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Complementary Medicine

The term complementary medicine refers to a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered to be part of conventional medicine. Complementary medicine includes natural products, such as dietary supplements, herbs, and probiotics, as well as mind and body practices, such as meditation, chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage.

Another term often used in discussions of therapies that are not part of conventional medicine is integrative medicine. Integrative medicine combines conventional and complementary approaches in a coordinated way.

A third term, alternative medicine, refers to the use of approaches that are not part of conventional medicine as replacements for, rather than complements to, conventional treatment. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine advises against using any product or practice that has not been proven safe and effective as a substitute for conventional medical treatment or as a reason to postpone seeing a doctor about any health problem. In some instances, stopping-or not starting-conventional treatment can have serious consequences. Before making a decision not to use a proven conventional treatment, talk to your health care providers.

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Understanding Complementary Medicine

  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
  • Credentialing CAM Providers: Understanding CAM Education, Training, Regulation, and Licensing (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
  • Acupressure and Nausea
  • Acupuncture (MedlinePlus)
  • Alternative Medicine - Pain Relief
  • Biofeedback
  • Chiropractic Medicine (MedlinePlus)
  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Cancer Treatment - National Cancer Institute
  • Dietary Supplements (MedlinePlus)
  • Herbal, Dietary Supplements Can Affect Cancer Treatments
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  • Commonly Asked Questions


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  • Are You Considering Complementary Medicine? (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
  • Frequently Asked Questions About Acupuncture (American Academy of Medical Acupuncture)
  • Frequently Asked Questions about Music Therapy (American Music Therapy Association)
  • Questions and Answers About Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Cancer Treatment (National Cancer Institute)
  • Quiz on Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • What Are Some Complementary Therapies Used By Women? (womenshealth.gov)
  • What Is The Difference Between Conventional, Complementary, & Alternative Medicines & Therapies?
  • What Should I Tell My Health Care Provider About My Use of Complementary Therapies? (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)

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    Case Western Reserve University

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    Last Updated: Mar 07, 2014