National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine


The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science; training complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) researchers; and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals.

To fulfill its mission, NCCAM supports a broad-based portfolio of research, research training, and educational grants and contracts, as well as various outreach mechanisms to disseminate information.

NCCAM's primary responsibility is to conduct and support basic and clinical research using well-established tools of rigorous scientific design, conduct, and oversight. These studies involve extramural investigator-initiated and NCCAM-solicited projects, and intramural research. Examples include large, multi-center clinical trials; specialty research centers; and studies relevant to the 4 domains of CAM intervention: manipulative and body-based therapies, natural products, mind-body medicine, and energy medicine. The Center carries out these activities independently and in collaboration with other NIH Institutes and Centers, other government agencies, domestic and international research institutions, and industry.

NCCAM supports a full spectrum of predoctoral, postdoctoral, and career awards to develop a cadre of skilled investigators from both the CAM and conventional communities. The goal is to train individuals to apply the tools of exacting science to CAM systems and modalities. Institutional awards are available to support research fellows. Mentored Research Career Development Awards provide opportunities to clinicians and research scientists to develop skills for conducting rigorous research and to pursue careers as investigators. Limited support is also provided for research conferences.

Information Dissemination
Distributing scientifically based information on CAM research, practices, and findings is central to the NCCAM mission. This is accomplished through:

  • Operating the NCCAM Information Clearinghouse
  • Producing publications, such as fact sheets, a newsletter, and an e-bulletin
  • Offering a Web site at
  • Sponsoring lectures, conferences, an online continuing education program, and other outreach activities
  • Exhibiting at events around the United States and the world
  • Co-sponsoring, with the National Library of Medicine, the CAM on PubMed database, at
  • Outreach to health care providers and the public to promote a dialogue about CAM.

Important Events in NCCAM History

October 1991—The U.S. Congress passes legislation (Public Law 102-170) that provides $2 million in funding for fiscal year 1992 to establish an office within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate and evaluate promising unconventional medical practices. Dr. Stephen C. Groft is appointed Acting Director of the new Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM).

September 1992—A Workshop on Alternative Medicine is convened in Chantilly, Virginia, to discuss the state of the art of major areas of alternative medicine and to direct attention to priority areas for future research activities.

October 1992—Dr. Joseph J. Jacobs is appointed first Director of the OAM.

June 1993—The NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 (P.L.103-43) formally establishes the OAM within the Office of the Director, NIH, to facilitate study and evaluation of complementary and alternative medical practices and to disseminate the resulting information to the public.

December 1993—The Alternative Medicine Program Advisory Council is established.

September 1994—Dr. Alan I. Trachtenberg is appointed Acting Director of the OAM.

January 1995—Dr. Wayne B. Jonas is appointed the second Director of the OAM.

October 1996—A Public Information Clearinghouse is established.

November 1996—The OAM is designated a World Health Organization Collaborating Center in Traditional Medicine.

October 1998—NCCAM is established by Congress under Title VI, Section 601 of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 1999 (P.L. 105-277). This bill amends Title IV of the Public Health Service Act and elevates the status of the OAM to an NIH Center.

January 1999—Dr. William R. Harlan is named Acting Director of NCCAM.

February 1999—The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) signs the organizational change memorandum creating NCCAM and making it the 25th independent component of NIH. The NCCAM Director is vested with broad decision-making authority, especially concerning financial and administrative management and fiscal and review responsibility for grants and contracts.

May 1999—The NCCAM Trans-Agency CAM Coordinating Committee (TCAMCC) is established by the NCCAM Director to foster the Center's collaboration across the HHS and other Federal agencies. This committee supersedes a trans-agency committee established by the NIH Director in 1997.

August 1999—The National Advisory Council on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NACCAM) is chartered.

October 1999—Dr. Stephen E. Straus is appointed the first Director of NCCAM.

September 2000—NCCAM's first strategic plan is published.

February 2001—NCCAM and the National Library of Medicine launch CAM on PubMed, a comprehensive Internet source of research-based information on CAM.

May 2004—NCCAM and the National Center for Health Statistics of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announce findings from the largest nationally representative survey to date on Americans' use of CAM (part of the 2002 National Health Interview Survey).

January 2005—The National Academies' Institute of Medicine releases a report, Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States, that was requested by NCCAM and Federal partners. The report focuses on the scientific and policy implications of the widespread use of CAM.

February 2005—NCCAM publishes its second strategic plan, Expanding Horizons of Health Care: Strategic Plan 2005-2009, following a year-long process of input from the public, staff, and groups of outside experts.

November 2006—The Center's founding Director, Dr. Stephen E. Straus, steps down and becomes Senior Advisor to NIH Director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni. Dr. Ruth L. Kirschstein is named Acting Director of NCCAM.

May 2007—NCCAM establishes an Integrative Medicine Consult Service at the NIH Clinical Center.

January 2008—Dr. Josephine P. Briggs is named second Director of NCCAM.

June 2008—NCCAM launches "Time to Talk," an educational campaign to encourage patients and their health care providers to openly discuss the use of CAM. View Image.

December 2008—An NCCAM-supported supplement on CAM in the 2007 National Health Interview Survey yields the first nationally representative data on children's use of CAM and on trends in adult CAM use.

NCCAM Legislative Chronology

October 1991—Public Law 102-170 provided $2 million to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish an office and advisory panel to recommend a research program that would investigate promising unconventional medical practices.

June 1993—Public Law 103-43, the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993, established the OAM within the Office of the Director of NIH. The purpose of the Office was to facilitate the evaluation of alternative medical treatment modalities and to disseminate information to the public via an information clearinghouse.

October 1998—Public Law 105-277, the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, elevated the status and expanded the mandate of the OAM by authorizing the establishment of NCCAM. This act amended Title IV of the Public Health Service Act.

Biographical Sketch of NCCAM Director Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.

Josephine P. Briggs, M.D., received her A.B. cum laude in biology from Harvard-Radcliffe College and her M.D. from Harvard Medical School. She completed her residency training in internal medicine and nephrology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, where she was also chief resident in the Department of Internal Medicine and a fellow in clinical nephrology. She then held a research fellowship in physiology at Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, working with Dr. Fred Wright and Dr. Gerhard Giebisch.  After completing her fellowship at Yale, Dr. Briggs was a research scientist for 7 years at the Physiology Institute at the University of Munich, Germany.

In 1985, Dr. Briggs moved to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she held several academic positions, including associate chair for research in the Department of Internal Medicine and professorships in the Division of Nephrology, Department of Internal Medicine, and the Department of Physiology. Dr. Briggs joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1997 as director of the Division of Kidney, Urologic, and Hematologic Diseases at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), where she oversaw extramural research activities. While at NIDDK, she co-chaired an NIH Roadmap Committee on Translational Core Resources. In 2006, she accepted a position as senior scientific officer at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Dr. Briggs’ research interests include the renin-angiotensin system, diabetic nephropathy, circadian regulation of blood pressure, and the effect of antioxidants in kidney disease. She has published more than 130 research articles and has served on the editorial boards of several journals including the Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine, Seminars in Nephrology, and Hypertension and was deputy editor for the Journal of Clinical Investigation. She is an elected member of the American Association of Physicians and the American Society of Clinical Investigation and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is a recipient of many awards and prizes, including the Volhard Prize of the German Nephrological Society, the Alexander von Humboldt Scientific Exchange Award, and NIH Director’s Awards for her role in the development of the Trans-NIH Type I Diabetes Strategic Plan and her leadership of the Trans-NIH Zebrafish committee.

NCCAM Directors

Name In Office from To
William R. Harlan (Acting) January 1999 October 1999
Stephen E. Straus October 1999 November 2006
Ruth L. Kirschstein (Acting) November 2006 January 2008
Josephine P. Briggs January 2008 Present

Major Offices and Divisions

The Office of the Director plans, directs, coordinates, and evaluates the development of programs and activities of the Center. Within the Office:

  • The Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation reports on NCCAM's scientific initiatives and programs, and oversees congressional testimony and the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act.
  • The Office of Communications and Public Liaison handles activities pertaining to the dissemination of information about NCCAM and CAM. Its work includes operating the Information Clearinghouse, serving as liaison with the media, and implementing education and outreach initiatives.
  • The Office of Administrative Operations is responsible for financial management, administrative operations, and grants management, including the design and implementation of innovative business and management systems.

The Division of Extramural Activities develops, implements, and coordinates extramural programs and policies within NCCAM, other NIH Institutes, and the extramural community.  It also coordinates meetings of NCCAM's advisory council and manages the Center's committee management activities. Within the Division, 2 Offices have a specialized focus:

The Division of Extramural Research and Training is primarily responsible for scientific management of NCCAM's portfolio of federally supported research grants and fellowships. In addition, the Division:

  • Provides guidance in developing research, research training, and career development programs;
  • Designs and develops specific CAM research projects, announced through such mechanisms as Requests for Applications (RFAs); and
  • Coordinates with other components of NIH in research endeavors.

Within the Division, 3 offices have a specialized focus:

  • The Office of Special Populations oversees NCCAM's activities pertaining to the HHS Initiative to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health.
  • The Office of International Health Research oversees NCCAM's global scientific research activities.
  • The Office of Clinical and Regulatory Affairs helps plan, coordinate, and monitor NCCAM's clinical trials; serves as a resource for investigators; and oversees staff and grantee compliance with all Federal guidelines pertaining to research using human subjects.

The Division of Intramural Research conducts clinical, translational, and basic research on the efficacy, safety, and mechanisms of action of diverse CAM modalities; facilitates integration of effective CAM and conventional practices into the interdisciplinary health care system at the NIH Clinical Center; and fosters development of research and training curricula that include information about safe and effective CAM and conventional practices. Within the Division, 2 sections have a specialized focus: the Endocrinology Section and the Diabetes Unit.  The Division also includes the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Consult Service, which offers clinical consultation to NIH Clinical Center staff on CAM approaches and issues of botanical/drug interactions.

This page was last reviewed on February 18, 2009 .
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