Complementary and Alternative Medicine
) is an umbrella term for alternative medicine
, complementary medicine
, and integrative medicine
Alternative medicine describes practices used in place of conventional medical treatments. Complementary medicine describes practices used in conjunction and cooperation with conventional medicine, while integrative medicine is viewed as the best of complementary medicine by its advocates.
The list of therapies included under CAM changes over time. If and when an approach regarded as "unproven therapy" is proven to be safe and effective, it may be adopted into conventional health care and over time may cease to be considered "alternative". Please see our medical disclaimer for cautions about Wikipedia's limitations.
Definitions and descriptions
"Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a broad domain of healing resources that encompasses all health systems, modalities, and practices and their accompanying theories and beliefs, other than those intrinsic to the politically dominant health system of a particular society or culture in a given historical period. CAM includes all such practices and ideas self-defined by their users as preventing or treating illness or promoting health and well-being. Boundaries within CAM and between the CAM domain and the domain of the dominant system are not always sharp or fixed." 
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine defines complementary and alternative medicine as "a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine". It also defines integrative medicine as "[combining] mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness".
CAM has been described as comprising "a diverse group of treatments, ranging from symptomatic interventions to be used in conjunction with traditional therapies—therapeutic touch or meditation—to unique treatments meant to replace conventional chemotherapy or surgery. CAM includes complex and longstanding fields of study, such as acupuncture, ayurvedic medicine, and homoeopathy, but can also be as straightforward as taking a specific dietary supplement to lower blood pressure or blood lipid concentrations."
Ralph Snyderman and Andrew Weil state "integrative medicine is not synonymous with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). It has a far larger meaning and mission in that it calls for restoration of the focus of medicine on health and healing and emphasizes the centrality of the patient-physician relationship".