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What are some examples of complementary and alternative medicine?

To make sense of the many therapies available, it might help to look at them in the broad categories that the National Institutes of Health uses for classification. Keep in mind that while these categories may be useful for understanding types of complementary and alternative medicine, the distinctions between therapies aren't clear-cut. Some treatment systems may use techniques from more than one category. For example, traditional Chinese medicine uses several types of complementary and alternative medicine. Some techniques may fit in more than one category. For example, acupressure could fit either in the category of manipulation and touch or in the category of energy therapies. Here are the broad categories of complementary and alternative medicine.

Examples of complementary and alternative medicine include:

§ Homeopathy. This treatment uses minute doses of a substance that causes symptoms to stimulate the body's self-healing response.

§ Naturopathy. This type of treatment focuses on noninvasive treatments to help your body do its own healing. Naturopaths draw on many forms of complementary and alternative medicine, including massage, acupuncture, herbal remedies, exercise and lifestyle counseling.

§ Ancient medicines. These complementary and alternative medicine treatments include Chinese, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian and Tibetan practices.

§ Meditation

§ Prayer

§ Relaxation

Dietary supplements and herbal remedies
These treatments use ingredients found in nature. Examples of herbs include ginseng, ginkgo and echinacea, while examples of other dietary supplements include selenium, glucosamine sulfate and SAM-e. Herbs and supplements can be taken as teas, oils, syrups, powders, tablets or capsules. Some say that they trust herbal medicine because it's been used for thousands of years. Others say that they like it because it's "natural."

Remember, though, that natural doesn't mean that herbs and supplements are always safe - and added ingredients aren't always natural. Dietary supplements and herbal remedies can cause side effects and interact with medications, so be sure to investigate possible dangers or drug interactions with your doctor. As with other complementary and alternative treatments, always talk to your doctor before taking an herb or supplement to make sure it's safe for you.

Manipulation and touch
These methods use human touch to move or manipulate a specific part of your body. They include:

§ Chiropractic and spinal manipulation

§ Massage

§ Other types of manipulation and touch therapies, such as osteopathy, craniosacral therapy and acupressure

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