Benefits of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is a group of diverse medical and healthcare systems, practices, and products that are not currently considered to be a part of conventional Western medicine. CAM therapies include things like acupuncture, nutrition, chiropractic, herbs, bodywork, yoga, meditation, Qigong, Healing Touch, and aromatherapy.

A CAM practitioner looks for the root cause of the illness and focuses on healing rather than just treating symptoms. People are encouraged to adopt healthier lifestyles in order to attain and maintain optimum health. A variety of methods are used for healing, regaining balance in one’s life, managing stress, reducing/eliminating pain, and preventing disease. A person’s whole being is addressed–mind, body, and spirit–in order for effective changes to be made.

Western medicine tends to intervene once illness is already present, and it focuses on the disease as separate from the person. Often the symptoms are addressed, but not the underlying cause.

The Wheel of Health

Developed by experts at Duke Integrative Medicine, part of the Duke University Health System, the Wheel of Health is a guide to integrative medicine and health planning that represents Duke’s unique approach to integrative medicine. It illustrates nine key areas of health and wellness and underscores the interrelatedness of body, mind, spirit, and community in the experience of optimum vitality and wellness, as well as in the prevention and treatment of disease.

The Wheel of Health is made up of three concentric circles that represent the primary elements of optimal health:

  • Mindfulness. At the heart of health is mindfulness, the practice of staying alert to your physical, mental, social, and spiritual states. This non-judgmental awareness enables individuals to recognize symptoms as they emerge, which is when they are most readily treatable. This is the critical core of well-being, on which the other elements are based.
  • Self-care. Individuals are encouraged to explore the dynamic interplay of the ways they can care for themselves and to develop proactive strategies to improve or maintain their health. Important areas for self-care are relationships, the physical environment, nutrition, movement and exercise, the mind-body connection, and personal growth and spirituality.
  • Professional care. Recognizing symptoms early is key to diagnosing health problems when they are most treatable, and awareness of the need for professional care is an integral component of the integrative approach to medicine. Professional care includes pharmaceuticals and supplements, preventive medicine, and conventional and CAM treatments.

For more information on CAM, visit the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: