Alternative medicine

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Alternative medicine refers to the practices and ideas of using non-mainstream concepts in health and wellbeing promoting wellness.

Complementary medicine

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

Alternative medicine

If a non-mainstream practice is used in place of conventional medicine, it’s considered “alternative.” Most people who use non-mainstream approaches also use conventional health care.

Integrative medicine

Integrative health care often brings conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way. It emphasizes a holistic, patient-focused approach to health care and wellness—often including mental, emotional, functional, spiritual, social, and community aspects—and treating the whole person rather than, for example, one organ system. It aims for well-coordinated care between different providers and institutions.

Functional medicine

In additional to complementary and alternative, you may also hear the term “functional medicine.” This term sometimes refers to a concept similar to integrative health (described below), but it may also refer to an approach that more closely resembles naturopathy (a medical system that has evolved from a combination of traditional practices and health care approaches popular in Europe during the 19th century).

Integrative Health

The use of integrative approaches to health and wellness has grown within care settings across the United States. Researchers are currently exploring the potential benefits of integrative health in a variety of situations, including pain management for military personnel and veterans, relief of symptoms in cancer patients and survivors, and programs to promote healthy behaviors.

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