The word "complementary" means "in addition to." Complementary medicine is any treatment that you use in addition to your doctor's standard care.
What is considered standard treatment in one culture may not be standard in another. For example:
Many treatments have not yet been studied to see how safe they are or how well they work. Some treatments, such as prayer or music therapy, are hard to study.
In the U.S., the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine was formed within the National Institutes of Health to test how safe treatments are and how well they work. The center has guidelines to help you choose safe treatments that are right for you.
|Use complementary medicine||Use only standard treatment|
|What is usually involved?|
|What are the benefits?|
|What are the risks and side effects?|
Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
"I am overweight and have high blood pressure. I looked into some herbal diet remedies that were supposed to help speed up my metabolism and help me lose weight. When I did some research, I found out that people with high blood pressure should not take certain herbs—like the one I was considering. I did not want to risk making my high blood pressure worse or, worse yet, put my life in danger by taking the herb. I decided to work on my diet and struggle through weight loss the old-fashioned way."
— Sara, age 28
"I prefer to use complementary therapies whenever they are available. They are my first choice in most cases. But I do see my doctor who supports my use of complementary therapies but suggests a "standard" treatment when he feels it's necessary—like when I had a small skin cancer surgically removed. It was clear to me that this tried-and-true and possibly lifesaving treatment was best. For everyday health and wellness, though, I use a variety of complementary therapies—everything from tea tree oil for fungal nail infections; to aloe vera, straight off the plant, for mild burns; to acupuncture for low back pain."
— Jeneane, age 36
"I have had great success keeping my cancer in remission using conventional cancer treatments. At this point, I don't want to upset the apple cart. If it ain't broke, I'm not going to try to fix it."
— Charles, age 42
Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.
Reasons to use complementary medicine
Reasons not to use complementary medicine
I want a more personal, whole-person approach to my health care.
I'm satisfied with the treatment I'm getting from my regular doctor.
I'm not worried about the lack of much research on complementary medicine.
I'm very worried about the lack of research.
I'm not worried about interactions between complementary medicine and my standard medical treatment.
I'm very worried about the chance of having dangerous interactions.
My other important reasons:
My other important reasons:
Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.
Using complementary medicine
NOT using complementary medicine
1. There's a lot of evidence to support my use of complementary treatments.
2. If I'm not comfortable being touched, I may not like some types of complementary medicine.
1. Do you understand the options available to you?
2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?
1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?
2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.
3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine|