What is Integrative Medicine or CAM?

The terms “integrative” or “integrated medicine” indicate combinations of conventional mainstream and alternative medical treatments which have some scientific proof of effectiveness. Dr. Andrew Weil, well-known American author and physician, is best known for establishing and popularizing the field of integrative medicine. He claims that the meaning and the mission of integrative medicine calls for restoration of the focus of medicine on health and healing and emphasizes the centrality of the patient-physician relationship. The combination of orthodox and complementary medicine with an emphasis on prevention and lifestyle changes is known as Integrated Health.

CAM, or complementary and alternative medicine, is a group of health practices used independently or in conjunction with conventional mainstream medical practices. Examples of this would be acupuncture, chiropractic, meditation, herbal remedies, nutrition therapy, etc.

Weil’s general view is that patients do best utilizing both mainstream and alternative medicine. In general, he believes that mainstream medicine is well-suited to crisis intervention, and alternative medicine is best utilized for prevention and health maintenance. His principles of integrative medicine include: appropriate use of conventional and CAM methods; patient participation; promotion of health as well as treatment of disease; and a preference for natural, minimally-invasive methods.

He believes integrative medicine is an intelligent combination of both, and that the focus on healing should be on the body’s own internal healing mechanisms and system. Nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction are emphasized in almost all of Weil’s health works.

Many people utilize mainstream medicine for diagnosis and basic information, while turning to alternatives for what they believe to be health-enhancing measures. Studies indicate that alternative approaches are often used in conjunction with conventional medicine. This is referred to by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) as integrative medicine because it “combines treatments from conventional medicine and CAM for which there is some high-quality evidence of safety and effectiveness. Examples of this would be practicing meditation to help relieve pain after surgery, or practicing yoga to relieve stress.