According to data released this week tracking Americans’ out-of-pocket spending on health care, each year we fork out some $33.9 billion for “complementary and alternative medicine”—everything ranging from acupuncture and massage therapy to yoga and herbal supplements. The nearly $40 billion in spending represents just 1.5% of overall annual health care costs, which hover around a whopping $2.2 trillion, but 11.2% of all out-of-pocket expenditures…
It isn’t just yogis and herbalists ponying up for ginseng and meditation: according to the study 38% of adults use some type of alternative or complementary care to ease their ailments. Additionally, the data, collected in 2007, shows marked changes in spending from a decade earlier. In 1997 Americans spent $6.6 billion on self remedies; these days we’re spending more than twice that, suggesting that we’re seeking out do-it-yourself options on a more regular basis. In contrast, it seems Americans may be relying less on alternative care providers. In 1997, we spent at least $15.8 billion getting our spines aligned and muscles massaged; 10 years later, annual spending for these types of treatments dropped by about $4 billion.

— Time, July 31, 2009