What are complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments?

Joane Goodroe

Complementary and alternative medicines can provide options for some patient conditions that Western medicine (the name for the traditional way patient care is delivered in the U.S.) does not. Some people have symptoms that do not fit a particular diagnosis. Many people suffer daily without any diagnosis. It is important to find as many options to improve a person’s health as possible. Complementary and alternative medicines can help provide other options to improve health.

Like all types of medicine, research the credentials, training and outcomes of any clinician before seeking any type of treatments.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

For generations, people have been exploring a variety of approaches to treat the physical, emotional, nutritional, and biological effects of illness. In Western societies the practice of medicine mostly relies on therapies that typically undergo rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness before they are accepted into mainstream use. But there are many practices and products that are used around the world that, while unproven by Western standards, have provided reassurances and relief of discomfort and distress for centuries.

In many cultures these are considered traditional medicine. In the West, we call these approaches complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments. They can be used in combination with conventional Western medical therapies such as medications, surgery, and other standard procedures (complementary medicine) or alone (alternative medicine).

Recently, the practice of integrative medicine is gaining popularity and many mainstream medical practitioners now fully embrace and trust some of the better-studied alternative approaches, such as acupuncture, as a highly effective treatment.

This content originally appeared on

Continue Learning about Alternative Medicine

Get Slimmer With This One Practice
Get Slimmer With This One Practice
How can you lose weight and keep it off in this over-caloric, fat-and-sugar-laden food culture? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall: practice, pract...
Read More
How do rituals contribute to healing?
Deepak ChopraDeepak Chopra
Rituals such as chanting are a key element in mind/body medicine. In this video, I will explain how ...
More Answers
How many people use alternative medicine?
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
A 2004 survey from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported that near...
More Answers
What Are Rhodiola Supplements?
What Are Rhodiola Supplements?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.