In medical jargon, complementary and alternative medicine is given the acronym “CAM.” CAM includes all kinds of natural remedies — everything from acupuncture to massage to chiropractic care, aromatherapy, herbal cures and visualization. Yet, CAM, while suppressing chronic diseases around the world, is not always at the forefront of illness prevention. Are you a frequent user? You may want to readdress your approach to treating any health problems you have.
Complementary medicine is different from alternative medicine. The former is used in conjunction with conventional medicine. One good example of complementary therapy is the use of aromatherapy to help reduce a patient’s pain after an operation. Alternative medicine, on the other hand, is used in place of conventional medicine. One example of alternative therapy is adopting a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing more traditional surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy — treatments normally suggested by a conventional doctor.
To help make sense of all the options available to you, here are five categories of CAM therapies:
1. Alternative medical systems. Homeopathic and naturopathic medicines, which were developed in Western cultures, are examples of alternative medical systems. Chinese medicine and Ayurveda are two systems that developed in non-Western cultures and have a much longer history of use than mainstream Western methods.
2. Mind-body medicine uses various techniques designed to intensify your mind’s ability to affect bodily functions and symptoms. Patient-support groups and cognitive-behavioral therapy are two examples of mind-body interventions.
3. Natural products such as foods, herbs, and vitamins. The use of shark cartilage to treat Hodgkin’s disease and other cancers is one example.
4. Manipulative and body-based methods in CAM rely on movement and/or manipulation of the body. Chiropractic medicine is a good example.
5. Energy therapies. Energy therapy can involve individual auras, or energy fields, and the re-balancing of these fields. Examples include Therapeutic Touch and Reiki.
Some CAM advocates firmly believe that CAM is superior to conventional cures. There is quite a bit of scientific evidence to back up many CAM therapies now that they are becoming more widely accepted in the Western world. Make sure you explore some of these options the next time you come down with an illness or other condition.