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 three scientific and two cross-cutting objectives:

  • Advance fundamental science and methods development
  • Improve care for hard-to-manage symptoms
  • Foster health promotion and disease prevention
  • Enhance the complementary and integrative health research workforce
  • Disseminate objective evidence-based information on complementary and integrative health interventions.

The Center’s top research priorities include nonpharmacologic management of pain; neurobiological effects and mechanisms as related to complementary health approaches; innovative approaches for establishing biological signatures of natural products; emotional well-being as a component of disease prevention and health promotion across the lifespan; innovatively designed clinical trials to assess complementary approaches and their integration into health care; and communications strategies and tools to enhance scientific literacy and understanding of clinical research.

NCCIH sponsors and conducts research, using scientific methods and advanced technologies, at scientific institutions in the United States and around the world. Examples of studies include investigator-initiated and NCCIH-solicited projects, intramural research, basic mechanistic research, translational research, clinical trials (including pragmatic trials), and research centers.

NCCIH also 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 fiscal year 1992 to establish an office within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate and evaluate promising unconventional medical practices.

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

June 1993 — The NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 (P.L.103-43) formally establishes the 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.

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 the OAM to an NIH Center.

January 1999 — Dr. William R. Harlan is named 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 CAM Coordinating Committee is established by the NCCAM Director.

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, “Distinguished Lectures in the Science of Complementary and Alternative Medicine,” with NCCAM Director Dr. Stephen E. Straus delivering the first lecture. In May 2009, the series is renamed in his honor as the annual “Stephen E. Straus Distinguished Lecture in the Science of Complementary Therapies,” which is supported by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health with a generous gift from Bernard and Barbro Osher.

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 National Academies' Institute of Medicine releases a report, Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States, requested by NCCAM and Federal partners.

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

February 2006 — The Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT), a multicenter study supported by NCCAM and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, shows that glucosamine and chondroitin supplements did not provide significant relief from knee osteoarthritis pain in the total group of study participants. However, pain relief was observed in a subgroup with moderate-to-severe pain.

November 2006 — The Center's 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 inaugural Stephen E. Straus Distinguished Lecture in the Science of Complementary and Alternative Medicine and NCCAM's 10th Anniversary Research Symposium.

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. 

Septembe​r 2010 — A video series from the Center, “The Science of Mind and Body Therapies,” launches with the “Tai Chi and Qi Gong for Health and Well-Being” video. 

Decemeber 2010 — An NCCAM-funded study conducted at the University of Wisconsin finds that echinacea did not reduce the duration or severity of symptoms of the common cold. Several earlier, smaller NCCAM-funded studies of echinacea for colds also had negative results.

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 — M. Catherine Bushnell, Ph.D., is appointed scientific director of a new, state-of-the-art NIH research program headquartered in NCCAM’s intramural division and focusing on the role of the brain in perceiving, modifying, and managing pain.

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

September  2014 — In collaboration 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 to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

September 2015 — NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins appoints NCCIH Director Dr. Josephine P. Briggs as interim director of the NIH Precision Medicine Initiative® Cohort Program, a position held concurrently with the Directorship of NCCIH.

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

September 2016 — Mayo Clinic Proceedings publishes a review by several NCCIH staff scientists of U.S clinical trials on complementary health approaches used for chronic-pain conditions commonly seen by U.S. primary-care providers. 

January 2017 — Dr. Emmeline Edwards, Director of the Division of Extramural Research, co-chairs the workshop launching the activities of “Sound Health,” an initiative on the relationship between music, the brain, and health. NIH and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in association with the National Endowment for the Arts, are partners on Sound Health, which expands a previous NIH-National Symphony Orchestra initiative.

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, an initiative modeled on the NIH Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory. NCCIH serves as the lead agency and contributes more than half the funding in this interagency partnership.

October 2017 — The Center's 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.

April 2018  NCCIH co-sponsors, with the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) and several other NIH components, a roundtable workshop on the role of emotional well-being in health, to advance research in this area.

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

August 2018  NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins appoints Dr. Helene Langevin as NCCIH Director.

September 2018  NCCIH announces six research awards, co-funded from the NIH’s HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, on behavioral interventions for primary or secondary prevention of opioid use disorder, or as complements to medication-assisted treatment. These projects supplement the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grants initiative. 

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

February 2019  NCCIH researchers release data offering new insights concerning pain trends and opioid use for pain management, published in The Journal of Pain

NCCIH Legislative Chronology

October 1991 — Public Law 102-170 provided $2 million to the National Institutes of Health (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 the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM) within the Office of the Director of NIH. The purpose of the Office 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 and expanded the mandate of the OAM 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 Langevin, M.D., was sworn in as Director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) on November 26, 2018. As the NCCIH Director, she oversees the Federal government’s lead agency for scientific research on the diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.
Dr. Langevin came to NCCIH from 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 since 2012. She has also been a visiting professor of neurological sciences at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine, Burlington, and served on NCCIH’s National Advisory Council on Complementary and Integrative Health. 

In her capacity as principal investigator of several NIH-funded studies, Dr. Langevin’s research interests have centered around the role of connective tissue in chronic musculoskeletal pain and the mechanisms of acupuncture, manual, and movement-based therapies. Her more recent work has focused on the effects of stretching on inflammation resolution mechanisms within connective tissue. She has authored more than 70 original scientific papers and is a fellow of the American College of Physicians. 

Dr. Langevin received her M.D. degree from McGill University, Montreal, 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.

NCCIH Directors

Name In Office from To
William R. Harlan (Acting) January 1999 October 1999
Stephen E. Straus October 1999 November 2006
Ruth L. Kirschstein (Acting) November 2006 January 2008
Josephine P. Briggs January 2008 October 2017
David Shurtleff (Acting) October 2017 November 2018
Helene Langevin  November 2018  Present


The Center is organized into nine major offices and divisions.

The Office of the Director 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 alternative medicine. Its work includes maintaining the Center's website, operating the Information 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 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 develops and oversees NCCIH-funded research and research training programs conducted across the country and around the world. The Division also coordinates research efforts with other NIH institutes and centers, 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 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; and
  • The Pain and Integrative Neuroscience Branch, which includes the Section on Behavioral Neurocircuitry and Cellular Plasticity and the Section on Sensory Cells and Circuits.

In addition, the Division coordinates an NIH lecture series on pain through the trans-NIH Pain Scientific Interest Group, and it is active in the trans-NIH Mind and Body Scientific Interest Group. 

This page last reviewed on September 25, 2019