What You Need to Know About Complementary Health

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About Complementary Health

Millions of Americans use complémentaire santé approaches—including dietary supplements, herbs, yoga, massage therapy, and acupuncture—to improve their health and well-being. These approaches are sometimes called alternative medicine or alternative therapies. Complementary medicine is used along with conventional treatment, such as taking St. John’s wort for depression while taking antidepressants prescribed by your doctor.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) has grouped the broad spectrum of complementary health approaches into two categories: natural products and mind and body practices. Most of the dietary supplement products and some of the herbal medicines fall into the natural product category, while acupuncture, chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, yoga, and massage therapy are examples of the mind and body practices.

Practitioners of complementary health approaches tend to hold a multilevel view of human illness, with disruptions occurring at physical, emotional, social, and spiritual levels. They believe that disease results from a combination of these disturbances and that the body has the capacity to heal itself under the right conditions. They generally do not attempt to understand the basic scientific mechanism of their therapy, but instead rely on anecdotal clinical and intuitive experience.

It’s important to make sure that any health care approach you consider has been tested scientifically. The NCCIH website, Know the Science, has tools to help you find and understand scientific research so that you can make informed decisions about your health. It’s also a good idea to talk with your regular doctor before trying any complementary or alternative medicine. They can check that the treatment won’t interfere with any medical treatments you are receiving or cause any harmful side effects.

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