News Briefs

African-Americans often use CAM to treat conditions, not to prevent them

A recent study found that a substantial number of African-Americans use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), most often to treat specific conditions as opposed to preventing them.

Researchers in the study wanted to determine patterns of CAM use in African-Americans. Specifically, they wanted to know: 1) characteristics of CAM users in the African-American population; 2) the prevalence of CAM use; and 3) CAM use for treatment and prevention of disease.

They analyzed data from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which included 4,256 African-American adults representing 23,828,268 African-American adults nationwide. Chi-squared tests based on weighted data were used to examine differences in CAM users and nonusers, the researchers say. CAM use was categorized as CAM Ever, CAM Past 12 Months, and CAM for Treatment.

Of the African-Americans identified in the NHIS dataset, 67.6% used CAM in the past 12 months, when prayer for health was included. Users were more likely older, female, college educated, and insured compared to nonusers. Prayer was the most common CAM used by more than 60% of respondents, followed by herbals (14.2%) and relaxation (13.6%).

Overall, a majority used CAM to treat illness. The use of CAM was significantly higher across all the disease states common in African-Americans as compared to nonuse. For more information on this study, see the September issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

NCCAM expands Centers of Excellence in CAM research program

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) in Bethesda, MD, has added three new Centers of Excellence for Research on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) to its centers program. These centers will explore the biological effects of a number of plant-derived compounds and preparations found in CAM products on pancreatic diseases, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, and Alzheimer's disease.

The Centers of Excellence apply cutting-edge technology to basic and clinical research on a wide range of CAM practices and products, and are one part of NCCAM's larger research centers program. The program also includes Developmental Centers for Research on CAM, which are partnerships between CAM institutions and established research institutions to conduct exploratory research, and International Centers for Research on CAM, which are collaborations of United States and foreign teams studying traditional medical systems.

The new Centers of Excellence for Research on CAM are:

  • UCLA Center of Excellence in Pancreatic Diseases
    This center will study plant-derived compounds found in a variety of dietary and herbal supplements and traditional herbal medicines, including antioxidants such as curcumin (a component of the spice turmeric) and lycopene (the component that gives tomatoes their color), and preparations of green tea and Scutellaria baicalensis (a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine). Using animal models, the investigators will study the mechanisms and effects of these plant compounds on the prevention and/or treatment of pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
  • Center for CAM Research on Autoimmune and Inflammatory Diseases; Institution; University of South Carolina Research Foundation, Columbia, SC
    This center will focus on the effects of plant and herbal products on preventing or arresting inflammation in diseases caused by immune system breakdown. Using an animal model, researchers will investigate the mechanisms by which resveratrol, a compound found in the skin of red grapes, might aid in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. The center will also examine anti-inflammatory mechanisms of the herb American ginseng in colitis and the actions of a compound from hemp in treating autoimmune hepatitis.
  • Institution: Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY
    This center will conduct preclinical studies to identify natural compounds extracted from grapes, known as polyphenols, that might have a protective role in Alzheimer's disease. Using an animal model, the research team will then investigate the biological mechanisms by which these grape-derived compounds may affect changes in the brain that are characteristic of Alzheimer's disease and associated with cognitive decline.
    These center grants, which provide five years of support, bring the total number of Centers of Excellence for Research on CAM to 11. The existing Centers of Excellence look at a range of CAM practices, such as acupuncture and meditation. To learn more about NCCAM's Research Centers program, visit: