Complementary and Alternative Medicine CAM

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is a branch of medicine that deals with the prevention, treatment, and healing of diseases. It is generally used in addition to conventional medicine such as prescription drugs and surgery. Combining one’s beliefs with their lifestyle is what CAM practitioners strive for. Complementary medicine is used alongside conventional treatments, whereas alternative medicine is used instead of conventional medical treatment.

Types of Alternative Medicine:

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The three main categories of complementary and alternative medicine are:

  • Biologically based practices- examples include herbal remedies, homeopathy, acupuncture, and traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Manipulative and body; based practices include chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation of skeletal structures to release stress on the nervous system, massage therapy which helps the body relax from strenuous exercise by increasing blood circulation, and Alexander technique which is a way of improving overall posture and balance to maintain a healthy life.  
  • Mind-body interventions; healing can be achieved by changing the thought patterns that influence your health such as meditation or yoga.

These methods may also be used in combination with conventional treatments or on their own as a holistic treatment for a certain disease or condition. Throughout the history of medicine, many physicians from diverse cultures have been using CAM therapy as a cure for their patients. In fact, according to Waddell and Newton, the most commonly used complementary therapies in America today are natural products such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, or non-vitamin supplements that are taken daily for the maintenance of health.

Popularity in Recent Years:

In recent years, there has been a great increase in the use of complementary and alternative medicine due to an increased awareness of its safety and potential therapeutic effects. CAM may be defined as a broad domain of healing resources that encompasses all health systems, modalities, and practices and their accompanying theories and beliefs. The definition allows for inclusion or exclusion based on current evidence-based scientific knowledge. Possible reasons for the increase of CAM use are; an increased desire to pursue holistic health, the de-medicalization of conventional medicine, and that people are seeking more natural ways to heal.

According to National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), “CAM includes diverse groups of health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.”

Complementary or alternative therapies often refer to practices that have been used in addition to conventional Western medicine. The definition is not consistent with itself as many definitions have changed over time. These terms can confuse one type may be considered ‘alternative’ in one country but ‘complementary’ in another.

Worldwide Phenomenon:

CAM has become a worldwide phenomenon now after being developed thousands of years ago by indigenous practitioners. It also involves non-materialistic treatments such as prayer which will be discussed later on in this article.

In the last century, the use of CAM has been on a significant rise as one in 10 Americans now uses it as a form of treatment for a certain disease or condition. The American public is becoming more aware and accepting of alternative types of medicine. It may be used along with conventional Western medicine to either replace certain practices that Western medicine offers or simply to compliment them.

Western medicine comes from Greece and entails using modern chemical drugs, which help cure diseases by acting directly on signs and symptoms causing the disease. To heal effectively, they need to be able to do so quickly due to high patient demand.


As you can see, CAM is a vast and diverse area of medicine that encompasses many different types of healing practices. These include biologically-based therapies like herbal remedies or acupuncture, manipulative and body-based treatments such as massage therapy and chiropractic care, and mind-body interventions like meditation or yoga. The use of alternative health methods has been on the rise in America for decades now due to an increased interest in holistic approaches to wellness. If this topic interests you at all, we recommend doing some research into these various CAM techniques so that your knowledge is up to date with the latest developments.  It’s never too late to learn more about natural ways of healing without drugs.

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