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Complementary Medicine

The term complementary medicine refers to a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered to be part of conventional medicine. Complementary medicine includes natural products, such as dietary supplements, herbs, and probiotics, as well as mind and body practices, such as meditation, chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage.

Another term often used in discussions of therapies that are not part of conventional medicine is integrative medicine. Integrative medicine combines conventional and complementary approaches in a coordinated way.

A third term, alternative medicine, refers to the use of approaches that are not part of conventional medicine as replacements for, rather than complements to, conventional treatment. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine advises against using any product or practice that has not been proven safe and effective as a substitute for conventional medical treatment or as a reason to postpone seeing a doctor about any health problem. In some instances, stopping-or not starting-conventional treatment can have serious consequences. Before making a decision not to use a proven conventional treatment, talk to your health care providers.