Skip to Main Content

Complementary & Alternative Medicine

Guide to locating research evidence for complementary and alternative therapies.


Tips for Using CINAHL for CAM Research

CINAHL Subject Headings

Read scope notes for various complementary/alternative therapies listed under the CINAHL Subject:  "Alternative Therapies."

If you "explode" (+) a subject heading, you include all the narrower subject headings under that term. So searching: MH "Alternative Therapies+" as exact subject heading (MH) retrieves records tagged with any subject heading for alternative therapies (e.g., MH "Mind Body Techniques" OR MH "Medicine, Herbal" OR MH "Aromatherapy" OR ...). 

Here's a sample search strategy for records describing articles about depression and alternative therapies: 

(MH "Alternative Therapies+") AND (MH "Depression+")

This search yields records for articles covering the topic alternative/complementary therapies AND records tagged for all types of depression

CINAHL Journal Subset: Alternative/Complementary Therapies

In CINAHL's Search Options, you can limit your results to only see records from journals that have been tagged by CINAHL as relating to CAM disciplines. 

For a list of journals that are included in the Alternative/Complementary Therapies subset, visit this EBSCO help page.

Directions for Limiting to a Journal Subset in CINAHL:
  1. Run a search for your topic of interest (perhaps the population or problem you are interested in)
  2. Navigate to the filters on the left side of the page ("Refine Results")
  3. Under 'Limit to" select "Show More"
  4. In the Search Options box, scroll to "Journal Subset"
  5. Select "Alternative/Complementary Therapies"
  6. Click 'Search' to apply the filter

Silent 20 second video clip illustrating the steps for filtering to the Alternative/Complementary Therapies journal subset in CINAHL. 


Tips for Using PubMed to Find CAM Research

MeSH Terms

The is a Medical Subject Heading (MeSH term) for CAM therapies is "Complementary Therapies", and there are many more specific therapies named under that term in the hierarchy of the MeSH thesaurus (see the MeSH thesaurus entry).  Read the scope notes for those therapies to determine the best subject to use in your search, or search "Complementary Therapies"[MeSH] to include all those terms in the search.  

Here is an example of a search query that looks for records that are tagged with a MeSH heading describing a CAM therapy and a MeSH heading describing a depressive disorder:

"Complementary Therapies"[Mesh] AND "Depressive Disorder"[Mesh]

Complementary Medicine Filter

Additionally, there is a complementary medicine 'hedge' or 'filter' you can use in your PubMed search.  

The strategy was created using terms from the Complementary Therapies branch of MeSH, as well as additional terms and names of MEDLINE journals provided by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), NIH. It is provided to facilitate searching for subjects in the area of complementary and alternative medicine.  This search filter has not been updated since 2019, but can be accessed at PubMed Special Queries.

Additional Databases

Reference Resources