25 Free Open Courseware Classes About Alternative Medicine

Are you interested in learning about alternative medicine? Alternative medicinal practices focus on self-care and personal responsibility for health, whereas western medicine long has taken the perspective of treating health after a person becomes sick. Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) has become popular among those who seek to lower health care costs. Additionally, integrative medicine, which combines the best of both alternative and western medicines, has been made popular by the likes of Dr. Andrew Weil.

The following twenty-five free open courseware classes focus on the issues surrounding CAM and integrative therapies along with the five major areas of CAM medicine: alternative medicine systems; mind-body interventions; biological-based therapies; manipulative and body-based methods, and; energy therapies. The links within these categories are listed alphabetically to show readers that we do not value one course or class over another.


  1. Alternate Approaches to Healing: This is an introduction to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in America. Learn more about acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, hypnotherapy, massage therapy, mind-body medicine, and naturopathic medicine. [University of Washington]
  2. Integrative Medicine: This short course covers the issues involving integration between western and alternative medicines. The focus is comparison on personal and preventative care as opposed to the current disease-oriented approach. [National Center for Compementary and Alternative Medicine]
  3. Issues in complementary and alternative medicine: This course focuses on understanding health and healing and covers critical issues in therapeutic relationships and ethics in complimentary and alternative medicine. [Open University]
  4. Medicine and Public Health in American History: Learn more about how western medicine evolved in American history and about the changing social and cultural meanings and entanglements of medical science and practice in this country. [Notre Dame]
  5. Medicine, Religion and Politics in Africa and the African Diaspora: Learn how Afro-Atlantic religious traditions have challenged western conceptions of illness, healing and the body. Learn also how these traditions have offered alternative notions of morality, rationality, kinship, gender and sexuality. [MIT]

Alternative Medicine Systems

  1. Chinese Medicine Basics: Learn more about acupuncture, Chinese herbs, tongue diagnosis and more from this learning site. [Acupuncture.com]
  2. Homeopathy Elementary Course: Dr. Manish Bhatia has laid out a course meant for lay-people, patients, allopathy doctors, nurses, alternative medicine practitioners and student to learn more about homeopathy basics. [Alternatives]
  3. Overview of Complementary and Alternative Medicine: This free course defines CAM, discusses each of the five CAM domains and talks about integration of CAM into traditional practice. [National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine]
  4. What is integrative medicine? This entire Web site is devoted to lectures, PowerPoint presentations and course syllabus that focuses on the explanation and integration of alternative systems into Western medicine. [University of Texas Medical Branch]

Mind-Body Interventions

This area employs a variety of non-mainstream techniques intended to facilitate the mind’s capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms.

  1. Brain and Cognitive Sciences: This department at MIT offers a number of free open courses that tackle the study of the brain and mind through understanding cognitive processes. These studies include the connection between mind and body through a number of graduate and undergraduate courses. [MIT]
  2. Introduction to Clinical Pain Problems: This course talks about a variety of physical pain and presents ways to evaluate the biomedical characteristics of the pain experience, including temporal pattern, severity, intensity and relieving factors. [Tufts]
  3. Mind and Body Medicine: A Relaxed Attitude: Learn about the nature of the mind and emotions and how diseases can be counteracted through mind therapy and selected body therapy. [LearnWell]
  4. Mind-Body Medicine: This course focuses on the relationship between stress and altered mental states and illness. Hypnosis and its effects are explained, along with the use of mind-body medicine for cancer treatment. [National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine]

Biological-Based Therapies

These methods include natural and biologically-based practices, interventions and products.

  1. Herbs and Other Dietary Supplements: Learn more about dietary supplements, including current research on the efficacy and safety of dietary supplements and reputable resources to learn more current information about this topic. [National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine]
  2. Introduction to Botanical Medicines: This module focuses on the uses of the ten most common botanicals, their history, science and principles, evidence, regulatory issues, safety, certification and licensure and more. [University of Minnesota]
  3. Nutrition and Medicine: According to this course, only twenty-five percent of U.S. medical schools require a nutrition course. This course seeks to fill that void as it tackles the theoretical to the clinical aspects of nutrition. Learn basic nutrition principles relevant to other medical courses such as pathology, growth and development, and pharmacology. [Tufts]
  4. Studying the Effects of Natural Products: Learn more about natural products’ roles in health care research and the integrated approach to therapeutics. [National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine]

Manipulative and Body-Based Methods

Includes movement therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy and-or any technique based upon body movement and manipulation.

  1. Acupuncture: An Evidence-Based Assessment: This free course covers the history of acupuncture, compares the differences between western and Chinese medicine, and describes research on the efficacy of acupuncture and the mechanisms underlying its various uses. [National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine]
  2. Manipulative and Body-Based Therapies: Chiropractic and Spinal Manipulation: Use this free course to learn more about the chiropractic profession, including potential safety hazards and research challenges associated with this profession and with spinal manipulation. [National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine]
  3. Massage: A short module that provides an introduction to massage therapy, defined in this course as the manual manipulation of soft body tissues to enhance health and well-being. [University of Minnesota]
  4. Neurobiological Correlates of Acupuncture: Learn how brain imaging and functional magnetic resonance imaging is used to study acupuncture. [National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine]

Energy Therapies

This area focuses on energy fields originating from within or outside the body, such as biofields or electromagnetic fields, respectively.

  1. Electromagnetic Fields: Although not a full-fledged course, this page at Medline Plus offers overviews, links to authorities such as the Food and Drug Administration and more on the topic of electromagnetic fields and health. [Medline Plus]
  2. Energy Medicine: An Overview: Although this is an historic document, you can learn how energy medicine covers all fields within alternative medicines through biofields. [National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine]
  3. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Data Acquisition and Analysis: Learn more about human brain mapping studies that include fMRI experimental design including block design, event related and exploratory data analysis methods, and building and applying statistical models for fMRI data. [MIT]
  4. The molecular world: This unit covers all atom structures, including chemical patterns that often can be explained by electronic structure. [Open University]

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