About Complementary/Alternative Medicine  

Complementary and alternative medicine encompasses a wide variety of health care practices and therapies that aren’t traditionally included in the United States' conventional medical system. According to the National Institute of Health, over 36% of American adults use some form of complementary or alternative practice.*

  • Complementary practices are defined as treatments not encompassed by conventional medicine, but used alongside conventional care.
  • Alternative practices are defined as treatments that are used instead of conventional medicine.

The National Institute of Health established an agency called the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) that performs scientific research on the practices and therapies not included in conventional medical practices. Numerous studies have been performed, and many practices are currently being tested under thorough scientific standards.

Types of Complementary/Alternative Medicine  

Whole Medical Systems

Whole Medical Systems developed either separate from, or before the current conventional approach.

Mind/Body Medicine

Mind/Body Medicine uses the mind to affect the body's processes.

Biologically Based Practices

Biologically based practices use natural substances to affect the body's processes.

Manipulative and Body-Based Practices

Manipulative and body-based practices use techniques that move the body to affect health and wellbeing.

Energy Medicine 

Energy Medicine is based on the understanding that the body is surrounded and penetrated by energy fields. Energy medicine works with these fields to affect health and wellbeing.


National Institute of Health