Holistic medicine is a term used by its proponents to describe a theory of healing that includes all aspects of the human experience. In order to achieve and maintain good health, the patient’s body, mind, and spirit must be taken into account. If any of these aspects are neglected, then all of them will be negatively impacted. Holistic medicine practitioners believe that a person is made up of those three interdependent parts, and that an effect on one will have an effect on the other two. This belief in a connection between the body and the spirit is the cornerstone of holistic healthcare.
Ultimately, holistic medicine is based on a belief that a person is responsible for their own well-being, and that love and support are their most potent tools in achieving this goal. There are four main principles that help expand on this core tenant. Firstly, the patient is a person not a problem. Practitioners of holistic medicine often find the methods of doctors clinical and impersonal. They see the doctor’s focus on objective observation and biological processes problematic, a way of missing the forest for the trees.
The second principle is related to the first, in that it expresses a focus on a spiritual reality. It can be summarized simply as a belief that all people possess healing abilities innately. What is meant by that however is a matter of debate among those in the holistic health field, but most see this as an extension of the idea that love is a powerful healing tool in of itself. As a result, anyone can offer their love and support to another human, thereby helping them to maintain an optimum level of health.
The third of these principles is that the healing process is a collaboration between the healthcare provider and the patient, addressing all aspects of the patient’s life. Rather than focus on the physical nature of the malady being treated, mental and spiritual health must be taken into account as well. So rather than medication alone, a variety of treatments should be included. Acupuncture, psychotherapy, chiropractic care, and spiritual guidance may all be recommended by a practitioner of holistic health care.
Finally, holistic medicine is about more than treating symptoms, the root cause must be addressed as well. There are those who feel that modern medical practices in the western world are flawed from the outset, in that the focus is on treating symptoms before anything else. They feel that a more nuanced approach is necessary for true optimum levels of health to be reached. A doctor will ask you what symptoms brought you to see him, and then prescribe a treatment based on what you tell him and he observes himself. A holistic health practitioner will focus on things beyond the physical, looking towards your psychological and spiritual needs as well.
Natural holistic health has its detractors. They see even the use of the term ‘holistic’ itself as problematic, in that it implies that actual medical care is limited in scope. As a result, those who sell holistic treatments are seen as more open minded and diverse in their methods, regardless of differences in efficacy. Regardless of whether or not it actually works, holistic health is a booming industry that rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Clearly, its critics are wasting their breath.