Operational definition of complementary medicine

CAM

This list includes the therapies that Cochrane Complementary Medicine classifies as complementary, alternative or integrative (CAM). The table is in alphabetical order and may be browsed alphabetically or searched using Find from the browser. The development of this operational definition is described in a 2011 paper in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. Some notes about this operational definition are below.

First, in order to be as comprehensive as possible, this table includes multiple categories that overlap (e.g., Chinese traditional medicine and acupuncture), and multiple terms for the same therapy (e.g., phototherapy and light therapy). For single therapies with multiple names or multiple spellings, we have given the most commonly used variant first and listed additional variants separated with a slash. However the number of individual CAM therapies (e.g., individual herbs) was impossible to capture in a single table suitable for posting. The table may also omit CAM therapies of which we are unaware. This listing therefore cannot be considered to be exhaustive, and is subject to expansion and elaboration over time.

We should also note that for many therapies, the indication for the treatment determines whether the therapy is considered CAM or not. For example, chelation therapy is considered conventional in the treatment of heavy metal poisoning but ‘alternative’ in the treatment of atherosclerosis. We have indicated with a parenthetical note the cases in which a therapy with both conventional and CAM uses would be excluded from the CAM category. Because vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are often used in conventional medicine, we developed general rules for considering vitamins and other supplements as CAM or not. We excluded the following types of treatments:

  1. vitamins and other supplements that are administered parenterally in hospital settings;
  2. dietary supplementation for treatment or prevention of medically diagnosed deficiency states or disorders; and
  3. vitamin or mineral supplements for preventing or treating disease in countries where vitamin or mineral deficiency is widespread.

Finally, we should note that we decided to exclude from our CAM list the following types of therapies:

  1. exercise therapies, with the exception of mind-body exercise (e.g. tai chi, yoga); and
  2. psychotherapy, with the exception of unconventional psychotherapies (e.g. Morita therapy).

  • Açaí / Euterpe oleracea
  • Acupressure
  • Acupuncture
  • Acustimulation / acupoint stimulation
  • African prune / Prunus Africana / Pygeum africanum)
  • Aiyishu (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Alexander technique
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (an omega-3 fatty acid) supplements
  • Amino acid supplements
  • Angelica
  • Anma (a type of Asian bodywork)
  • Anthroposophic medicine
  • Antioxidant supplements
  • Arachidonic acid (AA or ARA) (an omega-6 fatty acid) supplements
  • Aromatherapy
  • Art therapy
  • Artichoke leaf
  • Astragalus / Milkvetch (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Auricular acupuncture / ear acupuncture
  • Ayurveda / Ayurvedic medicine (a type of Indian (East Asian) traditional medicine)
  • Bach flower remedies
  • Baduanjin
  • Balneotherapy
  • Bee stings / bee venom
  • Beta-sitosterol (a component of saw palmetto)
  • Bibliotherapy
  • Bioenergetics
  • Biofeedback
  • Biofunctional diagnostic testing
  • Biotin (Vitamin B7) supplements
  • Botanical supplements
  • Bovine cartilage
  • Breathing exercises in mind-body medicine (e.g., breathwork) (exclude for physical therapy, eg treatment of cystic fibrosis)
  • Calcium supplements (many people would not include for prevention of osteoarthritis)
  • Calendula
  • Calorie restriction
  • Carnitine supplements
  • Cayenne
  • Chelation therapy (exclude for treatment of medically diagnosed heavy metal poisoning (eg, mercury or lead) and for medically diagnosed excess iron (eg, thalassemia))
  • Chinese herbal medicine
  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Chitosan supplements
  • Chondroitin sulfate
  • Clinical ecology
  • Cold laser therapy
  • Colon cleansing / colon irrigation
  • Color therapy / chromotherapy
  • Coriolus Versicolor (a mushroom extract)
  • Cranberry
  • Craniosacral massage / Craniosacral therapy
  • Dance therapy
  • Danshen (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Deep tissue bodywork
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) supplements
  • Dengzhanhua preparations (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Devil’s claw
  • Devil’s nettle
  • Devil’s root / Siberian ginseng / acanthopanax senticosus / ci wu jia
  • Dianxianning pill (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Dietary supplements
  • Dihomogammalinolenic acid (DGLA) (an omega-6 fatty acid) supplements
  • Dimethylaminoethanol / dimethylethanolamine / Deanol (DMAE)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (an omega-3 fatty acid) supplements
  • Doman Delacato patterning therapy
  • Echinacea
  • EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) when used in chelation therapy as described above (see Chelation therapy)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) (an omega-3 fatty acid) supplements
  • Electrical stimulation therapy for pain
  • Electroacupuncture
  • Electroacupuncture according to Voll (a diagnostic method)
  • Electromagnetic stimulation therapy / Electromagnetic therapy (exclude electromagnetic field therapy for delayed- and non-union fractures)
  • Electrotherapy for pain
  • Elemental diet
  • Energy field work
  • Essiac formula
  • Estrogen (exclude for treatment of natural or surgical menopause) supplements
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Expressive writing therapy / journaling therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Feldenkrais
  • Feng shui
  • Feverfew
  • Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) supplements
  • Flor∙Essence formula / flower essences
  • Folic acid / folate (Vitamin B9) supplements (many people would not include for prevention of neural tube defects)
  • Free and Easy Wanderer (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) (an omega-6 fatty acid) supplements
  • Garlic
  • Gerovital H3 (primary ingredient is procaine hydrochloride)
  • Gerson therapy
  • Gestalt therapy
  • Ginger
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Ginseng
  • Glucosamine supplements
  • Glutamine supplements
  • Gluten-free diet
  • Green tea / Camellia sinensus)
  • Guiling pa’an wan (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Hair analysis
  • Helminth therapy / trichuris suis ova / Trichuris trichiura ova
  • Hemp oil
  • Herbal medicine / herbalism
  • High-fiber diet
  • Hippotherapy / equine-assisted therapy (exclude when physical therapy only)
  • Holistic therapy / holistic medicine
  • Homeopathy
  • Homoharringtonine (HHT) (a plant alkaloid)
  • Honey
  • Horse chestnut
  • Huangqi (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Huperzine A (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Hydrazine sulfate
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (exclude for treatment of burns, wounds or infections, radiation injury, embolism, decompression disorders or carbon monoxide poisoning)
  • Hypnosis / hypnotherapy
  • Imagery / guided imagery
  • Iridology
  • Iron supplements
  • Jin Li Da liquor (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Kampo (a type of traditional Japanese medicine)
  • Kava
  • Ketogenic diet
  • Kinesiology / applied kinesiology
  • Kneipp therapies
  • Krestin / PSK / PSP (Coriolus Versicolor extracts)
  • Laetrile
  • Laser acupuncture
  • Laughter therapy
  • Lentinan (derived from Shitake)
  • Light therapy / phototherapy (exclude for treatment of skin conditions and neonatal bilirubin disorders)
  • Linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) supplements
  • L-isoleucine (an amino acid) supplements
  • Liuwei dihuang pill (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • L-leucine (an amino acid) supplements
  • Low fat diets
  • Low-level laser therapy
  • Low protein diets
  • Low-glycemic index diets
  • L-threonine (an amino acid) supplements
  • L-valine (an amino acid) supplements
  • Macrobiotic diet
  • Magnesium supplements
  • Magnetic therapy / magnetic field therapy / biomagnetic therapy
  • Marijuana, marihuana / cannabis / cannabinoids / C. sativa / C. indica (exclude for purely psychoactive uses)
  • Massage therapy (exclude perineal massage or uterine massage associated with childbirth)
  • Meditation
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Melatonin
  • Mesotherapy
  • Milk thistle
  • Mindfulness
  • Moxibustion
  • Music therapy / sound therapy
  • Myofascial release
  • Naprapathy
  • Nature therapy
  • Naturopathy / naturopathic medicine
  • Neuromuscular therapy
  • Niacin / Nicotinamide/ Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) supplements
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Osteopathic manipulation
  • Ozone therapy
  • Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) supplements
  • Passiflora
  • Peppermint
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Phytomedicines / Phytotherapy
  • Pilates
  • Plant medicines
  • Play therapy
  • Prayer
  • Prebiotics
  • Probiotics
  • Procaine (only when used for aging)
  • Prolotherapy
  • Propolis
  • Protein supplements
  • Psychotherapies incorporating mindfulness
  • Psychotherapies incorporating spirituality
  • Puerarin (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (see Electromagnetic therapy)
  • Pyridoxine / Pyridoxal / Pyridoxamine (Vitamin B6) supplements
  • Qi Gong / chi-kung
  • Radiesthesia
  • Reflexology
  • Reflexotherapy
  • Reiki
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) supplements
  • Rolfing®Structural Integration
  • S-Adenosyl methionine (SAM-e)
  • Safflower Yellow injection (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Salacia oblonga
  • Salvia (miltiorrhiza)(injection) (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Sanchi preparations (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Saw palmetto / serenoa repens
  • Selenium supplements
  • Shamanistic medicine / Shamanism
  • Shark cartilage
  • Shengmai / shenmai (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Shenqi Fuzheng (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Shensu / shenfu (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Shexiang (injection) (a traditional Chinese medicine]
  • Shiatsu
  • Shitake
  • Shuanghuanglian (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Sidda medicine (a type of Indian (East Asian) traditional medicine)
  • Soy / soybeans
  • Speleotherapy
  • Spinal manipulation
  • Spiritual healing
  • St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum L.)
  • Structural integration
  • Suxiao jiuxin wan (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Tai chi / tai ji
  • Testosterone
  • Therapeutic touch / healing touch
  • Thiamine (Vitamin B1) supplements
  • Tianmadingxian capsule (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Traditional African healing
  • Traditional Arabic medicine
  • Traditional Chinese medicine
  • Traditional Indian medicine
  • Traditional Japanese medicine
  • Traditional Korean medicine
  • Traditional Tibetan medicine
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) / repetitive Transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS or TNS)
  • Trigger point myotherapy
  • Tui na
  • Unani medicine / Yunani medicine (a type of Arabic or Indian (East Asian) traditional medicine)
  • Valerian
  • Vega testing
  • Vegan diet
  • Vegetarian diet
  • Visualization techniques
  • Vitamin A supplements
  • Vitamin B complex supplements
  • Vitamin B12 supplements
  • Vitamin C supplements
  • Vitamin D supplements
  • Vitamin E supplements
  • Vitamin K supplements
  • Vojta method / Reflexlocomotion
  • White willow bark
  • Whole-body vibration therapy
  • Xiaxingci granule (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Yarrow / Achillea millefolium extract
  • Yoga therapy
  • Zero balancing
  • Zhixian I pill (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Zinc supplements
  • Zishen Tongli Jianonang (a Chinese herbal medicine)
  • Zone therapy