Complementary and alternative medicines
Complementary medicine is a therapeutic approach that is used together with conventional medicine. An example might be a patient seeking help from aromatherapy to help with pain control after undergoing surgery. Alternative medicine is a therapeutic approach which is used instead of conventional medicine. An example might be a patient, having been informed that they have hypertension, deciding to use garlic to lower blood pressure.
The US National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) defines CAM as ‘practices that are unproven by science and not presently considered an integral part of conventional medicine’ (also referred to as biomedicine, mainstream or allopathic medicine). This definition of CAM acknowledges that CAM is not an absolute description and that, as CAM practices are proven safe and effective, they will be integrated with mainstream health care. Some have gone further to propose that the split between conventional and alternative should be replaced by good and bad medicine where the former implies rigorously tested treatments with demonstrable efficacy, safety and quality, whether they originate from the conventional or alternative traditions.