Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Complementary and Alternative Medicine?

Désirée A. Lie, MD, MSEd


March 20, 2015

CAM Confusion

Practitioners are often perplexed by questions from patients about the efficacy of nonpharmacologic agents, particularly herbal preparations and alternative therapies. A plethora of such agents and treatment modalities is available from health food stores, alternative practitioners, and the Web. And there is no single source like the Physician's Desk Reference to look up the most up-to-date information or evidence on every herb, botanical, or alternative treatment. Combine these two things with the fact that the Internet is rife with inaccurate sources of information, and confusion can result.

The role of clinicians is often to find and interpret the available evidence for patients and to help them weigh potential benefit from limited evidence against potential harm, which can be underreported.

Test your knowledge of some complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) modalities commonly sought out by patients, and update your knowledge of CAM with this quiz.

Just Can't Sleep

Mr Brown is a healthy 66-year-old widower who lives alone. He has had frequent nocturnal awakenings and daytime sleepiness over the past 6 months. This is limiting his enjoyment of outdoor exercise and social outings with friends.

He drinks wine on special occasions (about once a week) and no other alcohol. He does not smoke and denies substance use. He avoids caffeine after noon, walks daily, and reads before bedtime. He is on no medications and wishes to avoid them and their side effects.

Mr Brown's friends recommended that he consider acupuncture for his sleep problems. He has also heard of herbals, such as kava kava and valerian, for anxiety.

On history, physical examination, and further screening and testing, there is no sign of acute psychological distress or psychiatric morbidity, or substance or alcohol abuse. Sleep apnea and secondary insomnia associated with medical conditions were also ruled out.


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