Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

CAMbrella – A pan-European research network for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

Article Category

Article available in the following languages:

Alternative medicine in Europe

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is popular in Europe, but difficult to study. An EU-project worked to peel back the uncertainties.

Health icon Health

In general, Europeans are quite accepting of CAM. Use of these services has increased exponentially in recent decades. However, Europeans want reliable and trustworthy information. They also want transparent regulation regarding CAM and the training of CAM practitioners. Beyond this, it is difficult to work out what Europeans think about CAM. The subject is difficult to study because of the great diversity of definitions and laws across Europe. Each of the 39 countries studied regulates CAM separately. Trying to determine the status of CAM use in Europe was the goal of the EU-funded project 'A pan-European research network for complementary and alternative medicine' (CAMBRELLA). Consortium members aimed to study CAM use in Europe and to develop a plan for CAM research. More specific objectives included: developing a common terminology, understanding patient demand for CAM and its prevalence, reviewing CAM's legal status and policies surrounding its provision, and establishing what Europeans think about CAM. CAMBRELLA also endeavoured to establish a research network and plans for ongoing CAM research. CAMBRELLA succeeded in answering many of these questions, but the answers indicate a need for further research. For example, a literature review revealed CAM prevalence rates of between 0.3 and 86 %, a range too broad to be meaningful. Some European countries have reliable data, but the majority of others have none. The information that does exist suggests herbal medicine was the most reportedly used product, and musculoskeletal conditions the most common ailment. Similarly, CAMBRELLA found inconsistencies in the delivery of CAM services in Europe. Medical and non-medical providers alike offer the services, while regulation and training requirements differ hugely between countries or even regions. Europe has a long way to go before these services can even be discussed in common terms. CAMBRELLA raised more questions than it answered, though that is beneficial for defining the future research agenda. From this standard baselines can be advanced for the regulation of CAM provision and training, and clear research outcomes can be realised.

Discover other articles in the same domain of application