Other complementary health approaches
There are other approaches to complementary health that focus on a system, rather than just a single practice or remedy, such as massage. These systems center on a philosophy, such as the power of nature or the presence of energy in your body. Examples of these approaches include:
- Ancient healing systems. These healing systems arose long before conventional Western medicine and include ayurveda from India and traditional Chinese medicine.
- Homeopathy. This approach uses very small doses of a drug that cause symptoms to stimulate the body's self-healing response.
- Naturopathy. This approach focuses on noninvasive treatments to help your body do its own healing and uses a variety of practices, such as massage, acupuncture, herbal remedies, exercise and lifestyle counseling.
Why are some doctors hesitant about CAM?
Many conventional doctors practicing today didn't receive training in CAM or integrative medicine, so they may not feel comfortable making recommendations or addressing questions in this area.
Doctors also have good reason to be cautious when it comes to some CAM. Conventional medicine values therapies that have been demonstrated through research and testing to be safe and effective. While scientific evidence exists for some CAM therapies, for many there are key questions that are yet to be answered.
In addition, some CAM practitioners make exaggerated claims about curing diseases, and some ask you to forgo treatment from your conventional doctor. For these reasons, many doctors are cautious about recommending these therapies.
Why is there so little evidence about CAM?
One reason for the lack of research in alternative treatments is that large, carefully controlled medical studies are costly. Trials for conventional therapies are often funded by big companies that develop and sell drugs. Fewer resources are available to support trials of CAM therapies. That's why NCCIH was established — to foster research into CAM and make the findings available to the public.
Talk to your doctor about risks and benefits of any therapy you're considering
Work with your conventional medical doctor to help you make informed decisions regarding CAM treatments. Even if your doctor can't recommend a specific practitioner, he or she can help you understand possible risks and benefits before you try a treatment.
It's especially important to involve your doctor if you are pregnant, have medical problems or take prescription medicine. And don't stop or change your conventional treatment — such as the dose of your prescription medications — without talking to your doctor first. Finally, be sure to keep your doctor updated on any alternative therapies you're using, including herbal and dietary supplements.
Oct. 24, 2017
See more In-depth
- Complementary, alternative, or integrative health: What's in a name? National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/integrative-health. Accessed Sept. 10, 2017.
- About NCCIH. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/about. Accessed Sept. 10, 2017.
- Are you considering a complementary health approach? Natural Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/decisions/consideringcam.htm. Accessed Sept. 10, 2017.
- Complementary and alternative methods and cancer. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/complementary-and-alternative-medicine/complementary-and-alternative-methods-and-cancer.html. Accessed Sept. 10, 2017.
- Reiki: In depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/reiki/introduction.htm. Accessed Sept. 10, 2017.
- Tips for dietary supplement users: Making informed decisions and evaluating information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/food/dietarysupplements/usingdietarysupplements/ucm110567.htm. Accessed Aug. 5, 2017.
- 6 things to know when selecting a complementary health practitioner. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/selecting. Accessed Aug. 5, 2017.