What is complementary medicine?
"complementary" means "in addition to." Complementary medicine is treatment and
medicine that you use in addition to your doctor's standard care.
What is considered standard treatment in one culture may not be standard
in another. For example:
- Acupuncture is
standard in China but not in the United States.
- Hypnosis is a standard part of psychiatry, but it may not be
standard if used to treat cancer.
Other examples of complementary medicine include:
Is research being done on it?
treatments and medicines have not yet been studied to see how safe they are or
how well they work. Some treatments, such as prayer or music therapy, are hard
In the U.S. the National Center for Complementary and
Alternative Medicine was formed within the National Institutes of Health to
test the safety and effectiveness of these treatments. The center has
guidelines to help you choose safe treatments that are right for you.
Should you use complementary medicine?
decide to use this type of treatment, think about these questions:
- Why are you considering this treatment? People often use complementary medicine to treat long-term
health problems or to stay healthy. But if you are looking for a "cure-all,"
you may be disappointed. Before you begin to use it, make sure that you learn
how well it is likely to work.
- What are you comfortable with? Part of the philosophy of some forms of complementary
medicine is to listen to and touch people in a healing way. Some people find
great comfort in this. Others may be bothered by it.
Many complementary treatments are covered by insurance
plans. But check to see what your plan covers.
What are the risks?
The greatest risk is that you
may use these treatments instead of going to your
regular doctor. Complementary medicine should be in addition to treatment from your doctor. Otherwise you may miss important
treatment that could save your life.
medicines can be dangerous when they are combined with another medicine you are
taking. Always talk to your doctor before you use any new medicines. Dietsupplements, for example, are complementary. And they can vary widely in how
strong they are and in how they react to other medicines.
complementary medicine isn't controlled as much as standard medicine. This
means you could become a victim of fraud. Sellers or people who practice
complementary medicine are more likely to be frauds if they:
- Require large up-front payments.
- Promise quick results or miracle cures.
you not to trust your doctor.
What are the benefits?
One benefit is that many
people who practice complementary medicine take a "whole person," or holistic,
approach to treatment. They may take an hour or more to ask you questions about
your lifestyle, habits, and background. This makes many people feel better
about the treatment, the person giving the treatment itself, and the