Complementary and Alternative Medicine: What Is It?

By: RelaxingMusic

By: RelaxingMusic

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is reportedly used by nearly 40% of American adults.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) defines CAM as “a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. Conventional medicine (also called Western or allopathic medicine) is medicine as practiced by holders of M.D. (medical doctor) and D.O. (doctor of osteopathic medicine) degrees and by allied health professionals, such as physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses”.

Traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, herbal medicine, yoga, and spinal manipulation are just a few examples of the diverse forms that exist within this classification. While many of these alternative methods have been practiced for years, there is a lack of evidence based research for many of the therapies. However,  more conventional medicine practitioners are integrating CAM into their practices due to the unique appeal of its holistic approach and patient interest.

For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs lists a number of CAM therapies that have been used by HIV/AIDS patients. But, they also give useful guidelines to follow while using CAM.

  • Just because something is “natural” (an herb, for example) doesn’t mean that it is safe to take.
  • The federal government does not require that herbal remedies and dietary supplements be tested in the same way that standard medicines are tested before they are sold.
  • Be careful of treatments that claim to be “miracle cures”…Always do your research and ask your VA doctor for help.
  • Complementary therapies are not substitutes for the treatment and drugs you receive from your VA doctor.

To learn more about CAM visit here, here or here. References: Mayo Clinic, MedlinePlus, NCCAM, & Department of Veterans Affairs


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