Skip navigation
Into the Alternative Medicine Chest

Into the Alternative Medicine Chest

Times change, and so do preferences, but belief in the efficacy of alternative medicine remains strong for millions of Americans.

A just released government survey shows roughly the same number of Americans using complementary or alternative medicine, or CAM, as five years ago. This latest study by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control found that 38% of adults use some form of CAM. That’s up only slightly from 2002, when 36% of adults sought alternative treatments.

chest_sm2.jpgWhat surprised everyone was the number people under age 18 using alternative medicines. This latest survey found that more than 12% of children were using a number of treatments. Chances of use increased greatly if their parents used CAM.

The percentage translates into one in 9 young people. For them and adults, herbal preparations were the top choice in remedies. The most popular supplements were omega-3 fish oil for hyperactivity and Echinacea for head colds.

Of course, this raises concern in the traditional medical community, which points out that many of these CAM treatments are unproven, untested and unregulated. True enough. And what about interactions with prescription or OTC meds?

Either traditional medicine is going to have to start asking patients about their CAM use more consistently, or consumers are going to need a place they can turn to for up-to-date, reliable and understandable information in this area of health and wellness.