The Medical Library Association Guide to Finding out about Complementary and Alternative Medicine: The Best Print and Electronic Resources

Jitka Hurych (Northern Illinois University, USA)

Collection Building

ISSN: 0160-4953

Article publication date: 11 October 2011




Hurych, J. (2011), "The Medical Library Association Guide to Finding out about Complementary and Alternative Medicine: The Best Print and Electronic Resources", Collection Building, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 185-185.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

A decade ago Stephen Strauss, Director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) of the National Institute of Health, proclaimed that “the complementary and alternative medicine of today will be the conventional medicine of tomorrow” (A.M. Rees, The Complementary and Alternative Medicine Information Source Book, 2001). Although that statement may be somewhat exaggerated, it is true that the use of CAM has grown tremendously over the past decade within the US, as Crawford points out in the work under review.

The appeal of alternative health practices has been growing for several reasons, such as the skyrocketing cost of mainstream health care and prescription drugs and the heightened emphasis on patients' responsibility for their own health and self‐care. There is also belief that, unlike western medicine, alternative medical practices take into consideration the whole person, including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects, rather than treating only the symptoms of an illness.

What is complementary and alternative medicine? It has been usually defined as a group of healing practices not widely taught in medical schools, not generally used in hospitals and not usually reimbursed by health insurance companies. Most known definitions, Rees (2001) believes, are rather inconclusive.

The author of this book also recognizes that it is a challenge to establish the scope of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Besides those therapies that are already well known, such as chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, yoga and herbal medicine, the author presents also lesser known healing methods, e.g. Alexander technique, Aurveda, Feldenkrais, Reiki and Rolfing. Crawford is a librarian, a Reiki master, a graduate of the Surya Program of transgradient touch and counselling, and he holds the Doctor of Naturopathy degree. With this impressive resumé, his interest in alternative healing practices comes quite naturally. During his sabbatical he decided to update an earlier guide to CAM, published by the Medical Library Association in 1997 (Feuerman and Handel, Alternative Medicine Resource Guide). He wanted to compile a guide that would be useful especially to librarians for answering reference questions as well as for informed collection building.

The author focuses on those forms of CAM that have been recognized by the National Center for CAM, covering primarily non‐western medical systems, natural healing techniques, manipulative techniques and energetic healing therapies. Only materials in English are included, mostly published in the US, but some in the UK and Canada. Almost, 1,000 items are included in 24 chapters, most of them annotated; they represent 606 books, 160 websites and 221 periodicals. All the books are recent editions, still in print, and the author claims that he verified all website URLs prior to publication of his book.

Each chapter of this guide presents general information on a specific type of CAM, such as history of the therapy, its use and training required for a practitioner. The second part of a chapter is a selected list of books, websites and periodicals. The appendix gives hints on how to talk to one's physician about using alternative therapies. There is a detailed author/title index. This is a thoroughly researched book, and the annotations are not only descriptive but also evaluative.

It will be an extremely valuable guide to practitioners of CAM, to librarians and also to potential clients. I highly recommend the book for all academic, medical and health science libraries.

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