The direction of healthcare and what is considered healthy and good for people has changed a lot over human history. Many practices that were once considered sound medical care are now considered barbaric and are known to do much more harm than good. The industrialized world has witnessed many advances in medicine in the past century that have allowed people to live longer, healthier, more active lives. An unfortunate byproduct of some of these advances, many of which were once considered miracles of modern medicine, are negative and sometimes dangerous side effects of different treatments, medicines, procedures and practices. While science and Western medicine continues to make strides to find solutions for myriad of health problems that were once incurable and thought to be unavoidable, both Western healthcare practitioners and patients have begun to look for “alternative” forms of medicine and healthcare practices.

While some people and healthcare providers ascribe entirely to alternative forms of healthcare and healing, many patients and practitioners of alternative medicine use it in conjunction with Western medicine and treatments. Many Western healthcare providers are now recognizing the value of different forms of alternative treatments and practices, and often suggest them to their patients, to do in conjunction with their regular healthcare regime.


Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM)

Complementary alternative medicine is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices and products that are typically used together with conventional Western medicine. While some people use CAM as a blanket term to cover all alternative healthcare practices, others use it to specifically denote healthcare practices that are used in order to complement both, other alternative healthcare treatments as well as Western medicine and treatments. The term complementary alternative medicine is often used interchangeably with the terms integrative medicine, complementary medicine and alternative medicine. 

Some practitioners of non-Western medicine make clear distinctions between the terms complementary and alternative. While both terms refer to almost any healthcare practices that are not a part of mainstream Western medical healthcare, such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, and meditation, to name just a few, complementary medicine is used to denote when these therapies are used in conjunction with traditional Western medicine. Alternative medicine is when these approaches are used instead of traditional medicine.

People who identify themselves as CAM healthcare providers, often have one or more medical license and/or training in different alternative healthcare practices. Some CAM healthcare providers go through schooling to earn various titles including that of a doctor with a PhD (doctor of philosophy) or a medical doctor (MD), to name just a few of the titles that some CAM healthcare providers have. Many courses of study for complementary and alternative medicines offer certificates, master’s degrees and other authorizations but some do not offer degrees that are recognized by the Western medical community as medical degrees.