Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Be Informed!

According to findings from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), approximately 38% of American adults used some form of complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) and spent about $33.9 billion on CAM services and products. The increased use of CAM shows that individuals are seeking ways to enhance their health and wellness; however, the effectiveness and safety of many CAM therapies are relatively unknown.

To gain a better understanding of the effectiveness and safety of CAM, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), part of the National Institutes of Health, sponsors and conducts research using scientific methods and advanced technologies to study CAM practices. On the NCCAM website, there are several health topics and studies that address CAM practices, including mental health. This information can help guide informed decision-making among individuals and healthcare professionals.

It’s important to talk to your doctor if you decide to use CAM practices, especially if you have existing health conditions, using prescription medications, or over-the-counter medications. The following tips, provided by NCCAM, can help you talk to your health care providers about CAM.

> When completing patient history forms, be sure to include all therapies and treatments you use. Make a list in advance.
> Tell your health care providers about all therapies or treatments—including over-the-counter and prescription medicines, as well as dietary and herbal supplements.
> Don’t wait for your providers to ask about your CAM use. Be proactive.
> If you are considering a new CAM therapy, ask your health care providers about its safety, effectiveness, and possible interactions with medications, both prescription and nonprescription. (Download the Steps to Wellness Medication Form to keep track of your medications, including dietary and herbal supplements)

For more information, please visit the NCCAM website at