• allied health;
  • alternative medicine;
  • health services research;
  • rural;
  • utilization of health services


Contexts: The consumption of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in rural areas is a significant contemporary health care issue. An understanding of CAM use in rural health can provide a new perspective on health beliefs and practice as well as on some of the core service delivery issues facing rural health care generally.

Purpose: This article presents the first review and synthesis of research findings on CAM use and practice in rural communities.

Methods: A comprehensive search of literature from 1998 to 2010 in CINAHL, MEDLINE, AMED, and CSA Illumina (social sciences) was conducted. The search was confined to peer-reviewed articles published in English reporting empirical research findings on the use or practice of CAM in rural settings.

Findings: Research findings are grouped and examined according to 3 key themes: “prevalence of CAM use and practice,”“user profile and trends of CAM consumption,” and “potential drivers and barriers to CAM use and practice.”

Conclusions: Evidence from recent research illustrates the substantial prevalence and complexity of CAM use in rural regions. A number of potential gaps in our understanding of CAM use and practice in rural settings are also identified.