Complementary and alternative medicine is an evolving area of health care used by approximately 4 in 10 adults and 1 in 9 children in the United States. As a diverse system of varied approaches and philosophies of healing, CAM is usually incorporated into conventional health care as integrative medicine. CAM presents opportunities to expand the current research paradigm to meet the challenges of studying its multidimensional approach to health and healing. Prominent organizations such as the IOM have placed a call to action to the medical community to advance knowledge and clinical applications in this field. Family physicians, specialists in caring for the whole person though a continuous, healing relationship, are in the ideal discipline to advance the integration of safe and effective CAM into their repertoire to optimize the health of their patients (Table 11-11). Ultimately, complex terminology will subside as the essence of integrative medicine becomes good family medicine.


1. Fish oil supplementation can benefit heart health (Bucher et al., 2002; Wang et al., 2004), hypertriglyceridemia (Balk et al., 2004), and rheumatoid arthritis (Fortin et al., 1995; MacLean et al., 2004) (SOR: A).

2. Acupuncture should be considered as a treatment option for common painful conditions such as chronic low back pain (Furlan et al., 2005; Yuan et al., 2008), neck pain (Fu et al., 2009, Trinh et al., 2006) and headache (migraine, tension) (Linde et al., 2009a, 2009b) (SOR: A).

3. Green tea is associated with decreased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease (Kuriyama et al., 2006) and may help prevent cancer of the breast (Sun et al., 2006a), gastrointestinal tract (Sun et al., 2006b), and prostate (Kurahashi et al., 2008) (SOR: B).

4. Yoga reduces functional disability, pain, and depression in people with chronic low back pain (Williams et al., 2009) (SOR: B).

5. Mindful communication may improve physician well-being and attitudes associated with patient-centered care (Kearney et al., 2009; Krasner et al., 2009) (SOR: C).


Web Resources

The complete reference list is available online at

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Offers excellent CAM resources for both patients and clinicians. "Time to Talk."

NCCAM's educational campaign to encourage patients and clinicians to discuss their use of CAM. Download a toolkit for your office.

Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine. Includes 44 member institutions throughout North America who are advancing the field of integrative medicine in the domains of education, research, and clinical care.

Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. Offers innovative education in integrative medicine.

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