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Health Info Libr J. 2010 Jun;27(2):93-105. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2010.00888.x.

An overview of 45 published database resources for complementary and alternative medicine.

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Center of Integrative Medicine, University of Witten/Herdecke, Gerhard-Kienle-Weg 4, 58313 Herdecke, Germany.



Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has succeeded to implement itself in the academic context of universities. In order to get information on CAM, clinicians, researchers and healthcare professionals as well as the lay public are increasingly turning to online portals and databases, which disseminate relevant resources. One specific type of online information retrieval systems, namely the database, is being reviewed in this article.


This overview aims at systematically retrieving and describing all databases covering the field of CAM. One of the requirements for inclusion was that the database would also have to be published in a medical journal.


The databases AMED, CAMbase, EMBASE, and MEDLINE/PubMed were searched between December 2008 and December 2009 for publications relevant to CAM databases. The authors' specialist library was also searched for grey literature to be included.


All included databases were then visited online and information on the context, structure and volume of the database was extracted.


Forty-five databases were included in this overview. Databases covered herbal therapies (n = 11), traditional Chinese medicine (n = 9) and some dealt with a vast number of CAM modalities (n = 9), amongst others. The amount of time the databases had been in existence ranged from 4 to 53 years. Countries of origin included the USA (n = 14), UK (n = 7) and Germany (n = 6), amongst others. The main language in 42 of 45 databases was English.


Although this overview is quite comprehensive with respect to the field of CAM, certain CAM practices such as chiropractic, massage, reflexology, meditation or yoga may not have been covered adequately. A more detailed assessment of the quality of the included databases might give additional insights into the listed resources. The creation of a personalised meta-search engine is suggested, towards which this overview could be seen as a first step.

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