What is CAM - in Norway?

Collage of acupuncture needles, ginger, curcumin and blood test.
Collage made by NAFKAM.

What is understood and defined as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) varies from one country to the other. The official definition of CAM in Norway follows from  Section 2 in the Act No. 64 of 27 June 2003 ("The CAM Act"):

"Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) means health-related services offered and provided outside the official health and care system, and which is not carried out by medically qualified personnel. Treatment carried out in the health and care system or by medically qualified personnel is nevertheless covered by the term CAM when the modalities used are essentially used outside the health and care system."

Non-medically qualified providers of CAM must comply with the duties and restrictions set by the CAM Act. Providers of CAM who are also medically qualified, are also subject to the Medically Qualified Personnel Act (link to lovdata.no).

"Health-related services" encompasses a wide range of interventions aiming to prevent, treat and relieve disease and symptoms. It also includes services aimed at strengthening the immune system and the body's self-healing abilities. The main defining factor here is the therapeutic intention: Whether the service is found to actually affect people's health in such a way it is described or claimed, is not of importance. 

For the CAM Act to apply, there must be a clear professional relationship between the provider and the consumer. Usage of a title, such as "massage therapist", "acupuncturist", "homeopath" or "naturopath", obviously strengthens the service provider's image of professonialism. Although not mandatory for the definition, the impression of a professional, health-related relationship is further strengthened by factors such as marketing, appointment booking systems, diagnosis, keeping of patient's journals, as well as standarized payment conditions for the service provided.

Still, The consumer and the provider of the service may have different opinions of whether the service provided as sufficiently health-related or not, thus if the CAM Act applies or not. Ultimately, it is up to the legal system to assess and decide whether the Act applies and a service is considered CAM.

Religious rites, beauty care and well-being

Basically, the performance of common religious rites, as well as providing beauty care and services mainly aiming at improving well-being, relaxation or self-development - without a clear health-related purpose - falls outside the definition of CAM and thus the regulation in the CAM Act.

However, services with e.g. a religious touch may - after a closer look and assessment - still be considered in line the definition and therefore regulated by CAM Act; for example if the service is marketed outside the congregation; if promises of healing from prayer are given, if a fee is charged for praying, etc. You can read more about this in our article on prayer (in Norwegian).

Self-help and self-development

In NAFKAMs surveys on Norwegians' use of CAM, we ask the respondents if they have received health-related treatment from a provider (such as an acupuncturist, homeopath, healer or the like). We also ask if they have used herbs and natural remedies (ginseng, ginger, garlic and the like), or whether they have learned or used self-help techniques (yoga, meditation and the like) actively to improve their health. Read our summary on self-help for health-related purposes (in Norwegian).

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Norway's National Research Center in Complementary and Alternative Medicine

We work to give you facts about complementary and alternative medicine, so that you can make safer choices for your health.

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