National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)
NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health

Información en Español

Health Topics A-Z

How To Find Information About Complementary Health Approaches on PubMed

Share:
email
Twitter
Facebook
AddThis

Curious about whether a dietary supplement like St. John’s wort or echinacea, or a complementary health approach such as yoga or acupuncture, may be safe and effective for a particular health condition? You can find evidence-based information on the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s (NCCIH) Web site at nccih.nih.gov. Or, if you’d like to look for individual scientific studies on certain complementary approaches, you can search PubMed®. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) maintains PubMed, a database that gives access to and identifies millions of published studies. PubMed often is used by researchers and health care providers, but it’s available for anyone who wants science-based information on various health practices or products. With an Internet connection, this wealth of medical knowledge is at your fingertips.

To help you find what you’re looking for on PubMed, follow the instructions below.

Start Your Search

  1. Once you decide on the topic of your search, go to PubMed (type www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed in the address bar). You’ll see:
     
    Screen shot of the PubMed home page.
     
  2. Enter your topic in the search bar. Perhaps you have symptoms of the common cold and a friend has suggested you take a dietary supplement called echinacea. After looking at NCCIH’s information on this, you decide you want to do additional research on echinacea by reading studies about it. First, enter the word “echinacea” into the blank bar at the top of the screen. You’ll see a drop-down menu that offers suggestions on topics related to echinacea.
     
    Screen shot of the PubMed home page with the word echinacea in the search bar and a drop-down menu that offers suggestions on topics related to echinacea.
     
  3. If you don’t see the topic you’re interested in, you can add the specific words in the search bar. Maybe you want to find out if the product is safe, but you don’t see the words “safe” or “safety” in the drop-down list. Add “safety” in the search bar and click “Search.” This gives you a list of published articles that discuss “echinacea” and “safety.”
     
    Screen shot of the PubMed home page with echinacea safety in the search bar and a list of links to three published articles on echinacea safety below the search bar.
     
  4. If you click on the title of an article, you’ll usually see an abstract (a summary of the article). If you want to read the full article, you may need to pay for it. However, some listings have the words “Free PMC Article.” Click on this to read the full article at no cost.
     
    Screen shot of an abstract from a journal article about echinacea from the PubMed Web site . The words Free PMC Article are circled with an arrow pointing to it.
     

Change Your Search

If you want to find out if echinacea can ease common cold symptoms, delete the word “safety” in the search bar, and you’ll see the drop-down menu again. You may decide that the selection “echinacea common cold” will have that information. Click on that option and PubMed will take you to a list of published studies that discuss this topic.

Screen shot of a page of the PubMed Web site with echinacea common cold in the search bar. A list of links to three published articles on the subject are below the search bar.
 

Narrow Your Search

You can use filters to narrow your search even more. On the left side of the screen is a list of filters that help you find specific types of articles. For example, do you want to see only studies that have been done in people? If so, click on “Clinical Trial” (you can also click on “Humans” under the heading “Species”).

Screen shot of a page from the PubMed Web site with a list of filters on the left side of the screen. Filters include Article types, Text availability, Publication dates, and Species. Clinical Trials is checked and circled under Article types.
 

Perhaps you want to see articles that look at results from several studies. Click “More” under article types, and check the boxes next to “Review” or “Systematic Reviews” (you also can click on “Meta-Analysis,” a special type of review article).  

Screen shot of a page from the PubMed Web site showing a drop down menu of Article Types with the words Review and Systematic Reviews checked. Both words are circled.
 

If you want to see full articles on clinical trials available to anyone without having to pay a fee, click on “Free full text.”

Screen shot of a page from the PubMed Web site showing the heading Text Availability with the word Free Full Text checked and circled under it.
 

You also can look for articles that were published within a certain time range, such as within the past 5 years or the past 10 years, or studies that were published in a specific time range, such as from January 1, 2006, through December 31, 2009.

Screen shot of a page from the PubMed Web site showing the heading Publication Dates with the Custom Date Range filter chosen and a pop up box where users can enter specific time ranges to search.
 

Search for Studies Funded by NCCIH

If you’re interested in searching for studies that were funded by NCCIH:

  1. Enter the term “nccih[gr]” into the search box. The “[gr]” is a search field tag that searches specifically for a grant number. You can add this term in front of an existing search, such as “low-back pain,” to narrow your search to articles on NCCIH-funded research.
     
    PubMed search box with nccih[gr] typed into the box.
     
  2. Add the topic of your search to the search box.
     
    PubMed search box with nccih[gr] low-back pain typed into the box.
     
  3. Click “Search.” Your results will appear beneath the search box.
     
    A page from the PubMed Web site showing the results from a search of nccih[gr]. Two of the 147 links to articles resulting from the search are shown.
     

If You Get Stuck

If you need additional information to help you search PubMed effectively, NLM has a variety of online resources—from simple tips to more advanced information. Here are links to key topics:

You can also call or e-mail the NCCIH Clearinghouse to help you find information on PubMed on the specific complementary health topic you’re researching.

For More Information

NCCIH Clearinghouse

The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

Toll-free in the U.S.: 
1-888-644-6226
TTY (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers): 
1-866-464-3615
Last Updated: 
May 2017

This page last modified September 24, 2017