Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Many different areas make up the practice of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). In addition, many parts of one field may overlap with the parts of another field. For example, acupuncture is also used in conventional medicine. In the U.S., CAM is used by about 2 in 5 adults and about 1 in 10 children. Below are some examples.

Traditional complementary and alternative medicine

This field includes the more mainstream and accepted forms of therapy such as acupuncture, homeopathy, and Oriental practices. These therapies have been used for centuries around the world. Traditional alternative medicine may include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Ayurveda
  • Homeopathy
  • Naturopathy
  • Chinese or Oriental medicine


Touch has been used in medicine since the early days of medical care. Healing by touch is based on the idea that illness or injury in one area of the body can affect all parts of the body. By using manual manipulation, other parts can be brought back to optimum health. Then the body can fully focus on healing at the site of injury or illness. Body techniques are often combined with those of the mind. Examples of body therapies include:

  • Chiropractic and osteopathic medicine
  • Massage
  • Body movement therapies
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga

Diet and herbs

Over the centuries, people have gone from a simple diet of meats, fruits, vegetables, and grains to a diet that often has foods rich in fats, oils, and complex carbohydrates. Having too much or too little nutrition has become problems in today’s society. Either can lead to certain chronic diseases. Many dietary and herbal approaches attempt to balance the body’s nutritional well-being. Dietary and herbal approaches may include:

  • Dietary supplements
  • Herbal medicine
  • Nutrition or diet

External energy

Some people believe external energies from objects or other sources directly affect a person’s health. An example of external energy therapy is:

  • Electromagnetic therapy
  • Reiki
  • Qigong


Even standard or conventional medicine recognizes the power of the connection between mind and body. Studies have found that people heal better if they have balanced emotional and mental health. Therapies using the mind may include:

  • Meditation
  • Biofeedback
  • Hypnosis


Some people believe the senses of touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste can affect overall health. Examples of these therapies include:

  • Art, dance, and music
  • Visualization and guided imagery