Looking to lead a stronger, healthier life?
Sign up for our Wellness Wire newsletter for all sorts of nutrition, fitness, and wellness wisdom.

Now we’re in this together.
Thanks for subscribing and having us along on your health and wellness journey.

See all Healthline's newsletters »

What is the Difference Between Alternative and Complementary Medicine?

Although some health care professionals and many lay people use the terms alternative and complementary therapies interchangeably, they are very different. Alternative therapies are unconventional unproven therapies that reject conventional medicine. These therapies are not approved by the US Food and Drug administration. Some examples have included colonic irrigation, Hoxxey’s cancer treatment and Laetrile. Some people consider these therapies “Quacks” as they are unlicensed.

Complementary therapies are different. They are used in combination with standard medical care and given by licensed or certified therapists. The goal is usually to reduce symptoms (physical and emotional) and improve quality of life. Additionally, complementary therapies generally have years of tradition (like 200 years with Chinese medicine) and research that supports the use of the therapy. As always, if you are considering any additional therapy that was not recommended by your doctor, collect all of the information and discuss it with your doctor first. It is possible a therapy you are considering has been known to produce a severe side effect with the chemotherapy you are receiving.

Because more and more individuals with cancer are seeking information on complementary therapies an office of Alternative Medicine was started at the National Institutes of Health. Through this office people can obtain reliable information, and many scientists are receiving funding for research to determine which complementary methods are the most successful.

Resource: http://nccam.nih.gov/
Toll Free: 1-888-644-6226International: 301-519-3153TTY: 1-866-464-3615 (for hearing impaired) Fax: 1-866-464-3616
  • 1
Was this article helpful? Yes No