According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) of the National Institutes of Health of the United States government, which is "dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science, training CAM researchers and disseminating authoritative information" (University of Texas, 2006), complementary and alternative medicine is defined as "a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine" (NCCAM, 2002).
It must be remembered that complementary medicine and alternative medicine are two different things. Complementary medicine, as the name suggests, is employed in conjunction with conventional medicine. "An example of a complementary therapy is using aromatherapy to help lessen a patient's discomfort following surgery" (NCCAM, 2002).
On the other hand, alternative medicine, again as suggested by how the area of study is termed, is actually practiced instead of conventional practices. "An example of an alternative therapy is using a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy that has been recommended by a conventional doctor" (NCCAM, 2002).
Then again, integrative medicine "combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness" (NCCAM, 2002).
Under the umbrella of complementary and alternative medicine are five major classifications, as categorized by the NCCAM: (1) Alternative Medical Systems; (2) Mind-Body Interventions; (3) Biologically Based Therapies; (4) Manipulative and Body-Based Methods; and (5) Energy Therapies. Alternative medical systems include homeopathic medicine, naturopathic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, and Ayurveda. Mind-body interventions include techniques such as patient support groups, cognitive-behavioral therapy, meditation, prayer, mental healing, and therapies that use creative outlets such as art, music, or dance. Biologically based therapies make use of natural products, such as herbs, foods, and vitamins, and include therapies like dietary supplements (Although, nowadays, dietary supplements have been incorporated into the practice of conventional medicine.), herbal products, and the use of other so-called natural but as yet scientifically unproven therapies. Manipulative and body-based methods include chiropractic manipulation, osteopathic manipulation, and massage. Lastly, energy therapies, which are further subdivided into biofield therapies and bioelectromagnetic-based therapies, include qi gong, Reiki, and Therapeutic Touch under the former, and pulsed fields, magnetic fields, alternating-current fields, or direct-current fields under the latter.
With all the different kinds of therapies and forms of health and medical care, individuals are now faced with much more difficult