As your Parish Nurse, one of my roles is “information-sharing and encouragement for optimal health and well-being.”  Today’s topic is “Complementary and Integrative Health Care.”

Many of us use health-care practices and products that were previously labeled “complementary and alternative medicine.”  Common options include dietary supplements, bio-identical hormones, aromatherapy, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, energy therapies (Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch), hypnosis, Ayurvedic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, and naturopathy.

Since 1998 in the U.S.A., the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has funded and conducted research on medical and health-care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of mainstream medicine (i.e., health-care approaches developed outside conventional Western medicine). The terminology has changed:   “Complementary health approaches” refers to practices and products of non-mainstream origin. “Integrative health” refers to incorporation of complementary approaches into mainstream health care.

The NCCIH strives to determine what is promising, what helps and why, what doesn’t work, and what is safe. Their website is an excellent resource:  It includes an extensive, A-Z compendium of research-based information on a multitude of health topics. (The A-Z list is a work in progress.)

Here’s what I recommend:  Always tell your conventional health-care provider(s) what complementary health practices and products you use. Use the NCCIH website as a reference.  If you want to try something new like acupuncture or hypnosis, frankly ask the therapist what experience and success she/he has with treating your specific concern.


Ann Yeo, R.N., M.S.N., Parish Nurse