OBJECTIVES: To explore First Year medical students' rating of CAM therapies following a core teaching session. To determine the influence of student gender and previous experience of CAM and therapist/teacher gender and professional background on ratings. DESIGN: Survey; self-administered questionnaire following a teaching session. SETTING: First Year medical students Behavioural Science module CAM teaching session, University of Birmingham Medical School, UK. RESULTS: One hundred and fifty (71.0%) students completed a questionnaire. 56 (37.3%) students had previous experience of CAM, particularly where a family member already used it (P = < 0.001). Aromatherapy (29/56, 51.7%) and homoeopathy (17/56, 30.3%) were the most common therapies listed. Females were more likely than males to have used aromatherapy (P = 0.038) or reflexology (P = 0.007). Students using aromatherapy were more likely to have self treated (P = 0.01). Of 82 episodes of CAM use, most (67/82,81.7%) were stated to have been helpful. Hypnotherapy (P = 0.003) and aromatherapy (P = 0.015) were most helpful. Following the teaching session students rated therapies observed on a 10 point scale, 1 (extremely sceptical) to 10 (totally convinced). All were rated above the mid-point; highest rated was chiropractic (median score = 8), lowest, reflexology (median score = 5.06). Students who had previously used hypnotherapy gave it higher scores (P = 0.018). Students whose family used CAM were more likely to rate aromatherapy highly (P = .027) and to give homoeopathy a low score (P = 0.003). CONCLUSIONS: A short CAM teaching session early in the curriculum can inform students about the relationship of CAM with current medical practice. It can be used as a 'taster' prior to selection of Special Study Module choices in later years.