Complementary and Integrative Medicine

Complementary and Integrative Medicine

Information Resources

By Evelyn Cunico, MA, MSLIS
Health Science Writing | Clinical Medical Searching
Posted February 28, 2016

What is Complementary and Integrative Medicine?

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), which is the Federal Government’s lead agency for scientific research on complementary and integrative health approaches, defines complementary and integrative medicine.

NCCIH generally uses the term, complementary, for practices and products that are not mainstream. NCCIH uses the term, integrative, when complementary practices and products are incorporated into mainstream healthcare. For example, an integrative approach might be incorporating meditation into mainstream treatment for relief of symptoms in cancer patients.

What Complementary and Integrative Approaches Do Americans Use?

The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) is an annual survey in which tens of thousands of Americans answer questions about their health. Every five years, this survey includes a special section on complementary health approaches. The most recent data on complementary approaches were collected in 2012.

More than 30 percent of American adults and about 12 percent of children use healthcare approaches outside of mainstream medicine, according to key findings from NHIS 2012.

Natural Products, defined as dietary supplements other than vitamins and minerals, were the most popular complementary health approach in the survey. Almost 18 percent of American adults and almost five percent of American children had used a dietary supplement other than vitamins and minerals in the past year.

Safety Information

Researchers at the NCCIH caution that natural does not necessarily mean safe. For example, dietary supplements are not regulated in the same way that prescription drugs are regulated. Dietary supplements do not require review or approval by the Food and Drug Administration before they are placed on the market.

To minimize the health risks of a non-mainstream treatment, consider these tips:

Start talking with your health care providers about complementary health approaches

If you are considering a complementary health approach, find out what the research says.

Be aware of things to know when selecting a complementary health practitioner .

Test Your Understanding

The NCCIH has produced interactive videos that you can follow at your own pace, to test your understanding of health related matters.

One video is called, Understanding Drug-Supplement Interactions.

Another video is called, Understanding Health News.

Be an Informed Consumer

Decisions about your health care are important, including decisions about whether to use complementary health products and practices. NCCIH has developed a series of Factsheets called, Be an Informed Consumer to help you get started.

Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog should not replace the medical advice of your doctor. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease, illness, or other health condition without first consulting with your medical doctor or other healthcare provider.

Selected Information Resources

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Are You Considering a Complementary Health Approach ?
Summary Note: Fact Sheet to assist you in making your decisions about complementary health products and practices.
(Accessed 15 February 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Be an Informed Consumer .
Summary Note: Includes sections on Issues to Consider, Consumer Tips, Safety Information, Choosing a Practitioner, About Dietary and Herbal Supplements, and Understanding Health News.
(Accessed 22 February 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Children and Complementary Health Approaches.
Summary Note: Discusses what you should do if you are considering a complementary approach for your child. Lists ten most common complementary health approaches among children.
(Accessed 25 February 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Complementary, Alternative, or Integrative Health: What’s In a Name?
Summary Note: Defines Alternative, Complementary, and Integrative. Lists ten most common complementary health approaches among adults.
(Accessed 24 February 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Five Tips: What Consumers Need to Know About Dietary Supplements.
Summary Note: Five basic things to know when considering dietary supplements.
(Accessed 25 February 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Four Tips: Start Talking With Your Health Care Providers About Complementary Health Approaches
Summary Note: Four tips to help you and your healthcare providers to start talking.
(Accessed 24 February 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health . Health.
Summary Note: Research-based information on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) treatments. All Health Topics from A to Z.
(Accessed 23 February 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Herbs at a Glance .
Summary Note: Series of brief fact sheets that provides basic information about specific herbs or botanicals, including common names, what the science says, and resources for more information.
(Accessed 23 February 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Paying for Complementary Health Approaches.
Summary Note: Includes information on Spending, Paying, and Questions You May Want to Ask Your Insurance Provider.
(Accessed 25 February 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Six Things to Know When Selecting a Complementary Health Practitioner
Summary Note: Six tips to help you to be as careful and thorough in your search for a complementary health practitioner as you are when looking for mainstream care.
(Accessed 24 February 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Terms Related to Complementary and Integrative Health
Summary Note: Brief descriptive introductions to common complementary and integrative health terms.
(Accessed 24 February 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Understanding Drug-Supplement Interactions. Test Your Knowledge.
Summary Note: Interactive 13-screen video on understanding drug-supplement interactions presents True or False statements and offers clickable Tell Me! Examples.
(Accessed 25 February 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Understanding Health News. Complementary Health Approaches in the News.
Summary Note: Interactive 12-screen video presents short news stories, then asks you, What Facts Are Missing? Includes Answers.
(Accessed 24 February 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Use of Complementary Health Approaches in the U.S.
Summary Note: Key findings from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) 2012
(Accessed 27 February 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Complementary and Integrative Medicine.
Summary Note: MedlinePlus Home Page for Complementary and Integrative Medicine Health Topics
(Accessed 23 February 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus Herbs and Supplements
Summary Note: A to Z list of dietary supplements and herbal remedies. Effectiveness, usual dosage, and drug interactions.
(Accessed 23 February 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM): Part I: Resources from the National Institutes of Health

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM):

Part I: Resources from the National Institutes of Health

By Evelyn Cunico, M.A., M.S.
Posted July 30, 2014

Definitions

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), the Federal
Government’s lead agency for complementary health practices, defines CAM as a group of diverse medical and health care interventions, practices, products, or disciplines that are not generally considered part of conventional, or mainstream, medicine.

“Complementary” means, using a non-mainstream approach together with conventional medicine. “Alternative” means, using a non-mainstream approach in place of conventional medicine.

Defining CAM is difficult, because the boundaries between complementary and conventional medicine change with time. For example, “guided imagery,” once considered complementary or alternative, is used regularly now in some hospitals as a relaxation technique for health.

Safety and Effectiveness

Many CAM therapies have not been researched and tested in scientifically rigorous clinical trials. Therefore, the safety and effectiveness of many CAM therapies are uncertain.

In 1998, the U.S. Congress established NCCAM, to investigate and evaluate promising unconventional medical practices. NCCAM sponsors scientific research to find whether CAM therapies are safe, whether they are effective for the conditions for which people use them, and if so, how they work.

 General Precautions

  • As with any medical treatment, there can be risks with CAM therapies. The following general precautions can help to minimize risks.

    Select CAM practitioners with care. Credentials required for complementary health practitioners vary a lot from state to state. If you need names of local practitioners, first ask your medical doctor. For safe, coordinated care, ask whether a practitioner is willing to work together with your medical doctor. Find out whether a practitioner’s training and experience is with persons who have your health conditions. Also, ask your health insurance provider whether your plan pays for practitioner services.

    For more, see, “Six Things to Know When Selecting a Complementary Health Practitioner.”

  • Educate yourself about any supplement you are considering. Some dietary supplements may interact with medications or other supplements. Supplements may have side effects of their own. And, supplements may contain potentially harmful ingredients that are not listed on the label.

    For more, see, “What You Should Know about Five Popular Herbs.”

  • Tell each of your health care providers about complementary and alternative practices, as well as conventional medicine, that you use. Make a complete list before you visit the office of a medical doctor or complementary health practitioner. You can refer to your list when completing patient history forms.

    For more, see, “Time to Talk with Your Health Care Providers: Four Tips to Start the Conversation.”

More Information

For more information from the NCCAM website, as well as via email, RSS, Twitter, or Facebook, see, “Time to Talk Tips on Complementary Health Practices.” 

A disclaimer: The information presented in this blog should not replace the medical advice of your doctor. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your medical doctor or other healthcare provider.

 References

 National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). “Complementary, Alternative, or Integrative Health: What’s in a Name?”
(Accessed 30 July 2014)

 National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. “Organization – The NIH Almanac.”
(
Accessed 15 June 2014)

 National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). “Relaxation Techniques for Health: An Introduction.”
(
Accessed 30 July 2014)

National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). “Six Things to Know When Selecting a Complementary Health Practitioner.”
(Accessed 28 July 2014)

National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). “Time to Talk Tips on Complementary Health Practices.”
(Accessed 14 June 2014)

National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). “Time to Talk with Your Health Care Providers: Four Tips to Start the Conversation.”
(Accessed 14 June 2014)

National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). “What You Should Know About Five Popular Herbs.”
(Accessed 28 July 2014)