Skip to Main Content

Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Home

Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM)

All contents (databases, journals, print & e-books, websites, and other resources) in this guide are intended for informational and educational purposes only. They are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please, always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition.

The TTUHSC EP Libraries do not endorse nor take any responsibility for the information found on the resources included in these LibGuides.


Complementary Medicine:
Are treatments that are used along with standard medical treatments but are not considered to be standard treatments. One example is using acupuncture to help lessen some side effects of cancer treatment.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) - National Cancer Institute. Published in 2019. Updated 09/30/2019. Accessed.

Alternative Medicine:
Alternative medicine is a broad term encompassing a variety of medical modalities. These are typically supported by tradition and seldom taught in a Western medical setting. Such modalities range from the ancient Eastern practices of acupuncture and Tai Chi to herbal medicine, Reiki, chiropractic manipulation, and more. These services are often used interchangeably with the term "alternative medicine", a designation created in the 1800s that distinguished these modalities as “alternative” to allopathic medicine. Alternative practices focus on stimulating the body’s ability to heal itself via energy alignment, herbal supplementation, and other balancing techniques. 

Kisling LA, Stiegmann RA. Alternative Medicine. In: Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing; 2020:

Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM):
CAM is a broad domain of resources that encompasses health systems, modalities, and practices and their accompanying theories and beliefs, other than those intrinsic to the dominant health system of a particular society or culture in a given historical period. CAM includes such resources perceived by their users as associated with positive health outcomes. Boundaries within CAM and between the CAM domain and the domain of the dominant system are not always sharp or fixed.”

Joshi S, Flaherty JH. Complementary and Alternative Medicine. In: Halter JB, Ouslander JG, Studenski S, et al., eds. Hazzard's Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, 7e. ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education; 2017.

Benefits and Risks

Natural Does Not Mean Safe

CAM therapies include a wide variety of botanicals and nutritional products, such as dietary supplements, herbal supplements, and vitamins. Many of these “natural” products are considered to be safe because they are present in, or produced by, nature. However, that is not true in all cases. In addition, some may affect how well other medicines work in your body. For example, the herb St. John's wort, which some people use for depression, may cause certain anticancer drugs not to work as well as they should.

Herbal supplements may be harmful when taken by themselves, with other substances, or in large doses. For example, some studies have shown that kava kava, an herb that has been used to help with stress and anxiety, may cause liver damage.

Vitamins can also have unwanted effects on your body. For example, some studies show that high doses of vitamins, even vitamin C, may affect how chemotherapy and radiation work. Too much of any vitamin is not safe, even in a healthy person.

Tell your doctor if you're taking any dietary supplements, no matter how safe you think they are. This is very important. Even though there may be ads or claims that something has been used for years, they do not prove that it's safe or effective.

Supplements do not have to be approved by the federal government before being sold to the public. Also, a prescription is not needed to buy them. Therefore, it's up to consumers to decide what is best for them.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) - National Cancer Institute. Published in 2019. Updated 09/30/2019.


Profile Photo
Amanda Rodriguez, MLS, AHIP
MSBII Library
Subjects: Dentistry