Complementary and Alternative Medicine Types

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is the Federal Government’s lead agency for scientific research on CAM. NCCAM groups CAM practices into four domains, recognizing there can be some overlap. In addition, NCCAM studies CAM whole medical systems, which cut across all domains.

  • Whole Medical Systems: include complete systems of theory and practice, such as homeopathy,naturopathy, Chinese (qi) medicine, and Ayurveda.
  • Mind-Body medicine: uses techniques to enhance the mind’s ability to function: meditation, prayer, or creative outlets such as music or dance
  • Biologically based practices: herbs, foods, diets, supplements
  • Manipulative and body-based practices: the application of force to a joint, such as massage, or the manipulations that are used in other whole medical systems, such as chiropractic or osteopathic movement of parts of the body.
  • Energy therapies: There are two types of use of energy fields for therapy
    • Biofield therapies are intended to affect energy fields that are thought to surround and penetrate the human body, such as Reiki and therapeutic touch.
    • Bioelectromagnetic therapies involve the unconventional use of electromagnetic fields, such as pulse fields, magnetic fields, or alternating or direct current electrical fields.