Complementary therapies can be grouped into categories that can be useful in describing how a therapy works or where it was first used. Categories can also provide a common language that may help you and your health care providers share ideas about the use of these therapies.
When complementary therapies are used with standard medical treatments, they are often called integrative therapies. Learn more about talking to your health care provider about integrative and complementary therapies.
NCCAM categories of complementary therapies
One of the most common ways to group complementary therapies comes from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health. The NCCAM identifies three basic categories of complementary therapies :
- Natural products use herbs, vitamins, minerals or microorganisms (such as the bacteria found in yogurt) to try to treat certain conditions. Examples include black cohosh, melatonin and probiotics.
- Mind and body medicine use techniques to help the mind affect body functions and to try and relieve side effects of disease or treatment. Examples include meditation, prayer and music therapy.
- Manipulative and body-based practices use movement and manipulation of the body to help promote health and ease pain and other conditions. Examples include acupuncture and massage.
Others categories include:
Some therapies may fall into more than one category.
See a list of integrative and complementary therapies grouped into these categories.