Complementary and alternative medicine

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) means practices not typically found in conventional medicine and includes things such as herbs and dietary supplements, meditation, massage, and acupuncture. Since it turns out that most users of CAM use it right along with conventional medicine — such as using meditation along with a blood pressure pill to help control high blood pressure — some people now prefer the term "complementary medicine" to reflect the fact that many of these treatments work with conventional care.

As research into the safety and efficacy of many of these CAM therapies has grown, a newer term — "integrative medicine" — is becoming the preferred term. Integrative medicine is defined as the integration of evidence-based CAM therapies combined with conventional care. You're using integrative medicine when you add a complementary treatment to an existing conventional treatment.

Although CAM practices are becoming more common, not all have been rigorously tested for safety and effectiveness. So before you try something new, take time to investigate the risks and benefits. Your doctor can be a good resource — and needs to know about any CAM you're considering.

Apr. 08, 2014