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According to the NCCAM, biologically based CAM practices include the use of herbal medicines (also known as botanicals), vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, whole diets, functional foods, and other "natural products." Many are sold over the counter as dietary supplements. Some uses of dietary supplements—e.g., taking a multivitamin to meet minimum daily nutritional requirements are not thought of as CAM.
CAM "natural products" also include probiotics—live microorganisms (usually bacteria) that are similar to microorganisms normally found in the human digestive tract and that may have beneficial effects. Probiotics are available in foods (e.g., yogurts) or as dietary supplements.
Historical note: Herbal or botanical medicines reflect some of the first attempts to improve the human condition. The personal effects of the mummified prehistoric "ice man" found in the Italian Alps included medicinal herbs. By the Middle Ages, thousands of botanical products had been inventoried for their medicinal effects.
Current use: Interest in and use of CAM natural products have grown considerably in the past few decades. The 2007 NHIS found that 17.7 percent of American adults had used a nonvitamin/nonmineral natural product. These products were the most popular form of CAM among both adults and children. The most commonly used product among adults was fish oil/omega 3s. Popular products for children included echinacea and fish oil/omega 3s.
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