Integrative medicine emphasizes nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress management.

It aims to prevent disease.

It recognizes that the human being has a powerful, innate, spontaneous capacity for healing and it identifies and removes obstacles to this natural healing capacity.

Major Domains of Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Whole medical systems

Ayurvedic medicine

Homeopathic medicine

Native American medicine (eg, sweat lodge, medicine wheel)

Naturopathic medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine (eg, acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine)

Tibetan medicine

Mind-body medicine



Yoga and tai chi

Guided imagery

Dance therapy

Music therapy

Art therapy

Prayer and mental healing


Biology-based therapies

Herbal therapies

Dietary supplements

Biologics - use of natural products such as fish oil, probiotics, botanical medicines).

Manipulative and body-based practices




Energy therapies



Therapeutic touch

Bioelectromagnetic therapies

Magnet therapy

Electromagnetic devices


Complementary therapies can be divided into five categories:


Mind Body Therapies: (eg, biofeedback, meditation, hypnosis, guided imagery).

Manual medicine (eg, osteopathy, chiropractic, massage therapy).

Energy medicine (eg, Reiki, therapeutic touch).

Whole systems (eg, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, homeopathy).



Some of the complementary therapies,are thousands of years old and as complete systems they include elements from all other categories. For example, traditional Chinese medicine uses acupuncture, botanical medicines (biologically-based therapies), an acupressure-based massage technique known as Tui Na (an example of manual medicine), and Qigong (an example of mind-body medicine).

An example of integrative medicine intervention is the Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease which is an intensive cardiac rehabilitation program. This program includes nutritional counseling, stress management, monitored fitness, and group support sessions; yoga therapy is included in this program.

The US government agency for research on complementary medicine is the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health of the NIH.



USMLE Reviewer

(By Subscription)