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Updated: Jul 3, 2018

Conventional medicine

Conventional medicine is the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures. They are used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness.

Complementary and Alternative medicine

The words "complementary medicine" or "alternative medicine" are used interchangeably with traditional medicine in some countries. They are a broad set of health care practices but they are not integrated into the dominant health care system.

● If a non-mainstream practice is used together with conventional medicine, it’s considered “complementary.”

● If a non-mainstream practice is used in place of conventional medicine, it’s considered “alternative.”

Most complementary health approaches fall into one of two subgroups - natural products or mind and body practices.

natural products

This group includes a variety of products, such as herbs (also known as botanicals), vitamins and minerals and probiotics. They are widely available to consumers and often sold as dietary supplements.

mind and body practices

Mind and body practices include a large and diverse group of procedures or techniques taught by a trained teacher. Yoga, chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation, meditation and massage therapy are among the most popular mind and body practices used by adults.

Other mind and body practices include acupuncture, relaxation techniques (such as breathing exercises, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation), tai chi, qi gong, healing touch, hypnotherapy, and movement therapies (such as Feldenkrais method, Alexander technique, Pilates, Rolfing Structural Integration, and Trager psychophysical integration).

other complementary health approaches

Some approaches may not neatly fit into either of these groups - for example, the practices of traditional healers, Ayurvedic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, and naturopathy.

Integrative medicine

There are many definitions of “integrative” health care, but all involve bringing conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way.

Holistic medicine

Holistic medicine is the art and science of healing that addresses the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. The practice of holistic medicine integrates conventional and alternative therapies to prevent and treat disease, and most importantly, to promote optimal health.



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