Clinical Effectiveness of Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Systematic Review

Main Article Content

Thananan Rattanachotphanit
Bundit Udomphot
Parinya Mitarangkul
Kitiyawadee Doukprom
Sumon Sakolchai
Chulaporn Limwattananon


This study aimed to conduct a systematic review of the published literatures on the clinical effectiveness
of complementary and alternative medicine including acupuncture, aromatherapy, ayurveda, chiropractic,
electromagnetic field, homeopathic, massage therapy, naturopathy, osteopathy, qi gong, reiki, and therapeutic touch. Searches were conducted in Pubmed, Science-Direct and Google for systematic reviews, meta-analyses and randomized controlled trials published from January 1990 to September 2009. Thirty eight literatures were included after screening for inclusion and exclusion criteria. Nine systematic reviews showed the clinical effectiveness of five complementary and alternative medicine. Acupuncture treatment provided clinical effectiveness in patients with migraine, chronic knee pain, low back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and assisted reproductive treatment. Massage helped in promoting mother-infant interaction, sleep, reduced crying, and relaxation in infants under the age of six months. Naturopathic care provided improvement for patients with chronic low back pain. Osteopathic manipulative treatment significantly reduced low back pain. Therapeutic touch was effective in decreasing pain and fatigue in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Available studies suggested that evidence in support of other complementary and alternative medicine was insufficient. An update for clinical effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine should be continually conducted in order to be used for making decision as treatment option for patients willing to undergo the treatment.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

Pharmaceutical Practice


Agarwal V, Abhijnhan A, Raviraj P. Ayurvedic medicine for schizophrenia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2007; Oct 17; (4):CD00686.

Aghabati N, Mohammadi E, Esmaiel ZP. The Effect of Therapeutic Touch on Pain and Fatigue of Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy. eCAM 2008: 1-7.

Assendelft WJJ, Morton SC, Yu EI, Suttorp MJ,Shekelle PG. Spinal manipulative therapy forlow-back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev2008: CD000447.

Barnes PM, Powell-Griner E, McFann K, Nahin RL.Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults: United States, 2002. Adv Data2004; 343: 1-19.

Borkan J, Neher JO, Anson O, Smoker B. Referrals for alternative therapies. J Fam Pract 1994;39: 545-50.

Casimiro L, Barnsley L, Brosseau L, et al. Acupuncture and electro acupuncture for the treatmentof rheumatoid arthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2005; Oct 19; (4):CD003788.

Cheong YC, Hung Yu Ng E, Ledger WL. Acupuncture and assisted conception. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008; Oct 8;(4):CD006920.

Cheuk DKL, Wong V. Acupuncture for epilepsy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008; Oct8;(4):CD005062.

Coelho HF, Boddy K, Ernst E. Massage therapy for the treatment of depression. Int J Clin Pract2007; 62: 325-33.

Coelho HF, Boddy K, Ernst E. A systematic review of classical European massage for alleviating perinatal depression and anxiety. Focus Altern Complement Ther 2008; 13:150-6.

Cooke B and Ernst E. Aromatherapy. Br J Gen Pract2000; 50: 493-6.

Ernst E. Abdominal massage therapy for chronic constipation: A systematic review of controlled clinical trials. Research in Complementary Medicine 1999; 6:149-51.

Ernst E. A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy. J Clin Pharmacol 2002; 54:577-82.

Ernst E. Chiropractic Spinal Manipulation for Neck Pain.J Pain 2003; 8: 417-21.

Ernst E. Obstacles to research in complementary and alternative medicine. MJA 2003;179 (6):279-80.

Ernst E. Homeopathic Prophylaxis of Headaches and Migraine? A systematic review. J Pain Symptom Manage 1999; 18: 353-7.

Furlan AD, van Tulder MW, Cherkin D, et al. Acupuncture and dry-needling for low back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2005; Jan25;(1):CD001351.

Heirs M, Dean ME. Homeopathy for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or hyperkinetic disorder. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2007; Oct 17(4): CD005648:

Holt FE, Birks TPH, Thorgrimsen LM, Spector AE,WilesA, OrrellM. Aromatherapy for dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2003; Jul 21(3): CD003150.

Hulme J, Robinson V, DeBie R, Wells G, Judd M,Tugwell P. Electromagnetic fields for the treat-ment of osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2002; (1):CD003523.

Kassab S, Cummings M, Berkovitz S, van Haselen R, Fisher P. Homeopathic medicines for adverseeffects of cancer treatment. Cochrane Data-base Syst Rev 2009; Apr15;(2):CD004845.

Lee M, Chen K, Choi T, Ernst E. Qigong for type 2 diabetes care. Complement Ther Med 2009;17: 236-42.

Lee MS., Pittler MH., Ernst E. Effects of reiki in clinical practice: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Int J Clin Pract2008; 62 (6): 947-54.

Lee H, Ernstb E. Acupuncture analgesia during surgery: A systematic review. Pain 2005; 114:511-17.

Licciardone JC, Brimhall AK, King LN. Osteopathic manipulative treatment for low back pain. BMCMusculoskelet Disord 2005; 6 (43): 1-12.

Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, Manheimer E, VickersA, White AR. Acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev2009; Jan 21;(1):CD001218.

Long L and Ernst E. Homeopathic remedies for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Br Homeopath J2001; 90: 37-43.

McCarney RW, Linde K, Lasserson TJ. Homeopathy for chronic asthma. Cochrane Database SystRev 2007: CD000353.

Myeong SL, CHEN KW, SANCIER KM, ERNST E. Qigong for cancer treatment. Acta oncologica2007; 46: 717-22.

OûMathÚna DP, Ashford RL. Therapeutic touch for healing acute wounds. Cochrane Database SystRev 2009: CD002766.

Park J and Ernst E. Ayurvedic Medicine for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Semin Arthritis Rheum 2005; 34:705-13.

Roberts J, Huissoon A, Dretzke J, Wang D, Hyde C.A systematic review of the clinical effective-ness of acupuncture for allergic rhinitis. BMC Complement Altern Med 2008; 8 (13): 1-10.

So PS, Jiang Y, Qin Y. Touch therapies for pain relief in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008;Oct 8;(4):CD006535.

Stuber KJ and Smith DL. Chiropractic treatment of pregnancy-related low back pain. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2008; 31:447-54.

Szczurko O, Cooley K, Busse JW, et al. Naturopathic Care for Chronic Low Back Pain. PlosOne2007; 2(9):e919.

Underdown A, Barlow J, Chung V, Stewart-Brown S.Massage intervention for promoting mental andphysical health in infants aged under six months. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2006;Oct 18;(4):CD005038.

VanderVaart S, Gijsen V, deWildt SN, Koren G. Asystematic review of the therapeutic effects ofReiki on pediatric pain. Presented at the 7thInternational Forum on Pediatric Pain, White Point, Nova Scotia, Canada, October 2008.

White A, Foster NE, Cummings M, Barlas P. Acu-puncture treatment for chronic knee pain: A systematic review. Rheumatology (Oxford)2007; 46:384-90.

White AR, Rampes H, Campbell J. Acupuncture and related interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2009;CD000009.

Wu HM, Tang J, Lin X, et al. Acupuncture for stroke rehabilitation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008: CD004131.

Xie Y, Wang L, He J, Wu T. Acupuncture for dysphagia in acute stroke. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008; Jul 16;(3):CD006076