Portal:Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine

The holistic approach of Alternative Medicine symbolized by the aura of man.
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) 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." [1]

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".[2]

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."[3]

CAM is not only used as a place to introduce and bring awareness to preventative behaviors, but also to be used in conjunction with modern medicine. While there are a number of doctors that are shying away from herbal and natural homeopathic remedies, it seems as though an estimated 40% of patients here in the U.S. are seeking out more ways to cure and treat illness, besides that which is considered mainstream medicine. There has been some positive within the medical field regarding CAM, seeing that at least half of medical campuses in the U.S. has now offered this as a subject of study amongst upcoming health professionals. This could possibly open the door for more funding regarding research, from the government owned National Institute of Health.

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".[4]


Looking for a specific topic in CAM?

Any branch or form of complementary and alternative medicine can be classified into one of the following commonly used classification systems.

Looking for a biography or something else? Try these lists

Wikipedia's Categories are yet another way to find CAM related topics.

Selected Article

Therapeutic Touch (TT) is described by proponents as "an energy modality which encourages healing". TT practitioners say that by placing their hands near the patient they can detect and manipulate the patient's energy fields, which allows them to assist the natural healing process.

Dora Kunz and Dolores Krieger, Ph.D., R.N. developed Therapeutic Touch in the 1970s. Initially, nurses learned Therapeutic Touch and used it as part of patient care. More recently, lay people began learning this therapy because Kunz and Krieger realized all human beings have the potential to heal and help.

Selected Picture

Homeopathic remedy Rhus toxicodendron, derived from poison ivy.

Contemporary Use of CAM

The popularity of CAM therapies is extensive. A survey released in May 2004 by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine focused on who used complementary and alternative medicine, what was used, and why it was used in the United States during 2002.

  • According to this new survey, 36 percent of U.S. adults age 18 years and over use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). When prayer specifically for health reasons is included in the definition of CAM, the number of adults using some form of CAM in 2002 rose to 62 percent ([1], abstract on page 1).
  • Consistent with previous studies the present study found that more than half of people used CAM in conjunction with conventional medicine (page 6).
  • "The data confirm most earlier observations that most people use CAM to treat and/or prevent musculoskeletal conditions or other conditions associated with chronic or recurring pain" (page 5).
  • 85% of people who use CAM self-prescribe or self-medicate rather than seeking help from a licensed CAM provider (page 6).
  • "Women were more likely than men to use CAM. The largest sex differential is seen in the use of mind-body therapies including prayer specifically for health reasons" (page 4).
  • Use of CAM therapies other than prayer increased with education levels (page 4).


"One of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicine."

    William Osler, 1849-1919
    Father of Modern Medicine

Selected Biography

Moshé Pinchas Feldenkrais (May 6, 1904 – July 1, 1984) was the founder of the Feldenkrais method designed to improve human functioning by increasing self-awareness through movement.

Feldenkrais was born in the Ukrainian town of Slavuta. In 1918, he left his family, then living in Baranovichi, Belarus, to emigrate to Palestine. There he worked as a laborer before obtaining his high-school diploma in 1925. After graduation, he worked as a cartographer for the British survey office. During his time in Palestine he began his studies of self-defense, including jiu jitsu. A soccer injury in 1929 would later figure into the development of his method.

Did you know?

The 10 most commonly used CAM therapies in the United States during 2002 when use of prayer is excluded. Full Text pdf, table 1 on page 8]

  1. Herbalism (18.9%)
  2. Deep breathing (11.6%)
  3. Meditation (7.6%)
  4. Chiropractic (7.5%)
  5. Yoga (5.1%)
  6. Body work (5.0%)
  7. Diet-based therapy (3.5%)
  8. Progressive relaxation (3.0%)
  9. Mega-vitamin therapy (2.8%)
  10. Visualization (2.1%)

Things to do

The WikiProject on Alternative Medicine and Portal

A few good places to start would be:


Categories are probably Wikipedia's most comprehensive classification system. The major sub-categories overlap each other.

Alternative Medicine

NCCAM classifications

Alternative medical systems
Category:Ayurveda · Category:Chiropractic · Category:Herbalism · Category:Homeopathy · Category:Naturopathy · Category:Osteopathy · Category:Traditional Chinese medicine
Biologically based therapies
Category:Bush medicine · Category:Dietary supplements · Category:Medicinal herbs and fungi · Category:Medicinal use of cannabis · Category:Orthomolecular medicine
Energy therapies
Category:Biofield therapies · Category:Bioelectromagnetic-based therapies
Manual therapy
Category:Acupuncture · Category:Chiropractic · Category:Massage · Category:Osteopathy
Mind-body interventions
Category:Aromatherapy · Category:Hypnosis · Category:Meditation · Category:Yoga

Other Categories

Alternative detoxification
Concepts in alternative medicine
Life extension
Category:Life extension lists · Category:Life extensionists
Natural environment based therapies
Orthomolecular medicine
Osteopathic medicine
People in alternative medicine
Category:Acupuncturists · Category:Chiropractors · Category:Herbalists · Category:Hydrotherapists · Category:Midwives
Supernatural healing
Traditional medicine
Whole medical systems

Related Portals

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Health portal on Wikinews     Medicine on Wikiquote     Health science bookshelf on Wikibooks     Rational Fasting on Wikisource     Alternative Medicine category on Wikicommons     Wikiversity School of Medicine
Health Research News for those Interested in the Wellness Movement. These Historical Quotations Often Voice Alternative Medicine Themes. College Level Textbooks Text of Online Books Images Learning
  1. ^ O’Connor BB, Calabrese C, Cardeña E, Eisenberg D, Fincher J, Hufford DJ, Jonas WB, Kaptchuk T, Martin SC, Scott AW, Zhang X (Panel on Definition and Description, CAM Research Methodology Conference, April 1995). (1997). "Defining and describing complementary and alternative medicine.". Alternative Therapies 3 (2): 49–57. 
  2. ^ "What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)?". Retrieved 2006-07-11. 
  3. ^ Kamerow D. (2007). "Wham, bam, thank you CAM.". Brit Med J 335: 647. doi:10.1136/bmj.39349.437442.43. 
  4. ^ Snyderman, R.; Weil, A. T. (2002-02-25). "Integrative Medicine: Bringing Medicine Back To Its Roots". Archives of Internal Medicine. Retrieved 2006-07-11.  PMID 11863470