Complementary and alternative therapies - commonly known as CAM - work for many people, says Josh Whiteley, who is the co-owner of the Tucson Acupuncture Co-op.

About one out of three U.S. residents use some form of CAM, which includes herbal medicine, ozone therapy and, of course, acupuncture.

Whiteley said patients come to him to treat a variety of conditions: from pain to anxiety and insomnia, which some "doctors will have a tough time diagnosing."

According to Whiteley, who has more than 3,000 hours of training in acupuncture, Chinese herbs and dietary therapy, these are conditions "we can actually treat quite well with acupuncture and Chinese medicine."

Americans spend tens of billions of dollars out of pocket each year on CAM.

While some therapies are covered by insurance, such as acupuncture for chemotherapy related nausea, most are not.

"Legally, we can't say that we cure or treat any disease specifically by law but a...good number of our patients will tell you they've definitely received very good results and, a lot of times, even complete relief of symptoms," he said.

Cheryl Ritenbaugh, a professor of family and community medicine at the University of Arizona, said she is working on ways of studying CAM therapies that make sense within the dominant system of evidence-based medicine.

She said this system typically requires expensive research studies to provide evidence that a drug, device or therapy works before it is approved by the federal government and ultimately covered by insurance.

"Within the alternative framework...there are very different understandings of how the body works," Ritenbaugh said. "So traditional Chinese medicine sees the body very differently from Western medicine."

Studying CAM, she argued, is an opportunity to use "a different tradition's lens on the body. Seeing it differently, are there things we can learn about how our bodies work that we wouldn't have otherwise discovered just proceeding in the normal way through Western medicine?"

Kim Kelly, medical anthropologist, spend several years studying vaccines and devices for diseases affecting the developing world.

She said that requiring research trials to provide evidence of a therapy's efficacy dismisses "systems of medicine that have hundreds of years of evidence, which we require in our country and in our system of medicine."