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Posted: 12th February 2019

An Overview – Complementary Therapies

Complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) are treatments that fall outside of mainstream healthcare. These medicines and treatments range from acupuncture and homeopathy, to aromatherapy, meditation and colonic irrigation.
Although “complementary and alternative” is often used as a single category, it is useful to make a distinction between the 2 terms. The US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) uses this distinction:
  • When a non-mainstream practice is used together with conventional medicine, it’s considered “complementary”.
  • When a non-mainstream practice is used instead of conventional medicine, it’s considered “alternative”.

There can be overlap between these categories.

For example, aromatherapy may sometimes be used as a complementary treatment, and in other circumstances is used as an alternative treatment.

A number of complementary and alternative treatments are typically used with the intention of treating or curing a health condition.

Examples include:

  • homeopathy
  • acupuncture
  • osteopathy
  • chiropractic
  • herbal medicines

Complementary Therapies Lead Bodies

For more information, please select Lead Body – The Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council  or Lead Body -The Federation of Holistic Therapists in Resources on the left, to be redirected to their sites.

Other Evidence Sources 

CNHC – Research findings for Complementary Therapies

While there is no inherent risk of harm from complementary therapies provided by fully qualified practitioners, and therefore no need for statutory regulation, there is debate about the evidence that these therapies are effective.

CNHC registrants are required to engage in ‘Evidence Based Practice’. There are three elements to this:

  • best available research evidence
  • clinical expertise
  • patient values

There are many sources of research evidence and listed on CNHC are examples that are accessible to the public. Please select Complementary Therapies Evidence Source 1 – CNHC – Research findings for Complementary Therapies to see full list.