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Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices and products that are not presently considered an integral part of conventional medicine. Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine, and alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. Some health care providers practice both CAM and conventional medicine.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), formerly the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM), is a United States government agency dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary and alternative medicine researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals.

The American National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine cites examples including acupuncture, naturopathy, chiropractic, herbalism, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, hypnosis, homeopathy and nutritional-based therapies, in addition to a range of other practices.

The NCCAM funds research into complementary and alternative medicine, including support for clinical trials of CAM techniques.


The Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM) was formed in 1982 for the purpose of advancing the status of acupuncture and Oriental medicine in the United States. The mission of the CCAOM is to advance acupuncture and Oriental medicine by promoting educational excellence within the field. The philosophy of the Council is based on respect for the broad range of traditions of acupuncture and Oriental medicine and a commitment to academic freedom.

The Council created the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). By the fall of 1990, ACAOM had achieved recognition by the U.S. Department of Education for accreditation of acupuncture programs at the professional master's degree level and recognition by the prestigious Council on post secondary accreditation (COPA). Now, the skills and knowledge required of a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine are seen as the culmination of a comprehensive graduate education, on a par with other professional programs acknowledged by the community of American higher education.

As a result, the master's level program was accredited, new standards have been created for programs offering complementary training in herbal medicine, and a doctoral level of education has recently been developed.


Naturopathy or naturopathic medicine is a medical system that focuses on the body's ability to heal and maintain itself. Naturopathic philosophy favors a holistic approach, and finding the least invasive measures necessary for symptom improvement or resolution, thus encouraging minimal use of and unnecessary drugs.

According to the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC), "Naturopathic medicine is defined by principles rather than by methods or modalities. Above all, it honors the body's innate wisdom to heal." According to the American Cancer Society, naturopathy is "a complete alternative care system that uses a wide range of approaches such as nutrition, herbs, manipulation of the body, exercise, stress reduction and homeopathy".

Naturopathy is practiced in many countries, primarily the United States and Canada, and is subject to different standards of regulation and levels of acceptance. The scope of practice varies widely between jurisdictions.

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