There are five branches under the umbrella of complementary and alternative medicines: mind/body medicine, biologically based practices, energy medicine, manipulative and body-based practices, and whole medical systems.
Mind/body medicine seeks to balance the interactions between the mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social factors that can have an affect on health. In general, mind/body approaches are meant as tools to aid the individual in finding homeostasis so that the body can heal itself. Practices that fall into this category include yoga, hypnosis, qi-gong, biofeedback, meditation, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Mind/body medicines focus on harnessing the power of the mind to affect physical as well as emotional health.
Biologically Based Practices
Biologically based practices might best be described as the natural equivalent of conventional medication approaches. This category includes the use of botanicals, vitamins, minerals, diet, and dietary supplements as forms of treatment or complementary tools in integrative medicine. Whenever someone takes a multi-vitamin or consumes a food that has physiological benefits beyond simple nutrition, they are participating in a biologically based practice.
Energy medicines are based on the belief that illness is created by disturbances in the subtle energies within and surrounding the body. Acupuncture, magnetic therapy, therapeutic touch, and sound energy therapy are examples of energy medicine. These types of treatment seek to manipulate and balance the biofields which flow through every individual and determine the state of health.
Manipulative and Body-Based Practices
This group of treatments focuses on the structural aspects of health surrounding the bones, joints, soft tissues, circulatory and lymphatic systems. Each treatment within the manipulative and body-based category stimulates healing through manual adjustment of the body. Examples of this type of medicine include chiropractic manipulation, various massage therapies, craniosacral therapy, and reflexology.
Whole Medical Systems
Whole medical systems involve complete philosophical, theoretical, and technical approaches to medical care much in the way of conventional medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and Native American medical traditions fall under this category. They are whole and separate from conventional Western medicine, each with its own set of standards and practices.