Sometimes called Natural Medicines-CAM involves the use of natural substances to treat and prevent disease. CAM generally is more effective for preventive medicine goals such as reducing risk of heart disease, cancer, immune complaints, diabetes, menopausal symptoms, chronic inflammation, depression etc, than it is for acute conditions such as pain, fever, injury and infection, although CAM can be useful for these conditions too. CAM works via multiple health end-points rather than merely 1 or 2. Eg Fish Oil Omega 3 fats & co-enzyme Q10 work by improving entire cardiovascular health, rather than focusing on treating only hypertension or only cholesterol. Therefore we say that CAM “complements” the body, meaning it works with the body to improve health, thereby reducing risk of disease.
Another aspect of CAM is that its primary focus is on preventing disease before it manifests, rather than treating the disease after the fact. This is achieved through improving health generally, rather than focusing on one specific symptom. This is what is meant by the statement that CAM is preventative medicine. Finally CAM can be used also with conventional allopathic medicines to either reduce side-effects (e.g. co-enzyme Q10 reduces some of the toxicity of statin medications) or to improve effectiveness (such as co-enzyme Q10 enhancing the hypotensive effects of anti-hypertensives).
Combining CAM with allopathic/conventional medicines is known as Integrative Medicine. However sometimes there can be an increased risk of side-effects, eg combining prescription anti-depressant (SSRI’s) with St Johns Wort (a natural SSRI) could result in serotonin syndrome. Sometimes a combination can result in a reduction in efficacy (such as soy isoflavones, blocking access to estrogen receptors, rendering hormonal HRT less effective; or St Johns Wort inducing liver enzymes that metabolize oral contraceptives, rendering them ineffective). In such cases it is not a good idea to combine CAM with allopathic medicines.
Module learning objectives: