Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) are health care therapies that are not used by practitioners of conventional (Western) medicine. These remedies are sometimes excluded from standard practice due to lack of evidence.
There are several broad categories that CAM fall into. Some can be in more than one of these categories.
Healing systems are both practice and theories to heal the body. These focus on a way of life. Some are based on traditional practices of individual cultures.
The core belief of this philosophy is that when your mind and body are in harmony, you will have better health. Some of these are accepted as standard treatments. Examples of mind and body treatments include:
This includes natural and biological products to promote health. These typically include herbal treatments, special diets, and individual biological treatment.
Important points to consider about biological CAM treatments:
Practitioners promote healing through manipulation and movement of the body.
Practitioners of energy healing believe there are energies that flow in the body or external energy fields. Illness may occur when the body's energy is blocked or out of balance. Each variety of energy therapy has a unique set of beliefs about how to correct this energy.
Before beginning any new therapy, it is important to be well-informed. This is especially important with complementary and alternative medicines. Little is known about many of these treatments, and some can cause adverse side effects.
Insurance does not normally cover this type of health care. You may be asked to pay for these treatments out-of-pocket. Depending on the treatment there may be a minimum number of sessions required to fully benefit from the therapy.
Like any health care practitioner, complementary and alternative medical practitioners should have certification and licenses. Make sure the practitioner you are considering has the proper training. Selecting a CAM provider.
Office of Dietary Supplements (National Institute of Health)
CAM on Pubmed research database (National institute of Health)
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicines (National Institute of Health)
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Medline Plus National institute for Health)
Complementary and Alternative Medicine Video List (National Institute of Health, Senior Health)
HerbMed (Alternation Medicine Foundation)
Complementary and Alternative Medicine updates (Journal of the American Medical Association)
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What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine? National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. National Institute of Health. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam/. Accessed on: April 1, 2009.
Guidance for Industry: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Products and Their Regulation by the Food and Drug Administration. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/RegulatoryInformation/Guidances/ucm144657.htm. Accessed on: April 6, 2009.
Authored by: Nikole Allen
Reviewed by: Mariann Carle, MD