436 patients from two different clinics of internal medicine and one orthopaedic unit were asked to fill a questionnaire on their attitude towards and use of alternative medicine. Of the 272 questionnaires returned, 235 could be used for analysis. 42.6% of all analysed persons confirmed use of alternative medicine. About half of them were motivated to do so by their nursing staff. Homeopathy was by far the most frequently used method. Persons who used alternative medicine were characterised by a distinct environmental awareness and regular sports activity. They had also often had positive experience of alternative methods in childhood. On the other hand, age, sex, education, duration of the treated disease and success of conventional therapy did not correlate significantly with the use of alternative medicine. An essential motive for the need to seek help by alternative therapists was the opinion that conventional forms of treatment would concentrate too much on the purely physical side of a health problem. All in all, users of alternative medicine did not seek confrontation with conventional medicine but rather sought a real complement to conventional forms of treatment.