Complementary medicine is normally used along with conventional remedies while alternative medicines consist of standalone remedies that have not fully been accepted in the field of conventional medicine. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a field of medical science which includes varied approaches of treatment and plenty of research is going on to establish whether these practices involved are safe and efficient. However, there is limited information and research in this field compared to the more accepted western forms of medicine.
An example of how complementary medicine can be practiced is a situation where a cancer patient going through chemotherapy can also undergo an acupuncture regime without any foreseeable conflicts. Acupuncture, in this case, may be required to help in dealing with side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea and vomiting. Alternative medicine in this context would be a situation where a cancer patient decides to do away with chemotherapy altogether, instead opting for something like a dietary change.
In some cases, alternative and complementary medical practices can be combined and this is referred to as integrative medicine. Research shows that about 40% of adults and 12% of children are using forms of CAM in the United States of America and the numbers are gradually growing, as people become more enlightened on different medical therapies available.