Complementary and Alternative Medicine

The use of alternative and complementary medications and dietary supplements has become more popular in the United States in the last decade. Read our Frequently Asked Questions that has been developed by the Alternative Medicine Committee of CHI Franciscan Health to provide you with some guidelines on what alternative or complementary medications are, and "do's and dont's" for taking these medications.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) encompasses non-conventional approaches to healing, beyond traditional medicine.

Picture of a mortar and pestle

Complementary medicine and alternative medicine are two different approaches.

Complementary medicine is any form of therapy used in combination with other alternative treatments or standard/conventional medicine. Complementary therapy usually serves to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.

Alternative medicine is used alone, without recommended standard treatment.

Some people use complementary treatments to relieve symptoms or side effects while undergoing standard/conventional treatment (such as pain relief during cancer treatment). Standard/conventional medicine refers to medical treatments that have been scientifically tested and found to be safe and effective. The standard/conventional treatments have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Other people may decide to pursue either complementary or alternative therapy. It is highly recommended that you consult your physician before beginning any treatment regime, as these treatments are not scientifically tested or proven.

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