Alternative Medicine refers to an approach where instead of conventional therapies (western, allopathic, mainstream), non-conventional therapies are used alone.
Complementary Medicine is an approach where both conventional and non-conventional medicines are used.
Integrative Medicine combines mainstream and CAM (complementary and alternative) therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.
The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine lists the following Defining Principles of Integrative Medicine (http://integrativemedicine.arizona.edu/about/definition.html):
- Patient and practitioner are partners in the healing process.
- All factors that influence health, wellness, and disease are taken into consideration, including mind, spirit, and community, as well as the body.
- Appropriate use of both conventional and alternative methods facilitates the body’s innate healing response.
- Effective interventions that are natural and less invasive should be used whenever possible.
- Integrative medicine neither rejects conventional medicine nor accepts alternative therapies uncritically.
- Good medicine is based in good science. It is inquiry-driven and open to new paradigms.
- Alongside the concept of treatment, the broader concepts of health promotion and the prevention of illness are paramount.
- Practitioners of integrative medicine should exemplify its principles and commit themselves to self-exploration and self-development.
When patients ask me about the value of non conventional approaches, my answer is to choose treatments which have been proven to be both safe and effective.
Some reliable sites for studies on complementary and alternative treatments include Pub Med, UpToDate, Cochrane and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.