Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) consists of medical treatments and therapies outside of what is traditionally taught in medical school or recognized for reimbursement by government health programs. Unlike conventional medical interventions and remedies, CAM treatments are not always proven through clinical trials.

In the United States, 36% of adults are using some form of CAM and spent $36 billion to $47 billion on CAM therapies in 1997.[1] The numbers of uninsured Americans increases by about 1 million persons per year, and the amount spent on CAM is likely much higher today. If CAM is defined to include megavitamin therapy and prayer specifically for health reasons, 62% of Americans use CAM.[Citation Needed]

The US National Institutes of Health sponsor the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) which spends more than $120 Million dollars a year researching CAM.[2] They received $31 million in additional funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.[3]

CAM Practices include the following:

  • Biologically based treatments using substances found in nature, such as herbs, special diets, or vitamins in non-conventional doses, such as massive amounts of Vitamin C.
  • Manipulative and body-based practices that utilize movement of body parts.
  • Mind-body medicine emphasizing the potential of the mind to affect bodily function and symptoms.
  • Holistic medical approaches that focus on all of one's life, as physicians did in ancient times.
  • Non-western treatments, such as Chinese acupuncture.