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Complementary and Integrative Medicine


Many Americans use medical treatments that are not part of mainstream medicine. When you are using these types of care, it may be called complementary, integrative, or alternative medicine.

Complementary medicine is used together with mainstream medical care. An example is using acupuncture to help with side effects of cancer treatment. When health care providers and facilities offer both types of care, it is called integrative medicine. Alternative medicine is used instead of mainstream medical care.

The claims that non-mainstream practitioners make can sound promising. However, researchers do not know how safe many of these treatments are or how well they work. Studies are underway to determine the safety and usefulness of many of these practices.

To minimize the health risks of a non-mainstream treatment

  • Discuss it with your doctor. It might have side effects or interact with other medicines.
  • Find out what the research says about it
  • Choose practitioners carefully
  • Tell all of your doctors and practitioners about all of the different types of treatments you use

NIH: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

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