Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Defined

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Defined

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM )

Herbs from the meadow in a marble mortar

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is the popular term for health and wellness therapies that have typically not been part of conventional Western medicine. You might also hear the term “non-mainstream” medicine to refer to them. The world health organization (WHO) defined them as a

“broad set of health care practices that are not part of that country’s own tradition and are not integrated into the dominant health care system.”

Complementary means treatments that are used along with conventional medicine. Alternative means treatments used in place of conventional medicine.

The biggest benefit of CAM is their holistic approach to health. These therapies consider the person as a whole including; physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. Their objective goes beyond improving health, but to maintain the person in a constant state of wellness that will help them develop their full life potential.

Integrative Medicine

Studies in the USA show that over 30% American adults and 12% children use some type of health care approach outside the western mainstream medicine. True alternative medicine is not common. Most people, use this “non-mainstream” therapies as complementary. So the term “integrative medicine” is increasingly preferred. Integrative medicine combines, or coordinates, the best of conventional medical care with the best of evidence-based CAM.

Researchers are currently exploring the potential benefits of integrative health in a variety of situations, including pain management for military personnel and veterans, relief of symptoms in cancer patients and survivors, and programs to promote healthy behaviors.

Which are the branches of CAM?

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. Most practitioners have a broad set of tools by combining different techniques. These areas or branches are not only complementary to mainstream medicine but amongst themselves. By coordinating their use health practitioners look to boost and improve the efficacies and results during treatments

The list below is not all-inclusive, it would be impossible to produce such a list. Hopefully, they are clear examples that convey the idea of which therapies each branch includes.

Traditional alternative medicine

These therapies have been used for centuries around the world.

  • Acupuncture
  • Ayurveda (India)
  • Homeopathy
  • Naturopathy
  • Chinese or Oriental medicine

 Body Work

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. 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

 Herbal & Diet

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 have become problems in today’s society. 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

 Energy Medicine

Deals with putative and verifiable energy fields. 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. These include the wellbeing of mind- emotion – Spirit.

  • 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

Religion, faith healing, and prayer:

They include faith or connection to the divine for healing it includes

  • Shamanism
  • Christian faith healing

I hope this helps and paints a clear picture. E-mail me if you need further information.



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