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Be an Informed Consumer

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Decisions about your health care are important—including decisions about whether or not to use complementary health approaches. Complementary health approaches include natural products and mind and body practices. 

  • Natural products include herbs (also known as botanicals), vitamins and minerals, and probiotics. Natural products are widely marketed, readily available to consumers, and often sold as dietary supplements. 
  • Mind and body practices include a large and diverse group of procedures or techniques that are administered or taught by a trained practitioner or teacher. Examples are yoga, meditation, and acupuncture. 

Some complementary approaches may not neatly fit into either of the two groups above—for example, the practices of traditional healers, Ayurvedic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, and functional medicine. 

When considering complementary health approaches, it’s important to take charge of your health by being an informed consumer. Find out and consider what scientific studies have been done on the safety and effectiveness of the product or practice that interests you. (For more information on specific complementary health approaches and what the science says about them, the “Health Information” page has an A-Z list of various complementary health products and practices.) Discuss the information with your health care provider before making a decision. 

When looking for a complementary health practitioner, consider asking your health care provider, a local hospital, or a professional organization. The MedlinePlus Directories page from the National Library of Medicine lists organizations for some professions and provides links to directories of libraries and various types of health professionals, services, and facilities, which might be helpful. (The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health does not make referrals to practitioners and does not provide complementary health care or treatments.) 

For additional tips on finding a complementary health practitioner, see “6 Things To Know When Selecting a Complementary Health Practitioner.

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.

NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.

Last Updated: February 2020