Holistic Medicine

Understanding holistic medicine

What is holistic medicine?

The term holistic medicine relates to a wide number of therapies that are designed to treat the whole of a person, both their body and mind. It is often, therefore, seen in contrast to the drug therapies offered by big pharmaceutical companies – and surgery, for that matter – as a means of dealing with all ailments rather than focusing on 'cures' for specific pathogens or treating individual symptoms. Some, therefore, argue that holistic medicine frames conventional Western medicine as one that is narrow in its approach and ultimately unnatural. Holistic medicine is consequently considered an alternative therapy or, more accurately, a combination of alternative therapies. Today, some doctors combine the principals behind holistic therapies with conventional ones. However, this is not yet routine in the West.

 Where did holistic medicine originate?

Holistic medicine does not have a single point in time or a place from which its development can be traced. The herbalism carried out in Ancient Greece and, later, Mediaeval Europe is a part of the holistic practice. Certain Ayurvedic traditions from ancient India also contribute as does parts of traditional Chinese medicine. Overall, holistic ideas around medicine began to take root during the explosion of New Age thinking in the 1960s and 70s.

What is holistic medicine used for?

In terms of treatments, holistic therapy is used for every ailment known to man, whether or not it is successful in the end. However, holistic therapies are not there simply to treat pre-existing conditions but to prevent them by promoting better health in the first place. Holistic techniques will often emphasise healthy posture, diet and mental attitude, for instance. Different alternative therapies, such as massage and homeopathy, might be suggested. As mentioned, holistic approaches are sometimes used in the West to add to the medicine that is already available from science rather than to replace it. People with Cancer, for example, may see their oncology specialist to treat their condition and a holistic practitioner to help build up their wider health.

How does holistic medicine function?

This depends on the treatment or treatments being deployed. In some cases, therapies like acupuncture or reiki aim to improve the balance of life force in people. Massage and chiropractic care may be used, too, in order to relax people, strengthen their musculature and help them to move more freely. In short, the function of holistic medicine varies a great deal. That said, the goal is to improve every aspect of a patient's well-being regardless of the method.

Is holistic medicine scientific?

Most Western scholars view holistic therapies and medicine as a pseudo-science. This view is less common in places like China, however. Overall, more scientific work is being approved into holistic medicine – especially techniques like acupuncture – which is increasingly indicating it can be useful for many people even if the scientific processes going on as a result of it is not yet fully understood.

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