnormalities through manual manipulation) and iridology (the diagnosis of ailments through the study of the iris of the eye). Even the power of flowers, music and laughter to cure a catalog of ailments will be looked at. The appeal of alternative therapies in Greece has grown significantly over the past decade, mirroring the trend in Western Europe, with 40 percent of Greeks believed to have used them at least once. But there is still no official accreditation procedure for practitioners, even though acupuncture and homeopathy are recognized by the European Parliament as viable alternatives to traditional medicine. However, the Health Ministry states that only conventionally trained doctors are allowed to offer both treatments, which have been available in Greece for the past three decades. Acupuncture – the ancient Chinese science of relieving pain and stress by using needles to stimulate vital energy points on the body – is practiced by 500 doctors in the so-called «pain units» of hospitals across the country (including those at Athens’s Sismanogleio, KAT, IKA Papadimitriou and Geniko Kratiko hospitals). «Acupuncture is a painkiller – particularly effective in relieving muscular and arthritic pains, asthma discomfort, sleeplessness and nicotine dependency,» the general secretary of the National Medical Association for Acupuncture, Miltiades Karavis, told Kathimerini English Edition, adding that it can be employed as a complementary therapy (backed with drugs) or as an alternative – as applies to most other therapies. Qualified acupuncturists can be found by contacting Karavis’s association or visiting a hospital pain unit. Homeopathy – which functions according to the philosophy that a substance which causes symptoms of a disease can cure that disease when administered in a smaller dose – is another prominent alternative therapy which is being increasingly accepted as a partner rather than an opponent of traditional medicine, Kathimerini English Edition was told by Giorgos Korres, general secretary of the National Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists, who co-founded the first homeopathic pharmacy in Athens in 1970 and runs his own homeopathic laboratory. Although there are more than 200 certified homeopaths in Greece, there are some unqualified practitioners who pose a risk to patients as they are not trained to recognize the limits and risks of the science they apply, the president of the National Association of Homeopathic Medicine, Sotiris Botis, told Kathimerini English Edition, adding, however, that legislation for the official recognition of homeopathy should be passed soon. In the meantime, interested parties should contact Botis’s association, which vouches for the credibility of 200 conventionally trained homeopaths. At the conference this weekend, Botis will feature on a panel of expert speakers who will discuss acupuncture, homeopathy, and several other therapies, explaining their effectiveness against various illnesses, and presenting results. Three day-long seminars address related themes, including «The Effectiveness of Homeopathic Medicine,» «Controlling Stress through Diet,» and «Holistic Obstetrical Gynecology,» culminating in performances of Eastern music and dance and one interactive evening of dance, song and «self-knowledge» exercises for contributors and visitors tomorrow. Naterra Vera 2002 opens at the Helexpo complex (39 Kifissias Ave in Maroussi) at 10 a.m. today. Entrance costs 5 euros. Further details are available from the organizers, Organica, at 010.866.5874. Journalist and writer Malvina Karali died at the age of 48 yesterday after a year-long battle with cancer. Karali started her career in 1976 writing for newspapers and magazines before working in radio and hosting a television program offering offbeat political analysis. She also wrote five novels. Her funeral is at 12.30 p.m. today at the Athens First Cemetery.