Allergic to Dogs and Allergies in Dogs Resource

Types of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

How Natural Medicines and Therapies are Categorized

As we have discovered previously in the series on Understanding Natural Treatment, there are many possible ways to systematize CAM given that some therapies overlap and have characteristics that make them eligible to be placed in more than one category (in particular, alternative medical systems e.g. traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture). However, one way, using a modified version of NCCAM 2007 national health survey, is as follows:

Types of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

Complete theoretical/practical based medical systems that evolved independently to conventional Western medicine:

Traditional (Ancient and Primarily Non-Western):

Traditional medicine

  • Ayurvedic medicine
  • Tibetan medicine (influenced by Ayurvedic medicine)
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine including acupuncture and acupressure

Traditional healers
(Some people consider this a category on its own)
e.g. Botanica, Curandero, Espiritista, Hierbero or Yerbera, Native American healer or Medicine man, Shaman, Sobador

Non-Traditional (Western and developed in the last few centuries):

  • Homeopathy
  • Naturopathy

Controlled use of various substances that originate in nature:

Chelation therapy

Diet based therapies e.g. Aktins diet, Macrobiotic diet, Pritikin diet, Ornish diet, South Beach, Vegetarian diet, Zone diet

Folk medicine

Natural products
(Some people consider this a category on its own):

  • Minerals and Vitamins including Megavitamin therapy and related supplements
  • Nonvitamin, nonmineral (dietary supplements other than vitamins and minerals)
    Includes herbs/herbal products and other food related substances or components whose efficacy and side effects may be not fully determined and understood e.g. Barnes et al. 2008  included the following [See Natural Treatment and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)]:
    Chondroitin, Coenzyme Q-10, Combination herb pill, Cranberry (pills, gelcaps), Creatine, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterine), Echinacea, Fiber or psyllium, Fish oil or omega 3 or DHA, Flaxseed oil or pills, Garlic supplements, Ginkgo biloba, Ginseng, Glucosamine, Goldenseal, Grape seed extract, Green tea pills, Lutein , Melatonin, Milk thistle, MSM (methysulfonylmethane), Prebiotics or probiotics, Saw palmetto and Soy supplements or isofavones.


Use of body manipulation and/or movement to facilitate health and well-being:

Chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation

Massage therapy

Movement therapies
(Some people consider this a category on its own)
e.g. Alexander technique, Feldenkrels or Feldenkrais method, Pilates, Rolfing Structural Integration, Trager psychophysical integration



Holistic approach acknowledging the importance that the mind plays in affecting the health and well-being of the body:

Biofeedback (EMG, Thermal or Neurofeedback)

Cognitive-behavioural therapy
(Considered nowadays as ‘conventional’ medicine)

Creative therapies e.g. arts, dance, music

Deep breathing exercises

Energy Healing Therapy
(Some people consider this a category on its own)

  • Veritable (measurable) or Bioelectromagnetic-based therapies involving unconventional use of electromagnetic fields
    e.g. Alternating or direct current fields, Light therapy, Magnet therapy, Pulsed fields.
  • Putative or biofields (energy fields that surround and penetrate the body but are yet to be measured scientifically)
    e.g. Qi gong, Reiki and healing/therapeutic  touch

Guided Imagery


Humor therapy


Patient support groups
(Considered nowadays as ‘conventional’ medicine)


Progressive relaxation

Tai chi



The next article in this series on Understanding Natural Treatment, looks at CAM, Natural Remedies, Supplements and Bioavailability.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+