About Complementary Health
Millions of Americans use products and practices that aren’t considered part of mainstream medical care. These are sometimes called complementary or integrative health, although some people also use the term alternative medicine. Some of these products and practices may have risks. It’s important to consider those risks before using any product or practice.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) defines complémentaire santé as “a broad category of medical and health care approaches, practices and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.” Its mission is to define — through rigorous scientific investigation — whether these products and practices are useful and safe.
Complementary products are usually natural and can include herbs (also known as botanicals), vitamins and minerals, and dietary supplements. Most complementary medicines are not assessed for safety and efficacy before they go on sale, although some are registered, and some are sold only through a qualified practitioner.
Some complementary practices are done by a trained practitioner, such as an acupuncturist or massage therapist. Others are self-care strategies, such as meditation or yoga. Practitioners often have a multilevel view of health and disease, believing that illness results from imbalances on physical, emotional, social, or spiritual levels. They may offer a combination of therapies, such as counseling, exercise instruction, dietary advice, and herbal medicine.