Guidelines for Complementary and Alternative Medications

At CHI Franciscan Health, the Alternative Medicine Committee evaluates complementary and alternative medications and dietary supplements to develop safe guidelines for their use.

What are complementary and alternative medications?

People take complementary and alternative medications either as an alternative to or in conjunction with over-the-counter and prescription medications. Examples include:

  • Herbal substances such as whole plants, teas, capsules, oils and tinctures
  • Vitamin or mineral supplements
  • Natural hormones or metabolic factors
  • Enemas

Guidelines for the use of complementary and alternative medications


  • Focus first on food and lifestyle choices.
  • Talk to your pharmacist and health care provider about any supplements that you are taking or plan to take.
  • Read all you can about the product from dependable sources before you use it.
  • Buy supplements from a reputable company.
  • Read the labels carefully.
  • Observe any effects the product has, both good and bad. Report any bad effects, such as allergic reactions, stomach upset or headache to your health care provider, and stop taking the product.


  • Don’t take substances with known toxicity. Unsafe herbs include ephedra, comfrey, chaparral and pennyroyal. Unsafe vitamins can include iron, selenium and Vitamins A, B3 (niacin), B6, D, E and K when taken in larger quantities than recommended.
  • Don’t start using new medicines, supplements or herbs if you are already on a prescription or over-the-counter medication without first reviewing the possible interactions with your pharmacist or health care provider.
  • Don’t use alternative medicines on the advice of unqualified individuals.
  • Don’t use alternative medicine without careful review by several health care professionals if you:
    • Are pregnant or planning to become pregnant
    • Are breastfeeding
    • Are over age 65 or under age 10
    • Have an immune disorder
    • Have cancer or failure of any major organ

Learn more about how to choose dietary supplements.

Make an appointment for primary care

Talk with your doctor about integrating complementary or alternative therapies into your care. Need a primary care doctor? Find a doctor and make an appointment to begin your journey to wellness.