Dr Janice Priest is no stranger to controversy.

In the 1970s she was one of the first alternative health practitioners in New Zealand, and many labelled her a witch doctor.

"I had people flatten my tyres, throw paint at my car," Priest said.

"I would have some fanatical group protest with placards outside health expos I put on. We were considered really left-field in those days."

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There are now more than six thousand alternative health practitioners in the country, but when Priest started her career 50 years ago, there were only 10.

Some of her colleagues from those early days gave up after widespread opposition from health organisations. But Priest persevered and today many medical doctors support the use of natural remedies.

"The wonderful thing about these days is we're coming together. It was always them and us. We were the poor cousins but now health food is one of the fastest growing industries in the world.

"People know all about vitamin C and green tea and all the basics, and just like nature, it has spread. That's the achievement I'm happy with."

Priest has always challenged conventional medicine through her magazines, Healthy Options and Rainbow News, and three books. The latest was Ocean of Drugs which scrutinised the side effects of conventional drugs.

"In the end there is still a huge volume of drugs that are prescribed unnecessarily," Priest said.

"There are so many people out there now that are having side effects, drugs are harming them. It's making people really sick and we are taking too many drugs."

She's particularly critical of drugs like antidepressants, instead encouraging doctors to first look at the cause of the issue.

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"There's so many people out there who lost years off their life, all because they needed a B vitamin or Zinc. If you get low on Zinc, you get depressed easily. It's about nutrition first."

Even today, Priest has views most doctors would struggle to agree with.

"The biggest level of depression is occurring because of the amount of radiation exposure.

"I'm seeing a lot more children and young adults now with radiation poisoning because they have a cell phone, ear plugs, computers and TVs and they're just passing out."

For anyone interested in alternative medicine, Priest has some simple advice - build up your minerals, keep the cell phone out of the bedroom and visit a naturopath.

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