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Cochrane Collaboration: Complementary Medicine Group

Systematic reviews on complementary, alternative, and integrative medicine therapies

“Healing Tools” summaries are a collection of evidence-based resources to help providers and patients use integrative health approaches to improve health and wellbeing.

This tool is for:

  • Providers
  • Patients and their family members may also find the reviews useful since public summaries are also available

This tool was created by:

  • Cochrane Collaboration: Complementary Medicine Group


What is this tool for?

About one-third of adults in the United States (33.2 percent) used some form of complementary and alternative medicine in 2012, according to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey.

Providers need the best available evidence about CAM and integrative medicine to:

  • Discuss CAM and integrative medicine approaches with their patients and
  • Help patients make informed decisions about the use of CAM along with their conventional medical care.

CAM and Integrative Medicine Reviews

The Cochrane Collaboration is the premier group reviewing healthcare data. The Complementary Medicine Group identifies existing Cochrane systematic reviews related to CAM and integrative medicine and helps produce more systematic reviews on CAM and integrative medicine therapies. Systematic reviews identify, appraise, and synthesize evidence needed to answer a specific research question. The Complementary Medicine Group also disseminates these reviews and promotes an evidence-based approach to CAM and integrative medicine.

Systematic Review Content and Format

Each systematic review has a concise summary, an abstract, and a link to the full review. There are 1,195 systematic reviews by type of therapy divided into five subtopics (as of February 2018):

  1. Alternative medical systems
  2. Energy therapies
  3. Manipulative and body-based methods
  4. Mind-body interventions
  5. Natural product based therapies

The “New/Updated” section features the latest reviews and updates to existing reviews.

Consumer Summaries

Cochrane Complementary Medicine also has some brief Consumer Summaries of Cochrane Reviews and Plain Language Summaries for patients and health care consumers.

How can providers use this tool?

Many CAM approaches are not covered in medical school resulting in a knowledge gap regarding CAM approaches. Providers can:

  • Review Cochrane Complementary Medicine systematic reviews when patients ask about CAM approaches
  • Refer patients to systematic reviews on the approaches they ask about
  • Discuss the safety, effectiveness and appropriateness of these approaches with patients, and whether they can be integrated into their treatment plan or should be avoided

How does this contribute to an integrative approach?

Combining conventional medicine, self-care, and complementary and alternative medicine can help patients achieve optimal healing and health and all these approaches need the best evidence available.


Providers can use Cochrane Complementary Medicine systematic reviews to help judge how to integrate CAM approaches into patient care and to quickly identify the evidence-base for specific CAM approaches.

Patients and family members

Patients and their family members can also use the systematic reviews to learn about the evidence for using CAM as part of their treatment when deciding if they should use them.

What does the evidence say about this tool?

Researchers conducting Cochrane systematic reviews base their findings on the results of studies that meet certain quality criteria and follow explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias. A review author team, led by one or more coordinating editors who are members of an editorial board, produces each review. Most reviews look at randomized controlled trials (RCT) only.

What are the drawbacks to using this tool?

Some systematic reviews may be outdated, since the reviewers who produce the reviews are all volunteers. Many CAM treatments are not reviewed or have no evidence. Usually, only RCTs are evaluated, leaving other data unexamined.

Who created this tool?

Cochrane Complementary Medicine is part of the Cochrane Collaboration, the leading resource for systematic reviews in health care. To provide authoritative and reliable information, Cochrane does not accept commercial or conflicted funding. 

Based at the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, Cochrane Complementary Medicine is one of the Cochrane thematic networks. An international group of collaborators work on the systematic reviews on CAM and integrative medicine.


For providers

Systematic reviews

For Patients and Family Members

Consumer Summaries

Plain Language Summaries

Learn more about evidence for CAM

NIH Literature Reviews

The National Institute of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has literature reviews, featuring scientific evidence on CAM approaches from the last five years.

The literature reviews are listed alphabetically by disease/condition and treatment. Most topics have links to PubMed for:

  • Systematic reviews/reviews/meta-analyses
  • Randomized controlled trials

A few topics also have links to literature in Pub Med on herb-drug interactions.  

CAM-Cancer Summaries

CAM-Cancer, a non-profit web resource for providers, offers evidence-based information about the effectiveness and safety of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in preventing and treating cancer.

Read more about CAM-Cancer in the Healing Tools Series: CAM-Cancer Summaries.


At Healing Works Foundation, we believe that achieving optimal health and wellbeing requires an integrative health approach—one that combines and coordinates conventional medicine, self-care, and complementary and alternative medicine.

Translating Evidence into Action

The goal of these summaries is to help providers and patients learn about and access evidence-based integrative health tools.


Healing Works Foundation is a nonprofit organization and does not profit from any of the tools featured in these summaries.

Patients: Contact your provider before starting any new health program.  Show him/her these resources.

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