Holistic Medicine

Holistic medicine is a healing approach that considers a person's body, mind and spirit in the process of promoting health and well-being and the treatment of disease. Holistic medicine promotes an individual's overall health and well-being to ensure the proper functioning of the body as a whole. It is a system of care that leads toward the optimal attainment of the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of health.

The name "holistic" comes from the unification of the mind and body. Holistic practitioners treat the whole person, not just the organs or areas where the symptoms occur. Holistic medicine emphasizes the need to look at the whole person and all areas of their life, including the analysis of physical, nutritional, environmental, emotional, social, spiritual and lifestyle values.

Terms associated with holistic medicine
There are many types of therapies associated with holistic medicine and holistic forms of healing.

  • Alternative medicine is a term often used by the general public and some healthcare practitioners to refer to any form of practice that is outside the realm of conventional modern medicine, like acupuncture, Reiki, homeopathy and many others.
  • Complementary medicine is an alternative or holistic therapy used in addition to conventional therapies. For example, some Chinese hospitals use acupuncture to reduce pain during surgery instead of anesthetics.
  • Natural medicine usually refers to the use of noninvasive and nonpharmaceutical techniques to heal. Any therapy that relies on the body's own healing powers may be considered natural medicine. Some forms of natural medicine are herbal remedies, diet and water therapy.

There are many therapies and remedies that fall into the categories of holistic, alternative and natural medicine and are used alone, together or sometimes as a complementary therapy alongside conventional medicine. Some of these therapies are acupuncture, acupressure, aromatherapy, ayuveda, Bach flower remedies and flower essences, biofeedback, chiropractic care, color therapy, craniosacral therapy, diet, exercise, guided imagery, herbal medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, light therapy, macrobiotics, massage, meditation, mind/body medicine, music therapy, naturopathic medicine, neuro-linguistic programming, pilates, prayer, qi gong, reiki, shiatsu, sound therapy, spiritual healing, tai chi, visualization and yoga.

Differences between holistic and conventional medicine
Conventional medicine, also called allopathy, defines health as the absence of disease. Holistic medicine says that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. With conventional medicine there is little emphasis on preventive treatment. Holistic medicine focuses more on preventing illness and maintaining health. All aspects of a person are interrelated; this is called "holism," meaning a state of wholeness. Holistic medicine uses a wide range of therapies to boost the body's own defenses and restore balance.

Natural medicine, which follows the holistic approach, views illness and disease as an imbalance. Conventional medicine's approach is to suppress the symptoms of an illness, while natural medicine seeks restoration of the body's balance. Holistic medicine uncovers the underlying cause of the symptoms and disease and treats that, not just the symptoms.

Holistic medicine knows that the human body is equipped to resist disease and heal injuries, but when a disease does take hold or an injury occurs the first thing done in holistic healing is to help strengthen natural healing agents in the body. Results are not expected overnight, but they do not have the unwanted and sometimes dangerous side effects that conventional treatments and drugs often have.

The growing popularity of holistic medicine
Interest in holistic medicine is growing due to the rising costs of health care and the impersonal approach conventional medicine often takes. Conventional medical practices and drugs can often have unwanted and dangerous side effects. This sends people looking for a gentler, safer approach to healing.

Holistic medicine has been around for a long time. Many of the practices associated with holistic medicine have been around for hundreds even thousands of years but were pushed aside with the advent of modern medicine.

Now people desire a more caring and humanistic approach. They wanted to be treated as a whole person, not just a symptom or disease on a chart. People also want safer, cheaper and more effective treatments. With the growing interest in holistic medicine, more scientific studies are being done showing positive outcomes and proving that holistic practices are effective.

Conventional medicine is becoming more accepting of holistic practices. Medical schools are even beginning to invite holistic physicians to lecture or develop programs in the schools. There are an increasing number of holistic practitioners and health care providers that use complementary holistic practices. Some states are passing laws to protect and support holistic providers, and some insurance companies are even starting to cover the costs of some holistic therapies.

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The word "holism" is rooted in the Greek "holos" meaning whole. It supports the idea that the universe cannot be broken down to the sum of its parts. Holistic medicine is therefore an approach to health, healing and wellness that aims to treat the patient as a complete entity without reducing him or her to mere symptoms, physical or otherwise.
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