Traditional, Complementary and Integrative Medicine


    Traditional medicine

    Traditional medicine has a long history. It is the sum total of the knowledge, skill, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness.

    Complementary medicine

    The terms “complementary medicine” or “alternative medicine” refer to a broad set of health care practices that are not part of that country’s own tradition or conventional medicine and are not fully integrated into the dominant health-care system. They are used interchangeably with traditional medicine in some countries.

    Herbal medicines

    Herbal medicines include herbs, herbal materials, herbal preparations and finished herbal products, that contain as active ingredients parts of plants, or other plant materials, or combinations.


    The WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014–2023 was developed and launched in response to the World Health Assembly resolution on traditional medicine (WHA62.13). The strategy aims to support Member States in developing proactive policies and implementing action plans that will strengthen the role traditional medicine plays in keeping populations healthy.

    Addressing the challenges, responding to the needs identified by Member States and building on the work done under the WHO traditional medicine strategy: 2002–2005, the updated strategy for the period 2014–2023 devotes more attention than its predecessor to prioritizing health services and systems, including traditional and complementary medicine products, practices and practitioners.

    The strategic objectives are:

    • To build the knowledge base for active management of T&CM through appropriate national policies;
    • To strengthen the quality assurance, safety, proper use and effectiveness of T&CM by regulating products, practices and practitioners;
    • To promote universal health coverage by integrating T&CM services into health care service delivery and self-health care.


    WHO response

    The WHO global report on traditional and complementary medicine 2019 was developed to address the gap in reliable, credible and official data from Member States in the area of T&CM. 

    This report reviews global progress in T&CM over the past two decades and is based on contributions from 179 WHO Member States. It provides valuable information for policy-makers, health professionals and the public for capitalizing on the potential contribution of T&CM to health and well-being.


    Latest publications

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    Report of the Fourth Regional Forum of WHO Collaborating Centres in the Western Pacific, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 28-29 November 2022: meeting report

    The Fourth Forum was convened in Siem Reap on 28–29 November 2022 in a hybrid format and brought together 216 participants from across the Western...

    WHO international standard terminologies on siddha medicine

    Siddha medicine is a popular health resource used across the world. Standard terminology relating to Siddha medicine is, therefore, an essential tool for...

    WHO international standard terminologies on ayurveda 

    Ayurveda is one of the popularly applied health resources across the globe. Standard terminology of Ayurveda is an essential tool for working on other...

    WHO international standard terminologies on unani medicine

    Unani medicine is a popular health resource used across the world. Standard terminology relating to Unani medicine is, therefore, an essential tool for...