Alternative medicine is big business. Americans spend $30 billion annually out-of-pocket on what the federal government calls "complementary health" practitioners and products, according to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey. Complementary health practitioners are those who provide acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic services, massage, energy healing therapy, yoga, and tai chi, among other services. Complementary health products include fish oil, co-enzyme Q10, ginseng, melatonin, probiotics, and many other herbs or nonvitamin supplements.
How much is $30 billion? It's 1.1 percent of total health care expenditures in the United States. It's 9.2 percent of total out-of-pocket health care expenditures. The $12 billion portion devoted to natural products is 24 percent of the amount Americans spend out-of-pocket on prescription drugs. The $15 billion portion devoted to complementary health practitioners is 30 percent of the amount Americans spend out-of-pocket on physician visits.
Source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, Expenditures on Complementary Health Approaches: United States, 2012