Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and Its Relationship to Western Medicine

  • Pekka LouhialaEmail author
Reference work entry


CAM is an acronym combining two terms, “complementary medicine” and “alternative medicine,” both of which are recent. The definitions of CAM point out the diversity of phenomena behind the concept and list therapies currently belonging to the CAM field. A universal definition that would provide a demarcation line between CAM and the dominant system does not exist, and CAM is best understood as a residual category, defined by its exclusion from “official” or “medical school” medicine. Some CAM treatments are fundamentally incompatible with science, but some treatments, currently belonging to the CAM domain, will, sooner or later, be included in mainstream medicine, if their effectiveness can be demonstrated. CAM as a concept may be useful in describing a phenomenon from a sociological or political point of view, but from the scientific perspective there is only one medicine.


Alternative Medicine Complementary Medicine Integrative Medicine Demarcation Line Dominant System 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public HealthUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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