Holistic medicine is a whole-body approach to wellness and health care, meaning that the goal is to treat a person as a whole: body, mind, and spirit. Optimal health is much more than the absence of sickness. According to holistic medicine practitioners, all aspects of a person’s health are interrelated and being unwell in one can affect all others.
Because holistic treatments are more about identifying the root of an ailment instead of just addressing symptoms, it is a more realistic approach to healing. It focuses on wellness and prevention rather than just treating disease.
What is holistic medicine?
In general, holistic medicine combines conventional medicine with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) that have been scientifically proven to work. Nutrition, exercise, homeopathy, acupuncture, and meditation are a few treatments that may be used together with conventional medicine as part of the holistic approach.
The goal of holistic healing is to improve the body's natural healing abilities along with empowering the patient to take charge of their health. This approach takes into consideration the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of an illness. These aspects are then corrected so that the disease can be managed and treated.
A holistic doctor generally has a medical background, but they are focused on prevention first and treatment second.
What are the principles of holistic medicine?
Holistic medicine is based on the following core principles:
- All people have an innate ability to heal and are responsible for their well-being.
- Health is a combination of physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and social wellness.
- Treatment involves addressing the person as a whole rather than a specific illness.
- The goal of treatment is to fix the underlying cause of the disease or condition, instead of just treating symptoms.
- A person is not defined by their condition.
- Holistic practitioners work with the patient to understand the patient as a whole and provide appropriate treatment to them.
- Prevention is primary and treatment is secondary.
- Treatment outcome is determined by the relationship between a doctor and the person being treated.
What are different types of holistic medicine?
Holistic treatment involves a wide range of options, including complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), education, lifestyle changes, self-care, and traditional medicine. Holistic approaches to treatment include:
- Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM): A holistic practitioner may perform or prescribe certain therapies, including:
- Education and lifestyle changes: The patient is educated about making lifestyle changes, including fixing bad habits and introducing self-care techniques:
- Traditional treatments: Most holistic practitioners combine traditional medicine and surgical procedures with the above CAM therapies. These include:
What are the benefits of holistic medicine?
There are many benefits to holistic medicine, including the following:
- Overall health improvement: Holistic treatments focus on improving overall health and healing a person’s:
- Physical health
- Emotional and spiritual health
- Social health
- Mental health
- Natural methods: Holistic doctors mostly use natural medicines, herbs, and noninvasive methods in their treatment plans. Keep in mind, however, that this does not mean these medicines are 100% safe.
- Personalized care: Holistic practitioners usually provide more consultation time and give more attention to their patients, since they are treating patients as individuals and not just a list of symptoms.
- Emphasis on prevention: Treatment focuses on preventing diseases before symptoms show up, in addition to regular treatment of illnesses. Because of its focus on finding and eliminating the root cause of the disease, holistic therapies help avoid the need for repeated, expensive treatments.
- Fewer side effects: Holistic treatment may not have as many side effects as many medications, although this may not always be true depending on a patient’s condition.
- Empowers patients: Holistic medicine helps patients understand their innate ability to heal. It allows people to take control of their health and wellness through self-care, lifestyle changes, eating healthier, and exercising more.
- Chemical-free: Patients may be able to reduce the amount of pharmaceutical products they are taking or eliminate them completely from their treatment plan.
- Easier on finances: Treatments may be less expensive than other treatments.
- Treats a wide range of conditions: Holistic medicine can be used to treat a wide range of conditions and ailments, including:
While there are many benefits to holistic medicine, keep in mind that it is not necessarily a replacement for traditional medical care. In some cases, certain holistic therapies can interfere with modern medications and do more harm than good. Make sure to talk to your doctor before trying holistic treatments.
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Science Direct. Holistic Medicine. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/holistic-medicine
Gordon JS. Holistic medicine: advances and shortcomings. West J Med. 1982;136(6):546-551. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1273970/