Complimentary, alternative or integrative medicine, what are they?

These days people talk about different approaches for health improvement. You hear the terms complimentary, alternative or integrative medicine any where in social media. But what is the difference?

Well, one thing I could say is that they might all refer to the same approaches but in different situations. The above words are normally used and compared to the conventional methods of treatments or western medicine. You may use “alternative” if the method is replacing the western medicine or use “complimentary” when utilizing the approach along with the conventional medicine.

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Integrative medicine is usually referred to practices, which bring both conventional methods and alternative approaches together, to improve health and wellbeing of clients. There are several studies done in medical centers all over the world to evaluate benefits of integrating non-conventional approaches with conventional medicine in cancer therapy, pain management, and establishing healthy habits such as dieting and physical activity and much more.


Alternative or complimentary methods include but are not limited to: using natural products, techniques such as Tai Chi, Yoga, deep breathing, meditation and practices such as chiropractic, massage therapy and homeopathy.


Many of the practices mentioned above help relax mind and body and when they are used along with conventional medicine you might achieve better results in your therapy. The important factor is that your healthcare providers need to know of these practices since this will affect your course of therapy. This is of special importance if you are taking natural or nutritional supplements along with medications. Natural products can change the balance of hormones and electrolytes in your body, which might affect your medication therapy and vice versa.


In our Medication Therapy Management  (MTM) session at MEDMAIL we will take into consideration all of these factors and communicate them with your other healthcare providers to help you improve your health and avoid further complications.


Sepideh Nasafat, PharmD

Registered Pharmacist


Note: The definitions are taken from “National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health” an agency for scientific research on diverse medical and healthcare systems, products and practices not generally considered part of conventional medicine.

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