Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is the popular term for health and wellness therapies that have typically not been part of conventional Western medicine. Complementary means treatments that are used along with conventional medicine. Alternative means treatments used in place of conventional medicine.

CAM focuses on the whole person and includes physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. For example, CAM includes mind-body medicine (such as meditation, acupuncture and yoga), manipulative and body-based practices (such as massage therapy and spinal manipulation), and natural products (such as herbs and dietary supplements).

Most CAM studies in the U.S. show that few people forgo conventional medicine. So the term "integrative medicine" is increasingly preferred. Integrative medicine combines, or integrates, the best of conventional medical care with the best of evidence-based CAM.

Complementary and alternative medicine care at Mayo Clinic

Jan. 24, 2014
  1. What is complementary and alternative medicine? National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam. Accessed Sept. 20, 2013.
  2. AskMayoExpert. Complementary and alternative medicine. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2013.
  3. Tilburt JC, et al. Alternative medicine research in clinical practice: A U.S. national survey. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2009;169:670.
  4. Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine (CAHCIM). http://www.imconsortium.org. Accessed Sept. 20, 2013.
  5. Complementary and integrative medicine program. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayo.edu/research/centers-programs/complementary-integrative-medicine/complementary-integrative-medicine-program/overview. Accessed Sept. 20, 2013.

Complementary and alternative medicine