Created by the Center for Spirituality & Healing and Charlson Meadows.

How do I evaluate information online?

Question: I love searching online for information about complementary medicine, but have found a lot of weird stuff out there!  How can I tell if a complementary medicine-based website is credible?

Answer: Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer, the founder and director of the Center for Spirituality & Healing, writes:
The internet is a fantastic tool for gathering accurate information on a variety of topics. As research around the benefits of complementary and alternative medicine increases, the web is especially helpful in gathering up-to-the-minute results.

However, you’re absolutely correct to be wary about certain sites and/or web-based information. Not all complementary therapy (or even general health) sites feature credible content. While researching online, keep asking yourself these simple questions about online resources:
  • Who runs this site?
  • Who pays for the site?
  • What is the purpose of the site?
  • Where does the information come from?
  • How current is the information?
  • How does the site choose links to other sites?
  • What information about you does the site collect, and why?
The answers to these questions can offer a helpful starting point for determining a site’s credibility. As you surf, also make sure the sites you visit offer scientific evidence (not just personal stories) to back up claims about any complementary treatment. Be wary of “too good to be true” terms like miracle cure or magical discovery. And be cautious of treatments that claim to cure a wide range of unrelated conditions (for example, cancer, autism, and menopause).

Finally, you can also bookmark a few “go-to” sites that consistently offer credible information on complementary medicine, such as:
  • The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which features government-sanctioned information on the safety and effectiveness of particular treatments.
  • NCCAM Clearinghouse, which responds to email queries in English or Spanish and retrieves information for you from federal databases of peer-reviewed scientific and medical literature.
  • CAM on PubMed, which lets you search easily for scientific studies on the use of complementary therapies for various conditions.
  • The NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, which contains scientific literature on dietary supplements (see "Health Information").
  • The National Cancer Institute, which offers invaluable information for cancer patients and families, including information on complementary and alternative medicine (look under Cancer Topics).
Expert Contributor: 
Mary Jo Kreitzer, RN, PhD

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