National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)


The mission of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and integrative interventions and their roles in improving health and health care.

NCCIH's programs and organization incorporate five objectives from the Center's Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years (FYs) 2021 to 2025:

  • Advance fundamental science and methods development
  • Advance research on the whole person and on the integration of complementary and conventional care   
  • Foster research on health promotion and restoration, resilience, disease prevention, and symptom management
  • Enhance the complementary and integrative health research workforce
  • Provide objective evidence-based information on complementary and integrative health interventions

The top scientific priorities at NCCIH are:

  • Research on whole person health
  • Research on interoception [i.e., the ways in which organisms sense and regulate signals within their bodies]
  • Health restoration, resilience, disease prevention, and health promotion across the lifespan
  • Implementation science for complementary and integrative health
  • Complementary and integrative management of pain
  • Complex interactions involving nutritional interventions
  • Enhancing the complementary and integrative health research workforce
  • Mechanisms and biomarkers of mind and body approaches
  • Supporting impactful clinical trials of complementary and integrative health approaches
  • Communications strategies and tools to enhance scientific literacy and understanding of clinical research

NCCIH sponsors and conducts research, using rigorous scientific methods and advanced technologies, at scientific institutions in the United States and around the world. Examples of projects include investigator-initiated and NCCIH-solicited projects, intramural research, basic mechanistic research, translational research, clinical trials (including pragmatic trials), and research centers. The Center also coordinates and collaborates with other NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) and federal partners on many initiatives and programs involving complementary and integrative health. Further, it seeks to create or partner in NIH funding opportunities and programs to enhance diversity within the biomedical research workforce and address health disparities.

NCCIH disseminates authoritative information through many avenues, including:

Important Events in NCCIH History

October 1991 — The U.S. Congress passes legislation (Public Law 102-170) that provides $2 million in funding for FY 1992 to establish an office within NIH to investigate and evaluate promising unconventional medical practices.

October 1992 — Dr. Joseph J. Jacobs is appointed the first director of the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM).

June 1993 — The NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 (P.L.103-43) formally establishes OAM within the Office of the Director, NIH, to facilitate study and evaluation of complementary and alternative medical practices and to disseminate the resulting information to the public.

September 1994 — Dr. Alan I. Trachtenberg becomes the acting director of OAM.

January 1995 — Dr. Wayne B. Jonas is named the second director of OAM.

October 1998 — The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is established by Congress under Title VI, Section 601 of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 1999 (P.L. 105-277). This bill amends Title IV of the Public Health Service Act and elevates the status of OAM to an NIH Center.

January 1999 — Dr. William R. Harlan is named the acting director of NCCAM.

February 1999 — The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) signs the organizational change memorandum creating NCCAM and making it the 25th independent component of NIH.

May 1999 — NCCAM awards its first research project grant.

May 1999 — The NCCAM Trans-Agency Complementary and Alternative Medicine Coordinating Committee is established.

August 1999 — The National Advisory Council on Complementary and Alternative Medicine is chartered.

October 1999 — Dr. Stephen E. Straus becomes the first director of NCCAM.

September 2000 — NCCAM publishes its first 5-year strategic plan.

February 2001 — NCCAM and the National Library of Medicine launch CAM on PubMed, a tool for searching the scientific literature for information on complementary health approaches.

March 2002​ — NCCAM inaugurates a new lecture series on the NIH campus and on videocast, “Distinguished Lectures in the Science of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.”

May 2004 — NCCAM and the National Center for Health Statistics announce findings from the largest, most comprehensive survey to date on American adults’ use of complementary health approaches. 

January 2005 — The report Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States is published by the Institute of Medicine, National Academies, reporting on findings from a study committee convened at the request of NCCAM, 15 other NIH partners, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  

February 2005 — NCCAM publishes its second 5-year strategic plan.

November 2006 — Founding Director Dr. Stephen E. Straus steps down, and Dr. Ruth L. Kirschstein is named acting director.

January 2008 — Dr. Josephine P. Briggs becomes the second director of NCCAM.

December 2008 — The 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) yields the first nationally representative data on children's use of complementary health approaches and on trends in adults' use of those approaches.

February 2009 — NCCAM marks its 10th anniversary with a year of special events, including the 10th Anniversary Research Symposium.

 May 2009 — The series "Distinguished Lectures in the Science of Complementary and Alternative Medicine" is renamed in honor of the late founding director of NCCIH, Dr. Stephen Straus. The annual  “Stephen E. Straus Distinguished Lecture in the Science of Complementary Therapies” will be supported by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health with a generous gift from Bernard and Barbro Osher.

July 2009 — The 2007 NHIS yields the first nationally representative data on Americans' spending on complementary health approaches.

Septembe​r 2009 — The inaugural lecture in the Center’s Integrative Medicine Research Lecture Series takes place. 

February 2011 — NCCAM releases its third 5-year strategic plan.

May 2012 — The new NCCAM Research Blog offers news and dialogue to the research community about the Center’s projects and initiatives.  

July 2012 — Dr. Catherine Bushnell is appointed scientific director of a new, state-of-the-art NIH pain research program headquartered in NCCAM’s intramural division.

September 2012 — Funding is announced for the first year of the NIH Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory, with Dr. Briggs as co-leader and NCCAM as the project’s administrative lead agency as well as a major scientific contributor.

April 2014 — The NIH Task Force on Research Standards for Chronic Low-Back Pain releases its recommended standards for clinical low-back pain research, published in several leading pain journals. Dr. Partap Khalsa, NCCAM, co-chaired this task force.   

September 2014 — Partnering with the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, NCCAM awards 13 research projects on nondrug approaches to manage pain and related conditions in military personnel and veterans.

December 2014 — Congress renames NCCAM the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

June 2016 — NCCIH publishes its fourth 5-year strategic plan.

September 2017 — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announce the NIH-DOD-VA Pain Management Collaboratory. NCCIH serves as the lead agency and contributes over half the funding.

October 2017 — NCCIH Director Dr. Josephine P. Briggs steps down and becomes editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN). Dr. David Shurtleff is named acting director.

October 2017 — Know the Science, an NCCIH initiative to clarify and explain to consumers scientific topics related to health research, is launched.

June 2018 NCCIH releases its first mobile app, HerbList™, which provides science-based information on herbs and herbal products. 

September 2018 — NCCIH announces six research awards, co-funded by the NIH’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative®, on behavioral interventions for primary or secondary prevention of opioid use disorder, or as complements to medication-assisted treatment.

November 2018  Dr. Helene M. Langevin is sworn in as the third NCCIH director.

September 2019 — The Center celebrates its 20th anniversary with a full-day symposium focusing on NCCIH milestones in research, as well as promising areas for discovery.

September 2019 — NIH awards $20 million over 5 years for the first projects of the Sound Health Initiative, to research the potential of music for treating various conditions resulting from neurological and other disorders. Sound Health is a partnership between NIH and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in association with the National Endowment for the Arts, and NCCIH has had a leadership role in Sound Health since co-chairing its initial workshop in 2017. 

March 2020 — Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NCCIH moves to all-virtual events and to other safety measures. Staff working remotely are able to continue, e.g., processing grant applications, providing funding opportunities, supporting the grantee and staff communities, and presenting virtual events.

July 2020 — The NIH Intramural Research Program Pain Research Center is a new, multidisciplinary, NIH-wide initiative with a mission to create a pain phenotyping platform within the NIH Clinical Center, especially in the context of understanding and treating chronic pain and opioid abuse. NCCIH Deputy Director Dr. David Shurtleff is acting director of the Pain Research Center.

January 2021 — The first of three virtual workshops in 2021 is held to gather input for the development of evidence-based based music interventions for brain disorders of aging. Drs. Emmeline Edwards and Wen Chen of NCCIH serve on the planning committee.

February 2021 — NCCIH co-funds a group of new research networks for investigators to refine and test key concepts anticipated to advance the study of emotional well-being. 

April 2021 — As a part of broader NIH efforts, NCCIH increases its efforts to advance the science of minority health and health disparities, and promote health equity—through, e.g., its funding opportunities, webinars, Health Disparities Working Group, Statement on Biomedical Workforce Diversity and Health Disparities Research, and dedicated website.

May 2021 — NCCIH's fifth strategic plan is published, for FYs 2021 to 2025. It focuses on advancing research on whole person health to better understand how multiple physiological systems interconnect and interact.

July 2021 — The NCCIH Clinical Research in Complementary and Integrative Health Branch announces upcoming release of updated funding opportunities to support development and testing of mind and body interventions relevant to NCCIH’s new strategic plan.

September 2021 — NCCIH hosts a “Methodological Approaches for Whole Person Research Workshop,” in collaboration with nine other NIH components, to explore methodologies potentially appropriate for whole person research and to discuss study examples.

September 2021 — NIH’s Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, in which NCCIH is a collaborator, announces seven research grants on interoception, a new research area for NIH.

June 2022 — NCCIH co-organizes the 2022 NIH Pain Consortium Annual Symposium on Advances in Pain Research on “Pain Management Through the Lens of Whole Person Health.”

September 2022 — The NIH Common Fund’s Bridge to Artificial Intelligence program (Bridge2AI) is launched. It is managed collaboratively by NCCIH, four other ICs, and the Common Fund. 

September 2022 — The NIH HEAL Initiative® releases funding opportunities for large-scale clinical trials on sickle cell disease pain management, an initiative NCCIH leads in partnership with nine other NIH components.

October 2022 — The Restoring Joint Health and Function to Reduce Pain (RE-JOIN) Consortium, in which NCCIH is a collaborator, is launched as part of the NIH HEAL Initiative®.

October 2022 — NCCIH announces seven new grants over 3 years that focus on myofascial tissues, an understudied area in musculoskeletal pain.

December 2022 — NCCIH marks significant progress in 2022 on developing a framework for research on whole person health and a test set of common data elements to build scientific rigor in the field. Examples of achivements include an NIH request for information (RFI), titled “Identification of a Set of Determinants for Whole Person Health,” and a Stakeholder Meeting for Research on Whole Person Health.

NCCIH Legislative Chronology

October 1991 — Public Law 102-170 provided $2 million to NIH to establish an office and advisory panel to recommend a research program that would investigate promising unconventional medical practices.

June 1993 — Public Law 103-43, the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993, established OAM within the Office of the Director of NIH. Its purpose was to facilitate the evaluation of alternative medical treatment modalities and to disseminate information to the public via an information clearinghouse.

October 1998 — Public Law 105-277, the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, elevated the status of OAM and expanded its mandate by authorizing the establishment of NCCAM. This act amended Title IV of the Public Health Service Act.

December 2014 — An omnibus appropriations bill, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015, was signed by President Obama and included a provision to change NCCAM’s name to NCCIH.

Biographical Sketch of NCCIH Director Helene M. Langevin, M.D. 

Helene M. Langevin, M.D., was sworn in as director of NCCIH on November 26, 2018. As the NCCIH director, she oversees the federal government’s lead agency for research on the fundamental science, usefulness, and safety of complementary and integrative health approaches and their roles in improving health and health care.  

Prior to coming to NIH in 2018, Dr. Langevin worked at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, jointly based at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston. She served as director of the Osher Center and professor-in-residence of medicine at Harvard Medical School from 2012 to 2018. She also previously served as professor of neurological sciences at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine, Burlington, Vermont.  

Over her career, Dr. Langevin’s research interests have centered around the role of connective tissue in chronic musculoskeletal pain and the mechanisms of acupuncture and manual- and movement-based therapies. Her more recent work has focused on the effects of stretching on inflammation resolution mechanisms within connective tissue. She is a fellow of the American College of Physicians. 

Dr. Langevin received an M.D. degree from McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in neurochemistry at the MRC Neurochemical Pharmacology Unit in Cambridge, England, and a residency in internal medicine and fellowship in endocrinology and metabolism at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.


NCCIH Directors

This table includes the directors of NCCIH and, previously, NCCAM and OAM.

Name In Office from To
Joseph J. Jacobs October 1992, OAM September 1994
Alan I. Trachtenberg October 1994, OAM June 1995
Wayne B. Jonas July 1995, OAM December 1999
William R. Harlan (Acting) January 1999, NCCAM October 1999
Stephen E. Straus October 1999, NCCAM November 2006
Ruth L. Kirschstein (Acting) November 2006, NCCAM January 2008
Josephine P. Briggs January 2008, NCCAM October 2017
David Shurtleff (Acting) October 2017, NCCIH November 2018
Helene M. Langevin  November 2018, NCCIH  Present


The Center is organized into nine major offices and divisions.

The Office of the Director (OD) plans, directs, coordinates, and evaluates the development of programs and activities of the Center. Within the Office:

  • The Office of Clinical and Regulatory Affairs plans, coordinates, and monitors NCCIH's clinical trials, serving as a resource for investigators and helping to ensure the safety of trials; oversees the Center's Data Safety Monitoring Board; and ensures compliance with Institutional Review Board and U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations.
  • The Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation reports on NCCIH's scientific initiatives and programs, and it oversees congressional testimony and the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act.
  • The Office of Communications and Public Liaison handles activities pertaining to the dissemination of information about NCCIH and complementary and integrative health. Its work includes maintaining the Center's website, operating the NCCIH Clearinghouse, serving as liaison with the media, and implementing education and outreach initiatives.
  • The Office of Administrative Operations is responsible for financial management, administrative operations, and the design and implementation of innovative business and management systems.

The Division of Extramural Activities (DEA) develops, implements, and coordinates extramural programs and policies within NCCIH. It also coordinates meetings of NCCIH's advisory council and manages the Center's committee management activities. Within the Division, two Offices have a specialized focus:

The Division of Extramural Research (DER) develops and oversees NCCIH-funded research and research training programs. The Division also coordinates research efforts with other NIH ICs, and it exercises leadership in a number of trans-NIH activities such as the NIH Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory. The Division’s two branches are the Basic and Mechanistic Research in Complementary and Integrative Health Branch and the Clinical Research in Complementary and Integrative Health Branch. Staff provide guidance regarding NCCIH research interests and priorities and also funding mechanisms and opportunities. Periodically, they offer educational activities regarding grantsmanship, such as webinars and workshops.

The Division of Intramural Research (DIR) conducts basic, clinical, and translational research focusing on the role of the brain in perceiving, managing, and modifying pain. The Division has two branches:

  • The Clinical Investigations Branch, which includes the Section on Affective Neuroscience and Pain
  • The Pain and Integrative Neuroscience Branch, which includes the Section on Behavioral Neurocircuitry and Cellular Plasticity and the Section on Sensory Cells and Circuits

DIR partners with 10 other ICs on the NIH Pain Research Center (PRC), a multidisciplinary, trans-NIH initiative located within the NIH Clinical Center (CC). The mission of the PRC is to create a pain phenotyping platform within the CC to better understand mechanisms of diverse pain states, in order to recommend personalized therapies to better prevent or manage the development of chronic pain and opioid abuse. David Shurtleff, Ph.D., deputy director of NCCIH, is the acting director.

Further, DIR coordinates a lecture series on pain for NIH staff through the trans-NIH Pain Scientific Interest Group and is active in the trans-NIH Mind and Body Scientific Interest Group. 

This page last reviewed on April 5, 2023