Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Balance

Font Size

Americans Spend $34 Billion on Alternative Medicine

11% of Out-of-Pocket Health Care Spending Goes to CAM
WebMD Health News

July 30, 2009 -- Americans spend almost a third as much money out-of pocket on herbal supplements and other alternative medicines as they do on prescription drugs, a new government report shows.

Out-of-pocket spending on herbal supplements, chiropractic visits, meditation, and other forms of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) was estimated at $34 billion in a single year.

The estimate was based on responses to a national health survey conducted in 2007 by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

“The bottom line is that Americans spend a lot of money on CAM products, classes, materials and practitioner visits,” National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Director Josephine P. Briggs, MD, said in a media briefing today. “We estimate that this (represents) approximately 11% of the total out-of-pocket spending on health care.”

1.5% of Total Medical Costs Involve CAM

Overall out-of-pocket expenditures for complementary and alternative medicines accounted for 1.5% of the $2.2 trillion spent on health care during the year prior to the survey.

Other highlights from the report, released today by NCHS and NCAAM, include:

  • In 2007, 38 million adults made an estimated 354 million visits to CAM practitioners, at an estimated cost of almost $12 billion dollars.
  • Two-thirds of the out-of-pocket spending was for treatments that did not involve a practitioner, such as over-the-counter herbal therapies and other therapies, classes and materials. About $12 billion was spent on visits to practitioners such as chiropractors, acupuncturists, and homeopathic specialists.
  • The biggest single expenditure was for non-vitamin, non-mineral herbal supplements and other products (almost $15 billion) followed by practitioner visits ($12 billion), stretching and meditation-related classes such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong ($4 billion), homeopathic medicines ($2.9 billion) and relaxation techniques ($0.2 billion).

Previously reported figures based on the same national survey showed that 38% of adults and 12% of children under the age of 18 used some type of alternative medicine in 2007.

Acupuncture In, Energy Healing Out

It has been a decade since a nationally representative survey examining expenditures for CAM treatments has been done, but the newly published survey was so different from the old one that researchers were hesitant to compare them.

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
Take your medication
Hand appearing to hold the sun
Hungover man
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Woman worn out on couch
Happy and sad faces
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
laughing family