National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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Now called The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, abbreviated to - NCCIH, previously was called the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, with the abbreviation ' NCCAM, and prior to that the Office of Alternative Medicine, (OAM), is a USA government agency which has a goal to investigate complementary and alternative medicine, by making use of rigorous scientific methods, training complementary and alternative medicine researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and to professionals.

NCCAM is one of a number of institutions and centers that make up the National Institutes of Health (NIH) within the Department of Health and Human Services of the federal government of the United States. The NIH is one of eight agencies under the Public Health Service (PHS) in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).


They have four primary areas of focus are research, research training and career development, outreach, and integration. NCCAM divides alternative medicine into five forms:

Whole medical systems such as Homeopathy, Naturopathy, traditional Chinese Medicine, (including Chinese Herbs) and Ayurvedic.

Mind and body medicine such as Meditation, prayer/Christian Faith Healing, mental healing, art therapy, Music Therapy, and dance therapy.

Biologically based practices such as dietary supplements, herbal supplements, and scientifically unproven therapies such as shark cartilage.

Manipulative and body-based practices such as spinal manipulation (both chiropractic and osteopathic) and massage.

Energy therapies such as qigong, Reiki, therapeutic touch, and electromagnetic therapy.


Starting Up

This organisation was established during October of 1991, it was re-established as NCCAM in October of 1998.

Their mission statement declares that it is "dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science; training complementary and alternative medicine researchers; and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals."

Joseph M. Jacobs was the first director to be appointed. Initially, his insistence on the rigorous scientific methodology caused friction with the office's patrons, such as U.S. Senator Tom Harkin.

Harkin criticised the "unbendable rules of randomized clinical trials" and, citing his use of bee pollen to treat his allergies, stating: "It is not necessary for the scientific community to understand the process before the American public can benefit from these therapies."

Harkin's office reportedly pressured the OAM to fund studies of, what was referred to as, - "pet theories," including bee pollen and antineoplastons. In the face of increasing resistance to the use of scientific methodology in the study of Alternative Medicine, one of the OAM board members, Barrie Cassileth, publicly criticised the office, claiming;- "The degree to which nonsense has trickled down to every aspect of this office is astonishing ... It's the only place where opinions are counted as equal to data."

Mid 90s

Harkin appeared on television with cancer patients who were blaming Jacobs for blocking their access to antineoplastons, leading Jacobs to resign from the OAM in frustration with the political climate. In an interview with "Science", Jacobs "blasted politicians - especially Senator Harkin... for pressuring his office, promoting certain therapies, and, he claims, attempting an end run around objective science."

With the OAM's increasing budget in the 1990s, the office drew increasing criticism for its perceived lack of rigorous scientific study of alternative approaches in favor of uncritical boosterism. Paul Berg, a Nobel laureate in chemistry, wrote to the Senate that "Quackery will always prey on the gullible and uninformed, but we should not provide it with cover from the NIH." Allen Bromley, then-president of the American Physical Society, similarly wrote to Congress that the OAM had "emerged as an undiscriminating advocate of unconventional medicine. It has bestowed the considerable prestige of the NIH on a variety of highly dubious practices, some of which clearly violate basic laws of physics and more clearly resemble witchcraft." One opinion writer in the New York Times described the OAM as "Tom Harkin's folly".

Late 90s

Ultimately, in 1998, the Office of Alternative Medicine was elevated to the status of an NIH Center and renamed the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). With the increasing profile and budget of the Center, Stephen Straus, a former laboratory chief at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, was brought in to head NCCAM with a mandate to promote a more rigorous and scientific approach to the study of Alternative Medicine.

To the 2000s

On January 24, 2008, Josephine P. Briggs, MD, was named director of NCCAM.

On December 17, 2014, the agency announced the name change to "National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health" (NCCIH).

External Links Website

NCCIH Facebook page

Essay by Wallace I. Sampson, M.D. Stating that Complementary and Alternative Medicine Should Be Defunded