Complementary and alternative medicine

What patients — and doctors — need to know about vitamins and supplements

Monique Tello, MD, MPH

Contributing Editor

While certain groups of people, and those who have certain conditions, can benefit from taking vitamins or supplements, most people will do better obtaining the nutrients they need from eating a health, balanced diet.

Acupuncture for headache

Although acupuncture has been practiced for centuries, many people are still skeptical of its effectiveness. But in the past decade or so, a significant amount of evidence has accumulated from high-quality studies showing that acupuncture provides genuine pain relief, and can help with other conditions as well.

Medical marijuana

Peter Grinspoon, MD

Contributing Editor

Medical marijuana is controversial, in part because many people aren’t aware of how and why it is used. Most commonly it is used to ease pain, and doctors need to be prepared for the questions their patients will have about it.

Fish oil capsules: Net benefits for the heart are limited

At one time there was hope that omega-3 supplements in the form of fish oil capsules might prevent heart disease, but 15 years of research has found this belief to be untrue, and taking fish oil could even be harmful to some people.

Yoga could slow the harmful effects of stress and inflammation

Marlynn Wei, MD, JD

Contributing Editor

Because stress and inflammation are so harmful, researchers have been studying how yoga might help ease them. If you’re looking to de-stress, this breathing exercise is simple and can be done anywhere.

3 things parents should know about complementary and alternative medicine

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Many treatments fall under the term “complementary and alternative medicine,” and many of those treatments are helpful. Yoga, meditation, and acupuncture are a few examples, but parents should be careful and consult their child’s doctor when using these approaches.

Yoga improves treatment-related symptoms in men with prostate cancer

Charlie Schmidt

Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Diseases

Men who participated in yoga classes twice a week while being treated for prostate cancer reported less fatigue and better urinary and erectile function, compared to other men in the study who did not do yoga.

Here’s something completely different for low back pain

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

With recently revised guidelines recommending that people with low back pain not take medication, it’s natural to wonder: what should I do, then? There are many options, among them heat, massage, yoga, and acupuncture.

You can do yoga: A simple 15-minute morning routine

Marlynn Wei, MD, JD

Contributing Editor

The benefits of yoga for the body and mind are well documented. If you have been thinking about trying yoga, this simple routine includes breathing techniques, movement, and beginners meditation and will help you start your day.

Acupuncture: A point in the right direction, or a stab in the dark?

Though some people surely benefit from acupuncture for the treatment of pain, its drawbacks (cost, length of treatment sessions, short duration of relief) mean that it may be a less effective choice than physical therapy or a medication.