Health Library

The Health Library is a collection of health and wellness resources created for learning and accessibility. Select a topic below for related health information or search for a topic in the search bar for more information on other medical conditions.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

  • Discusses complementary medicine of bodywork and manual therapy used for relaxation and pain relief. Includes massage, Alexander technique, Feldenkrais method, Trager approach, Rolfing, deep tissue massage, and dance. Covers safety.

  • Therapeutic touch is based on ancient healing practices. The goal of the technique is to help people relax, relieve their pain, and help them heal faster. Therapeutic touch is thought to promote healing through restoring harmony to a person's energy...

  • Provides links on yoga, massage therapy, and dietary supplements. Also links to information on naturopathic medicine. Interactive links include stress management, muscle relaxation, and deciding whether to use complementary medicine.

  • Learn about acupuncture and massage for low back pain.

  • Warfarin is a pill that you take regularly to help prevent blood clots or to keep a clot from getting bigger. Coumadin is the common brand name for warfarin. To ensure that warfarin is effectively thinning your blood, it's important to eat about the same amount of vitamin K every day. Vitamin K normally helps your...

  • Complementary medicine includes many treatments you can use along with standard medical treatment. A lot of people use some form of complementary medicine to treat osteoarthritis. Some of these treatments may help you move more easily and deal with the stress and pain of arthritis. But in some cases, not much is...

  • Osteopathic medicine emphasizes overall health and the relation among the body's nerves, muscles, bones, and organs. Osteopathic physicians (also called doctors of osteopathic medicine, or DOs) base diagnosis and treatment on the idea that the...

  • Discusses a traditional Chinese therapy that uses very thin needles placed in the skin to influence energy flow (called chi or qi). Explains its complementary medicine use for pain and conditions such as headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome. Covers safety issues.

  • Covers benefits and risks of complementary and alternative medicine. Provides links to various therapies, including homeopathy, yoga, acupuncture, and herbal supplements. Also includes links to tools to help you decide if complementary medicine is right for you.

  • Glucosamine and chondroitin are part of normal cartilage. Cartilage acts as a cushion between the bones in a joint. Glucosamine, also called chitosamine, is a natural substance that is found in the covering of shellfish. It is available in different...

  • Discusses biofeedback alternative therapy to control body functions such as skin temperature, muscle tension, heart rate, or blood pressure. Covers electromyography and peripheral temperature or hand temperature biofeedback. Discusses training and safety.

  • Massage is rubbing the soft tissues of the body, such as the muscles. Massage may be helpful in reducing tension and pain, improving blood flow, and encouraging relaxation. Massage therapists usually apply pressure with their hands, but they can...

  • What is arnica? Arnica, also called Arnica montana, is a plant that is native to the mountainous regions of Europe and southern Russia. The flowers and leaves of this plant have many traditional medicinal uses. Arnica is available as an ointment or gel and can be found in most health food stores. What...

  • Spinal manipulation, also called spinal adjustment, is a treatment that uses pressure on a joint of the spine. It is used to improve pain and function. Manipulation can be done with the hands or a special device. The careful, controlled force used...

  • Discusses system of medicine partly based on the idea that energy flows along pathways in the body called meridians. Covers acupuncture, acupressure, Chinese herbs, cupping, diet, and massage. Covers safety and side effects.

  • Magnetic field therapy uses magnets to maintain health and treat illness. The human body and the earth naturally produce electric and magnetic fields. Electromagnetic fields also can be technologically produced, such as radio and television waves....

  • Chiropractic is an approach to health care that uses spinal manipulation to relieve pain. It is most often used for back or neck pain. It is sometimes used for headaches or for pain in the arms or legs. Most doctors of chiropractic ( chiropractors) take a natural approach to promoting health through lifestyle...

  • Like other complementary medicine therapies, healing touch starts with the idea that people are naturally healthy. The way people live and think may disturb their natural energy, and they may become ill. The aim of healing touch is to focus (or...

  • Explains what dietary supplements are. Covers uses including preventing illness, reducing fever, curing infection, easing pain, or healing wounds. Covers safety issues like side effects and interaction with other medicines or supplements being taken.

  • Homeopathy, or homeopathic medicine, is a medical philosophy and practice based on the idea that the body has the ability to heal itself. Homeopathy was founded in the late 1700s in Germany and has been widely practiced throughout Europe....

  • Naturopathic medicine (or naturopathy) is based on the belief that the body can heal itself. It aims to improve health, prevent disease, and treat illness through the use of organic foods and exercise; a healthy, balanced lifestyle; and the use of...

  • Covers ayurveda (ayurvedic medicine) from India. Discusses good health and prevention of illness with practices like massage, meditation, yoga, diet, and use of herbal remedies. Looks at three body components (doshas) known as Vatta, Pitta, and Kapha.

  • Discusses aromatherapy (essential oils therapy) to treat disease. Includes oils that are put on the skin or in bath water, sprayed, inhaled, or massaged. Looks at uses to relax, relieve stress, and treat illness. Covers safety.

  • Hypnosis is a state of focused concentration during which a person becomes less aware of his or her surroundings. Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis to treat physical or psychological conditions. During a hypnotic state (trance), a person may be...

  • Riboflavin is vitamin B2. Vitamins are naturally occurring substances necessary for many processes in the body. Riboflavin is important in the maintenance of many tissues of the body. Riboflavin is used to treat or prevent deficiencies of riboflavin. Riboflavin may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication...

  • Psyllium is a bulk-forming fiber laxative that is used to treat occasional constipation or bowel irregularity. Psyllium may also help lower cholesterol when used together with a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Psyllium may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

  • Witch hazel is a plant also known as Avellano de Bruja, Café du Diable, Hamamelis, Hamamélis, Hamamélis de Virginie, Hamamelis virginiana, Hazel, Noisetier des Sorcières, Snapping Tobacco Wood, Spotted Elder, Virginian Witch Hazel, Winter Bloom, and other names. Witch hazel is a liquid distilled from dried leaves, bark...

  • Melatonin is a manmade form of a hormone produced in the brain that helps regulate your sleep and wake cycle. Melatonin has been used in alternative medicine as a likely effective aid in treating insomnia (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep). Melatonin is also likely effective in treating sleep disorders in people...

  • Red yeast rice is a product that is made by fermenting red rice with a certain type of yeast. Red yeast rice is also known as Cholestin, Hypocol, Xuezhikang, or Zhitai. Red yeast rice supplements are not the same as red yeast rice that is sold in Chinese grocery stores. Red yeast rice has been used in alternative...

  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is important in the maintenance of many tissues of the body. Riboflavin ophthalmic (for the eyes) is a "photosensitive" solution used during a procedure to treat progressive keratoconus in adults and adolescents who are at least 14 years old. Keratoconus (KER-a-toe-KOE-nus) is a...

  • Capsaicin (Zostrix), available without a prescription, is a pain reliever that comes in a cream that you apply directly to your skin (topical analgesic). It has been found to relieve joint pain from osteoarthritis in some people when rubbed into the...

  • Saw palmetto is a type of palm tree that grows in the southeastern United States. The berry of the saw palmetto plant contains a compound that may reduce the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is a noncancerous enlargement of the...

  • Ginkgo extract, from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree, has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine. It also is the most commonly used herbal medicine in Europe. Although the benefits of ginkgo are not entirely...

  • There is no cure for multiple sclerosis (MS). So far, the only treatments proved to affect the course of the disease are disease-modifying medicines, such as interferon beta. Other types of treatment should not replace these medicines if you are a candidate for treatment with them. Some people who have MS report...

  • What is melatonin? Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain. Melatonin helps control your sleep and wake cycles. Very small amounts of it are found in foods such as meats, grains, fruits, and vegetables. You can also buy it as a supplement. What does natural melatonin do in the body...

  • A balanced, nutritious diet during pregnancy is important to maintain your health and nourish your fetus. In general, pregnant women need to increase their daily caloric intake by 340 calories in the second trimester and 450 calories in the third trimester. Most women who are pregnant need 2,200 to 2,900 calories a...

  • Briefly discusses St. John's wort, an herbal dietary supplement used to treat mild to moderate depression. Covers possible side effects and safety issues.

  • Some diuretics can cause low levels of potassium. A delicate balance of potassium is needed to properly transmit electrical impulses in the heart. A low potassium level can disrupt the normal electrical impulses in the heart and lead to irregular...

  • For years, people have used cranberry juice to prevent and help cure urinary tract infections (UTIs). There is limited proof that this is worth trying. Pure cranberry juice, cranberry extract, or cranberry supplements may help prevent repeated UTIs...

  • As part of a healthy diet, eat at least two servings of fish each week. Oily fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, are best. These fish include salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines. Fish is an important part of a heart-healthy...

  • Coenzyme Q10 (known as CoQ10) is a compound that is made in the body. The body uses it for cell growth and to protect cells from damage (see Question 1). Clinical trials have been limited to small sizes. It is not clear if the benefits reported were from the CoQ10 therapy (see Question 4). CoQ10 may not mix safely with...

  • NOTE: The information in this summary is no longer being updated and is provided for reference purposes only. The Gerson therapy is a complex regimen that has been used to treat people with cancer and other diseases (see Question 1). The key parts of the Gerson therapy are a strict diet, dietary supplements, and enemas...

  • NOTE: The information in this summary is no longer being updated and is provided for reference purposes only. The Gonzalez regimen, developed by Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez, involves taking pancreatic enzymes thought to have anticancer activity. The regimen also includes prescribed diets, nutritional supplements, and coffee...

  • Acupuncture applies needles, heat, pressure, and other treatments to one or more places on the skin known as acupuncture points (see Question 1). Clinical trials report the use of acupuncture relieves nausea and vomiting from anticancer therapies (see Question 5). Other trials have studied the use of acupuncture in...

  • Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants (flowers, herbs, or trees) as therapy to improve physical, mental, and spiritual well-being (see Question 1). Aromatherapy may be used with other complementary treatments, such as massage or acupuncture, as well as with standard medical treatments to manage symptoms...

  • Milk thistle is a plant whose fruit and seeds are used for liver and bile duct disorders (see Question 1). Milk thistle is usually taken in capsules or tablets (see Question 2). Studies of milk thistle have been done in acute lymphoblastic leukemia, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and head and neck cancer (see Question...

  • Men in the United States get prostate cancer more than any other type of cancer except skin cancer. It occurs mainly in older men. In the United States, about 1 in every 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Most men with prostate cancer do not die of it. Complementary and alternative...

  • There are many studies being done to look at whether certain vitamin and mineral supplements and combinations of supplements may help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or delay vision loss in people who already have it. For example, the...

  • The tables below list the vitamins, what they do in the body (their functions), and their sources in food. Water-soluble vitamins Water-soluble vitamins travel freely through the body, and excess amounts usually are excreted by the kidneys. The body needs water-soluble vitamins in frequent, small doses. These...

  • The body needs many minerals; these are called essential minerals. Essential minerals are sometimes divided up into major minerals (macrominerals) and trace minerals (microminerals). These two groups of minerals are equally important, but trace minerals are needed in smaller amounts than major minerals. The amounts...

  • A shoulder and neck massage can help you relax, reduce muscle tension, and reduce stress. You will need a friend to exchange massages. Use these steps to give your friend a shoulder and neck massage. Have your friend sit straight but comfortably in a chair. Place your hands on your friend's shoulders...

  • Tea tree oil can kill bacteria and fungi. It comes from the evergreen leaves of the Australian Melaleuca alternifolia tree. Tea tree oil has been used as complementary therapy in surgery, burn care, and dental care. Numerous tea tree oil body care...

  • Briefly discusses kava (also known as kava kava), a dietary supplement used to relieve anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and stress-related symptoms. Covers safety issues and side effects, including liver damage in some when used for long periods.

  • What is music therapy? Music therapy is the use of music to gain physical and emotional healing and wellness. A trained and certified music therapist can provide music therapy. Therapy sessions can involve listening to music, music-making, or both. Research is beginning to reveal how music works to heal the body and...

  • Ginger may relieve nausea and morning sickness after a few days of treatment. There are several ways you can use ginger to relieve your symptoms. Try: Ground ginger in a capsule, taken several times a day. Buy ginger capsules that are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are not mixed with...

  • Studies suggest that taking vitamin B6 for morning sickness greatly improves nausea, though not vomiting, for many pregnant women. There has been no sign of harm to the fetus with vitamin B6 use. A typical dose of vitamin B6 for morning sickness is 10 mg to 25 mg, 3 times a day. Talk to your health professional...

  • Acupressure may help relieve or shorten the duration of your morning sickness symptoms. Acupressure is based on Eastern medicine practices used to open up blocked energy pathways in the body. Instead of using acupuncture needles, you or a practitioner presses on a small area of the body to treat a given ailment...

  • Soy is high in isoflavones. Isoflavones are a type of phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogens are chemicals found in plants that work like estrogens. Soy products may improve menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes. This is based on mixed evidence. So far, studies have used many different soy sources and different...

  • Black cohosh, also known as black snakeroot or bugbane, is a medicinal root. It is used to treat women's hormone-related symptoms, including premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menstrual cramps, and menopausal symptoms. Studies on black cohosh have had mixed results. Some studies have shown that black cohosh can relieve...

  • Wild yam and progesterone creams are available without a prescription and are marketed for relieving perimenopausal symptoms. Wild yam. Although wild yam cream is marketed as a source of natural progesterone, it does not contain progesterone, and the body cannot convert it into progesterone...

  • Boric acid is a white, crystalline chemical substance that has antifungal and antiviral properties. It is used in various prescription pharmaceutical products and is also available without a prescription. Some experts now recommend vaginal boric acid capsules as a treatment option for vaginal yeast infections...

  • Probiotics are bacteria that help keep the natural balance of organisms (microflora) in the intestines. The normal human digestive tract contains about 400 types of probiotic bacteria that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy...

  • Hydrotherapy is the use of water to treat a disease or to maintain health. The theory behind it is that water has many properties that give it the ability to heal: Water can store and carry heat and energy. Water can dissolve other substances, such...

  • Guides you through decision to have spinal manipulation. Describes treatment and how well it works for low back pain. Lists benefits and risks of both spinal manipulation and home treatment. Includes interactive tool to help you make your decision.

  • Not all forms of cancer or cancer treatment cause pain. If pain occurs, many treatments are available to relieve it. If your doctor has given you instructions or medicines to treat pain, be sure to follow them. Home treatment may help to reduce pain and improve your physical and mental well-being. Be sure to discuss...

  • Discusses sleep problems caused by cancer or side effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Offers tips like get daily exercise and use a sleep mask and earplugs to improve sleep. Warns to check with your doctor before taking sleep medicine.

  • Many medicines may impair kidney function and cause kidney damage. And if your kidneys aren't working well, medicines can build up in your body. If you have chronic kidney disease, your doctor may advise you to continue to take a medicine but may change how much you take. Or you may change to a different medicine. Don't...

  • Guides through decision to use complementary medicine. Explains what complementary medicine is. Lists reasons for and against. Also covers benefits and risks. Includes interactive tool to help you make your decision.

  • SAM-e is short for S-adenosylmethionine, a substance that occurs naturally in the cells of plants, animals, and humans. SAM-e is not an herb. Because the body produces less SAM-e with age, some people think that SAM-e may be a helpful supplement for...

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are found in marine or plant sources, such as fish oil and flaxseed oil. A few studies suggest that adding omega-3 fatty acids to medicine (such as lithium) can help reduce the depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder in some people. Omega-3 fatty acids don't seem to have an effect on the manic...

  • What is reiki? Reiki means "universal life energy" and is an ancient healing method that manipulates energy flow in the body. Reiki practitioners believe there is an energy force in and around the body. They believe that there is a flow of energy between the reiki practitioner and the receiver of the treatment. It is...

  • Discusses taking calcium and vitamin D to prevent or treat osteoporosis. Includes info on how much calcium you need based on your age or life stage. Offers list of calcium-rich foods and calcium supplements.

  • A vitamin and mineral supplement provides a variety of nutrients that are also found in food. These supplements are often called multivitamins. They come in the form of pills, chewable tablets, powders, and liquids. A standard multivitamin usually...

  • What is folic acid? Folic acid is one of the B vitamins your body needs for good health. The vitamin is also called folate. Folate is the natural form of this vitamin. It's found in leafy green vegetables, oranges, nuts, and beans. Folic acid is the man-made form. It's put into vitamin pills...

  • Milk thistle is a plant that contains silymarin, a substance that improves liver function. Originally from Europe, milk thistle now also grows in the United States. You can take milk thistle in capsules or as a tincture (combined with alcohol). It...

  • Discusses use of dietary supplement beta-sitosterol to lower cholesterol levels, reduce risk of colon cancer, and relieve symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Looks at safety of beta-sitosterol. Includes possible side effects.

  • Herbal supplements that may be used to relieve symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) include beta-sitosterol, cernilton , Pygeum africanum, and saw palmetto. In general, the trials using these substances have been short, and self-reported improvement scores can be biased. Different preparations are available...

  • What is rye grass pollen extract? Rye grass pollen extract comes from the pollen of rye grass ( Secale cereale). Rye grass pollen extract may affect the male hormone testosterone, relax the muscles of the tube through which urine flows ( urethra), and improve how well the bladder can force urine out. All of these may...

  • Discusses Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), also known as Q10, vitamin Q10, or ubiquinone. Looks at use to treat heart failure, cancer, muscular dystrophy, and periodontal disease. Covers safety and side effects of dietary supplements.

  • Looks at chamomile, an herb used as an alternative medicine treatment for upset stomach, sleep problems, or skin problems. Covers German (Matricaria retutica) and Roman (or English) chamomile. Looks at safety and side effects.

  • Looks at chamomile, an herb used as an alternative medicine treatment for upset stomach, sleep problems, or skin problems. Covers German (Matricaria retutica) and Roman (or English) chamomile. Looks at safety and side effects.

  • Manual therapy includes: Massage, which applies pressure to the soft tissues of the body, such as the muscles. Mobilization, which uses slow, measured movements to twist, pull, or push bones and joints. Manipulation, which uses pressure on a joint. It can be done with the hands or a special device. The careful...

  • Valerian is an herb that people have used for centuries for anxiety and as a sleep aid. It is also used to ease menstrual and stomach cramps. It comes from the root of the valerian plant, found in areas of North America, Europe, and Asia. Of the...

  • Discusses mineral our bodies use for normal body functions like digesting food. Looks at how chromium helps move blood sugar and is used to treat problems like diabetes. Covers safe levels of chromium and possible side effects of dietary supplements.

  • Covers capsaicin found in some hot peppers. Looks at its use as dietary supplement to improve digestion and fight infection, topical skin products to relieve headaches and joint pain, and skin patch for postherpetic neuralgia. Covers safety, side effects.

  • People often use the terms complementary medicine and alternative medicine in place of each other. But there is a difference. Understanding the difference will help you to become more informed about this type of medicine. Complementary medicine is a nonstandard treatment or medicine that is used together...

  • Why is it important to get enough calcium and vitamin D? Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Calcium keeps your bones and muscles—including your heart—healthy and strong. People who do not get enough calcium and vitamin D throughout life have an increased chance of having thin and brittle bones (...

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