National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)

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Time to Talk

Tell Your Health Care Provider About Your Use of Complementary Health Practices

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Did you know that nearly 40 percent of Americans age 18 or older reported using some form of complementary health practice? People age 50 to 59 were among the most likely to report use. According to a 2010 survey* of people age 50 or older, 58 percent of those who reported using complementary health practices said that they had discussed them with a health care provider.

* 2010 survey by AARP and NCCIH (which, at the time, was known as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or NCCAM)


What are complementary health practices?

Complementary health practices are a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products whose origins come from outside of mainstream medicine. They include such products and practices as herbal supplements, meditation, chiropractic manipulation, and acupuncture.


Why tell your health care providers?

  • Giving your health care providers a full picture of what you do to manage your health helps you stay in control.
  • Some complementary health practices can have an effect on conventional medicine. Talking to your health care providers will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
  • Talking to your providers helps them to be fully informed and your partners in health care.


Tips for talking to your health care providers

  • When completing patient history forms, be sure to include all therapies and treatments you use. Make a list in advance.
  • Tell your health care providers about all therapies or treatments—including over-the-counter and prescription medicines, as well as dietary and herbal supplements.
  • Don’t wait for your providers to ask. Be proactive.
  • If you are considering a new complementary health practice, ask your health care providers about its safety, effectiveness, and possible interactions with medications (both prescription and nonprescription).


Resources from the National Institutes of Health

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health:
Toll-free clearinghouse: 1-888-644-6226

Medline Plus:

NIH Office of Dietary Supplements:

NCI Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine:


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 primary health care provider. 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.

* Note: PDF files require a viewer such as the free Adobe Reader.

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