Guide to Laws About Complementary and Alternative Healing Arts in California

Does California allow the practice of complementary and alternative medicine?

California law explicitly allows the practice of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) health care which does not require medical training and credentials.1Business & Professions Code Sec 2053.5 These “non licensed healing arts” include practices such as aromatherapy, herbal therapy, ayurvedic medicine, energy healing, or Reiki.

Do you need a license to practice complementary and alternative medicine?

California does not provide for or require a license to perform these services, and it is legal to do so, so long as you comply with the following rules. (Note: Many other alternative healing arts practices DO require a license. See our Professional and Business Licenses guide)

What are the rules on practicing healing arts?

If you practice non licensed healing arts, you may not do any of the following:2Business & Professions Code Sec 2053.5

  1. Conduct surgery or any other procedure on another person that punctures the skin or harmfully invades the body.
  2. Administer or prescribe X-ray radiation to another person.
  3. Prescribe or administer legend drugs or controlled substances to another person.
  4. Recommend the discontinuance of legend drugs or controlled substances prescribed by an appropriately licensed practitioner.
  5. Willfully diagnose and treat a physical or mental condition of any person under circumstances or conditions that cause or create a risk of great bodily harm, serious physical or mental illness, or death.
  6. Set fractures.
  7. Treat lacerations or abrasions through electrotherapy.
  8. Hold out, state, indicate, advertise, or imply to a client or prospective client that you are a physician, a surgeon, or a physician and surgeon.

If you practice non licensed healing arts you MUST do the following:3Business & Professions Code Sec 2053.5 and 2053.6

  1. Disclose to the client in a written statement using plain language (and in a language that the client understands) the following information:

(A) That you are not a licensed physician.
(B) That the treatment is alternative or complementary to healing arts services licensed by the state.
(C) That the services to be provided are not licensed by the state.
(D) The nature of the services to be provided.
(E) The theory of treatment upon which the services are based.
(F) Your educational, training, experience, and other qualifications regarding the services to be provided.

2. Obtain a written acknowledgment from the client stating that he or she has been provided with the information described in paragraph (1). You must provide the client with a copy of the written acknowledgement, which you must maintain at least 3 years.

3. If you advertise any non licensed healing arts services, you must disclose in the advertisement that you are not licensed by the state as a healing arts practitioner.


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Photo by William Farlow on Unsplash


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