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Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

Databases for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (journal articles)

Here are a list of databases to help you find articles on CAM.  For a sample search for many of these databases, see Case Study Example section.

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Widely recognized as the premier source for bibliographic and abstract coverage of biomedical literature, PubMed provides access to bibliographic citations from biomedical journal articles, including MEDLINE, back to the 1940's, and to additional life sciences journals. Subjects covered include all aspects of clinical medicine, basic biomedical sciences as well as nursing, dentistry and clinical psychology. PubMed provides several useful options available under the Limits link.
Filter (Limit) to Article Type
All citations in PubMed are for journal articles. However, you may limit your retrieval based on the type of material the article represents. Use the sidebar filters to restrict your results to a specific Article Type. For example, filter to Randomized Controlled Trial or Clinical Trial or Meta-Analysis.

To add additional filter categories to the sidebar, click the "Choose additional filters" link, select the additional categories, and then click apply.
Filter (Limit) To a Subject
The Subject under the sidebar filter in PubMed entitled Complementary Medicine restricts retrieval to the area of complementary and alternative medicine. Developed jointly by NCCAM and the National Library of Medicine, it offers citations to and links to full-text articles on CAM in scientifically based, peer-reviewed journals. Search strategy used to create CAM on PubMed:   html

To select the Complementary Medicine subject, click on Choose Additional Filters, select Complementary Medicine under Subjects,  click Apply, and then select Complementary Medicine on the sidebar.

Another Subject, Dietary Supplements, was developed jointly by the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) and the National Library of Medicine.  This database succeeds the ODS database entitled International Bibliographic Information on Dietary Supplements.  Search strategy used to create Dietary Supplements on PubMed:
Search PubMed Clinical Queries

Clinical Queries uses filters to limit retrieval to systematic reviews or research-based citations on clinical topics. The Clinical Queries link is found on the PubMed home page. Enter your search terms and evidence-filtered citations will appear under Clinical Study Categories or Systematic Reviews.

Clinical Study Categories
This specialized search query with built-in research methodology search filters is intended for clinicians. Five study categories or filters are provided: etiology, diagnosis, therapy, prognosis, and clinical prediction guides. Two emphasis categories or filters are provided: broad, sensitive search (includes relevant articles but probably some less relevant) and narrow, specific search (more precise articles, with less retrieval). 
NOTE: We strongly suggest changing to Narrow scope rather than Broad.

Systematic Reviews
This feature is provided to help clinicians locate systematic reviews and similar articles. It combines your search term(s) with citations identified as systematic reviews, meta-analyses, reviews of clinical trials, evidence-based medicine, consensus development conferences, and guidelines.The resulting retrieval in PubMed Clinical Queries can be further refined using PubMed's filters, eg, English language, humans.


CINAHL Complete   (Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature)

Indexes journals and publications related to nursing, physical therapy, health education, social service/healthcare, occupational therapy, and related disciplines, with online abstracts for more than 800 of these titles. Full text coverage from 1995 to the present is available for selected journals.

Sample search strategy for articles on arthritis and alternative therapies:  MH Alternative Therapies+ AND MH Arthritis+ yields articles covering the topic alternative/complementary therapies AND articles tagged for all types of arthritis.

In CINAHL Plus, you can search for your topic and then limit to Research Article. Other limits you may want to try: Evidence-Based Practice; specific research designs in the Publication Type menu such as Clinical Trial or Systematic Review or Research; Alternative/Complementary Therapies in the Journal Subset; or any of the choices under Clinical Queries limits.
Limit to Research Article
Select Research Article in the options below the search boxes to retrieve all types of research articles.
Limit by Publication Type
Select specific research designs in the Publication Type menu such as Clinical Trial or Systematic Review or Research.
Limit by Clinical Query
Select specific query type (therapy, prognosis, review, qualitative, causation) and focus (high sensitivity, high specificity, best balance).
Limit by Journal Subset:  ex. Alternative/Complementary Therapies
Limit by Evidence-Based Practice
The Evidence-based practice limit is applied to articles from evidence based practice journals (including Cochrane), as well as articles about evidence based practice, research articles (including systematic reviews, clinical trials, meta-analyses, qualitative studies), commentaries on research studies (applying practice to research), case studies if they meet the criteria of the use of research and/or evidence based practice terms.



A biomedical and pharmacological database indexing 7,500 journals from over 70 countries as well as conference abstracts.
Use Key Terms and Subject Headings
Combine your topic with any or all of the following search terms:
'clinical trial'/exp
'controlled study'/exp
'controlled clinical trial'
'randomized controlled trial'
'alternative medicine'/exp


The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews  (CDSR)

The CDSR is a full-text database containing systematic reviews and protocols (reviews still in progress) of the effects of health care interventions; mainly randomized controlled trials. CDSR is generally considered the "Gold Standard" for high quality, systematic reviews.

A Systematic Review is a literature review focused on a single question which tries to identify, appraise, select and synthesize all high quality research evidence relevant to that question. Systematic reviews use explicit methods to identify, select, and critically evaluate relevant research.

Meta-analyses are systematic reviews that combine the results of several studies using quantitative statistics.


Natural Medicines

Provides evidence-based information about complementary and alternative therapies. Covers herbs & supplements, conditions,and complementary practices. Information is incorporated into comprehensive monographs which are designed to facilitate clinical decision making. All monographs undergo blinded editorial and peer review prior to inclusion. Levels of scientific evidence scales are used to evaluate the quality of available evidence. Formerly was two products: Natural Standard, and Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.


Micromedex via DynaMedex 

Comprehensive source of referenced, scientifically sound information about conventional medications as well as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies and practices.  Information can be found on herbals, vitamins, minerals, other dietary supplements, Chinese medicine, and more. It also includes data on dosing, pharmacokinetics, and clinical applications.



Provides the evidence to help clinicians make patient care decisions. Updated daily and covers over 3,200 topics.



Electronic herbal database providing access to the scientific data underlying the use of herbs for health. It is an impartial, evidence-based information resource provided by the nonprofit American Botanical Council.

Check Availability of Journals

  • In PubMed, look for the UW Article Online logo or Check for Full Text in the Abstract Display.
  • In CINAHL Plus, look for the Check for Full Text logo or PDF Full Text.
  • In EMBASE, look for Check for Full Text.
  • For eJournals, check the front page of the HSL Website.
  • For print journals, check the UW Libraries Search (Catalog).