Do The Terms 'Alternative Medicine,' 'Complementary Medicine' And 'Integrative Medicine' All Mean The Same Thing?

Dr. David Rakel answers the question: ''Alternative' or 'Integrative Medicine'?'

ByDavid Rakel, M.D., University of Wisconsin
December 23, 2008, 5:52 PM

Jan. 13, 2010 -- Question: Do the terms 'alternative medicine,' 'complementary medicine' and 'integrative medicine' all mean the same thing?

Answer:The terms 'complementary,' 'alternative,' and 'integrative' medicine have similar roots. In the 90s complementary and alternative medicine came into vogue mainly because of the public's demand to want to learn about new ways to facilitate health and healing. That then morphed into the term 'integrative medicine,' which really means bringing together the best of both worlds.

That is continuing to evolve into integrative medicine -- from integrative medicine into health- and healing-oriented medicine -- so we can really understand what does that human system need to heal. And realizing that it doesn't matter if it's complementary and alternative or conventional, we just want to use the best treatments possible to facilitate those self-healing mechanisms.