5 interesting facts about Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

Updated: May 16

FACT 1: There is a difference between Complementary and Alternative Medicines.

If a non-conventional approach of medicine is used together with conventional medicine, it is considered “complementary.”

If a non-conventional approach of medicine is used instead of conventional medicine, it is considered “alternative” (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 2021).


FACT 2: There are several approaches to Complementary Medicine.

Complementary approaches can be organised by the following:

  • Nutritional (e.g., dietary supplements, special diets, herbs, and probiotics)

  • Psychological (e.g., mindfulness, psychotherapy)

  • Physical (e.g., massage, chiropractic)

  • Combinations such as psychological and physical (e.g., acupuncture, yoga, tai chi, dance or art therapies) or psychological and nutritional (e.g., mindful eating)

Some complementary medicine approaches may not totally fit into a group, such as Ayurvedic medicine, traditional healers, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathy, and functional medicine.


See the venn diagram below of Complementary Medicines:


(National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 2021).



FACT 3: Complementary Medicine has ancient roots.

Many medicines have a traditional background, such as aspirin. Read below for more:


(Complementary Medicines Australia, 2020).



FACT 4: Complementary medicine is widely used in Australia.

A study in 2018 with a sample of 2019 people broadly representative of the Australian population found that the prevalence of any Complementary Medicine use was 63.1%, with 36% consulting a Complementary Medicine practitioner and 52.8% using any Complementary Medicine product or practice (Steel et al., 2018).


FACT 5: About 6% of Australian women consult naturopaths.

A study in 2007 found that approximately 6% of Australian women consult a naturopath, and about 1% consult a herbalist. The percentages are estimated to be much greater in 2022 (Adams et al., 2007).


BONUS INFOGRAPHIC:

As Sydney Natural Health Clinical offers herbal medicine, this infographic has some useful and interesting information about it:

(Complementary Medicines Australia, 2021).


References:

Adams, J., Sibbritt, D., & Young, A. (2007). Consultations with a naturopath or herbalist: The prevalence of use and profile of users amongst mid-aged women in Australia. Public Health, 121(12), 954-957. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.puhe.2007.03.007


Complementary Medicines Australia. (2020). Complementary Medicines Australia - Ancient roots and modern medicine. Cmaustralia.org.au. Retrieved 16 May 2022, from https://www.cmaustralia.org.au/Media-Releases/8876337.


Complementary Medicines Australia. (2021). Complementary Medicines Australia - Plants as medicine: celebrating Herbal Medicine Week 2021. Cmaustralia.org.au. Retrieved 16 May 2022, from https://www.cmaustralia.org.au/In-the-News/12081147.


National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2021). Complementary, Alternative, or Integrative Health: What’s In a Name?. Complementary, Alternative, or Integrative Health: What’s In a Name?. Retrieved 16 May 2022, from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/complementary-alternative-or-integrative-health-whats-in-a-name.


Steel, A., McIntyre, E., Harnett, J., Foley, H., Adams, J., & Sibbritt, D. et al. (2018). Complementary medicine use in the Australian population: Results of a nationally-representative cross-sectional survey. Scientific Reports, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-35508-y


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