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Complementary Treatments


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Complementary and alternative drugs and treatments (CAM) may be used to try to slow disease progression or eliminate the disease altogether, for symptom management, pain relief, or stimulation of the immune system. CAM treatments usually include affectionate care and often have a spiritual reinforcement. 

Since no complementary medicine has been proved to cure disease, only use a CAM drug or treatment in addition to western scientific based medicine - not instead of western based medicine.  CAM treatments are not presently considered to be a part of conventional medicine in the United States. 

The combination of complementary and Western medicine is known as "integrative medicine."

What To Do Before Choosing Or Using A Complementary Treatment

  • Complementary treatments are not subject to FDA approval so you are on your own about whether they are effective and safe. It is advisable to learn about what scientific proof may exist with respect to usefulness of the drug or treatment for the intended purpose, as well as the risks.
  • Before starting a treatment, consider asking for advice from your doctor.  If you are working with a treatment center, check to see if there is an integrative medicine department (a department that specializes in integrating complementary and standard Western treatments.) Healthcare professionals who are trained in integrative medicine can offer scientifically proved advice and help you design the best treatment regimen for your particular situaiton. They can also suggest a particular supplement or other product made by high-quality manufacturers so that you do not waste money on low-quality products that may not have anything useful in them or, even worse, may be contaiminated.
    • A medical professional can check to see if there is a dangerous interaction with a drug or treatment you are using, particularly ifyou are considering herbs.
    • The doctor may have some light to shed on the particular drug or treatment you are considering, or have a recommendation that may be better for your situation.
    • If your doctor says "no" to a particular treatment:
      • Ask why. 
      • Ask about other options may be available to accomplish the same goal as the drug or treatment you are considering.
      • If you are not satisfied with the doctor's response, particularly if you feel the doctor is closed minded about complementary treatments, consider seeking a second opinion from a doctor who is more open to complementary treatments.
  • Watch for fraud and people who are more interested in taking your money than helping you. To learn how, click here.
  • For a list of:
    • General questions to ask, click here.
    • Financial questions to ask, click here.
  • It is worth repeating that it is advisable to keep in mind that no alternative treatment has been proved to cure a life threatning condition.
  • Check your health insurance. A complementary drug or treatment may be covered. More and more health insurance cover complementary drugs and treatments..

When prescribed by a doctor, CAM treatments may be covered by your health insurance. 

Complementary treatments include the following. For information about each treatment of interest, click on the link. To return to this article, click the back button on your browser.


  • Whether a particular treatment is covered by your insurance or not, keep records of all your payments for such treatments including the cost of travel to and from where you receive the treatment or buy the product. The expenses may be tax deductible as medical expenses. For more information,  click here

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