Holistic medicine is the art and science of healing that addresses care of the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. The practice of holistic medicine integrates conventional and complementary therapies to promote optimal health, and prevent and treat disease by addressing contributing factors.

“The art and science of healing that addresses the whole person – body, mind and spirit. The practice of holistic medicine integrates conventional and complementary therapies to promote optimal health and to prevent and treat disease”.

Other Terms Associated with Holistic Medicine

  • Alternative Medicine is often used by the general public and some healthcare practitioners to refer to medical techniques which are not known or accepted by the majority “conventional” or “allopathic” medical practitioners (usually M.D.’s). Such techniques could include non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical techniques such as Medical Herbalism, Acupunture, Homeopathy, Reiki, and many others. However, the term Alternative Medicine can also refer to any experimental drug or non-drug technique that is not currently accepted by “conventional” medical practitioners. As non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical techniques become popular and accepted by large number of “conventional” practitioners, these techniques will no longer be considered Alternative Medicine.Alternative Medicine refers to techniques that are not currently accepted by “conventional” practitioners, but what is currently accepted is quickly changing. Even the definition of “conventional practitioners” is quickly changing. Therefore, techniques that are now considered part of Alternative Medicine will soon be considered part of “conventional” medicine. The terms Holistic Healing and Holistic Medicine are slightly more stable than Alternative Medicine and are therefore preferable.
  • Complementary Medicine is often used by “conventional” medical practitioners to refer to non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical techniques used as a complement to “conventional” medical treatments such as drugs and surgery. The term implies that “conventional” medicine is used as a primary tool and the non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical techniques are used as a supplement when needed.In many cases, properly chosen non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical healing techniques plus properly chosen lifestyle changes can completely and safely heal both acute and chronic illnesses. In other cases, “conventional” medicine is only needed in emergencies or when the safer non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical methods fail. In some cases “conventional” medicine will be a major part of a Holistic Healing Plan, but in some cases it is not needed at all.
  • Natural Healing usually refers to the use of non-invasive and non-pharmaceuticals techniques to help heal the patient. When most people use the term Natural Healing, they are usually referring to physical healing techniques only.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is the term for medical products and practices that are not part of standard care. Standard care is what medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, and allied health professionals, such as nurses and physical therapists, practice.

Complementary medicine is used together with standard medical care. An example is using acupuncture to help with side effects of cancer treatment.

Alternative medicine is used in place of standard medical care. An example is treating heart disease with chelation therapy (which seeks to remove excess metals from the blood) instead of using a standard approach.

The practice of holistic medicine integrates conventional and alternative therapies to prevent and treat disease, and most importantly, to promote optimal health. This condition of holistic health is defined as the unlimited and unimpeded free flow of life force energy through body, mind, and spirit.

Holistic medicine encompasses all safe and appropriate modalities of diagnosis and treatment. It includes analysis of physical, nutritional, environmental, emotional, spiritual and lifestyle elements. Holistic medicine focuses upon patient education and participation in the healing process.

The Principles of Holistic Medical Practice

  • Holistic physicians embrace a variety of safe, effective options in the diagnosis and treatment, including:
    • education for lifestyle changes and self-care
    • complementary alternatives; and
    • conventional drugs and surgery
  • Searching for the underlying causes of disease is preferable to treating symptoms alone.
  • Holistic physicians expend as much effort in establishing what kind of patient has a disease as they do in establishing what kind of disease a patient has.
  • Prevention is preferable to treatment and is usually more cost-effective. The most cost-effective approach evokes the patient’s own innate healing capabilities.
  • Illness is viewed as a manifestation of a dysfunction of the whole person, not as an isolated event.
  • A major determinant of healing outcomes is the quality of the relationship established between physician and patient, in which patient autonomy is encouraged.
  • The ideal physician-patient relationship considers the needs, desires, awareness and insight of the patient as well as those of the physician.
  • Physicians significantly influence patients by their example.
  • Illness, pain, and the dying process can be learning opportunities for patients and physicians.
  • Holistic physicians encourage patients to evoke the healing power of love, hope, humor and enthusiasm, and to release the toxic consequences of hostility, shame, greed, depression, and prolonged fear, anger, and grief.
  • Unconditional love is life’s most powerful medicine. Physicians strive to adopt an attitude of unconditional love for patients, themselves, and other practitioners.
  • Optimal health is much more than the absence of sickness. It is the conscious pursuit of the highest qualities of the physical, environmental, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social aspects of the human experience.

(Principles: Reference American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA)

Having an holistic health check up is somewhat different than having a physical by a healthcare provider when your pulse is taken and a tongue depressor is stuck inside your mouth. Holistic care involves evaluating and nurturing all aspects of our bodies, not the physical body alone.