What is CAM – Complementary and Alternative Medicine?

CAM encompasses a large number of diverse therapies, methods and theories. Modification of lifestyle, dietary change, bodily treatments, health psychology approaches and the use of naturally sourced, low-risk medicinal products are all found in different CAM therapies. CAM is used by many citizens across Europe as a complement to conventional treatment or on its own. CAM therapies include: acupuncture, anthroposophic medicine, aromatherapy, ayurveda, chiropractic, herbal medicine/phytotherapy, homeopathy, kinesiology, massage, naturopathic medicine, osteopathy, reflexology, Tibetan and traditional Chinese medicine, shiatsu, yoga, among others. These therapies use knowledge skills and practices based on theories and experiences which were developed in Europe like homeopathy or anthroposophic medicine or are indigenous to certain cultures, especially Asian cultures (traditional systems of medicine and therapies). Outside of their indigenous culture and taken together with their European counterparts they are normally referred to in Europe as “Complementary and Alternative Medicine” (CAM).

An increasingly popular remedy for European citizens...

Health professionals including doctors practising CAM add to an existing body of CAM practitioners in many countries. There are a number of professional groupings representing those practising CAM across the EU with training and standards of CAM practice being governed by voluntary or to some extent legal structures on a national basis in many countries. There are also a number of European groupings covering practitioners of various therapies, medical doctors practising CAM and umbrella associations of such groups. Some of these are members of EPHA. Please see our full list of members for details (http://www.epha.org/r/14).

CAM in Europe

Few European countries have national policies for CAM. Other than for herbal and homeopathic medicines there are no EU regulations governing CAM. Variations in definitions and categorizations of CAM therapies render regulation a challenge as does insufficient knowledge among policy makers of the potential contribution of CAM to healthcare.

There are substantial differences in the way that CAM is recognised, practised and regulated across EU member states, with differences again between the CAM therapies. Some form of regulation exists in 18 out the 29 EU and EEA countries, although there is considerable variation. EUROCAM and especially the CAM doctors association CAMDOC as well as the practitioners organization EFCAM are working to promote the need for a statutory regulation of all those working in the CAM field as well as for the availability of all CAM medicinal products.

CAM has begun to receive greater attention from the European Commission in recent years, with funding being allocated to research and more activity within the institutions including an informal CAM Interest Group within the European Parliament. The European Commission has started a regular dialogue with CAM stakeholders and some CAM products are covered by existing legislation both in the medicines and in the food field. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is also undertaking activities in the field of CAM.


Related EPHA articles
- Natural medicine in an united Europe - quo vadis? (2004)
- 2006: fruitful year for complementary and alternative medicines at European level
- A new platform for Complementary and Alternative Medicine


For further information
- WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy


Useful links :

[1] http://www.who.int/medicines/areas/...

[2] http://www.efcam.eu/

[3] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/fact...

[4] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/fact...

[5] http://www.camdoc.eu, The regulative status of Complementary and alternative medicine in Europe 2010

Last modified on December 15 2011.