Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is defined as a group of diverse medical and health care practices and system in which individuals are able to accomplish medical treatment for a variety of sicknesses and diseases outside of conventional practices of medicine.

CAM therapies are categorized into five segments: (1) mind and body interventions or techniques that will use the mind to facilitate effect on bodily symptoms and functions; (2) chiropractic and massage therapies for body-based treatments; (3) herbalism for biologically based treatments; (4) therapy treatment, as an alternative medical treatment system; and (5) energy therapies.

Complementary therapies often referred to as Alternative therapies are used as an alternative to conventional treatments and/or in combination with conventional treatments. When Alternative therapies are used complementary with conventional therapies, this is referred to as Integrative medicine — the combination of both mainstream therapies and CAM therapies in which there is scientific evidence of effectiveness and safety.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, “Most complementary health approaches fall into one of two subgroups—natural products or mind and body practices. This group includes a variety of products, such as herbs (also known as botanicals), vitamins and minerals, and probiotics. They are widely marketed, readily available to consumers, and often sold as dietary supplements.”

According to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which included a comprehensive survey on the use of complementary health approaches by Americans, “17.7 percent of American adults had used a dietary supplement other than vitamins and minerals in the past year. These products were the most popular complementary health approach in the survey. The most commonly used natural product was fish oil.”

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) collects publications that analyze and evaluate the safety and efficacy of complementary and alternative therapy systems, practices and/or products that impact health care and consumers in the U.S. More on Complementary, Alternative, or Integrative Health.

source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine