what is holistic health | OSCEA

What is Holistic Medicine?

Holistic medicine can be extremely beneficial in providing a whole-body approach to healthcare.

Thomas Edison once said, “The physician of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” Although his prediction has not yet been actualized, recent trends toward holistic health care indicate a shift in that direction. 

This article will cover: 

  • What is holistic medicine? 
    • The Main Principles of Holistic Medicine
    • Holistic medicine vs. conventional medicine 
    • Other names for holistic medicine
  • Different types of holistic treatment
  • Benefits of Holistic Medicine 
  • How do I put together my own integrated health team?

What is holistic medicine? 

Holistic medicine is a form of medicine that considers and treats the whole person- body, mind, spirit, and emotions. Practitioners believe a person is made up of interconnected parts and if one part isn’t working properly, all of the other parts will be affected. It is these imbalances, physical, spiritual, or emotional, that negatively affect overall health and wellbeing, resulting in illness and injury. Holism, the philosophy behind holistic medicine, promotes the belief that the mind, body, and spirit must be treated together to achieve full healing. Holistic medicine is a newer concept in the western world, but it is far from a new concept. Since the 6th century BC, India has been practicing Ayurveda, a form of holistic healing that focuses on using plants' healing energies. In the 1960s, holistic medicine began to enter the western world as people started to move away from modern drugs and medical technology and push for more natural healing. Then, in 1975, The National Conference on Holistic Health was held in California and just three years later, The Holistic Medical Association was created. Today, holistic practitioners in the US have to go through rigorous training similar to that of a medical doctor. There are lots of different types of practitioners; some are doctors with medical degrees and some are not “real doctors'' in the sense that they aren’t a licensed MDs. Generally, holistic medicine is being used not to replace traditional care but rather as a compliment. We don’t propose holistic health as a full replacement for traditional care. Holistic medicine can be extremely beneficial in providing a whole-body approach to healthcare. Based on the principle that unconditional love and support is the most powerful healer, the individual is seen as ultimately responsible for their own well-being. People today are experiencing chronically high levels of stress and fatigue, are eating nutrient-depleted foods, and are exposed to potentially harmful chemicals in our air, water, cleaning, and personal care products. People are tired of waiting long hours in waiting rooms, only to leave the doctor's office feeling like they aren’t heard and with a bunch of prescriptions that may or may not help. As wellness and mindfulness grow in popularity, people are increasingly trying out holistic medicine. 

Main Principles of Holistic Medicine
  • All people have innate healing powers.
  • The patient is a person, not a disease. Disease is caused by a problem with the whole body rather than a single event or body part. 
  • A person is not defined by their condition.
  • Healing takes a team approach and should address all aspects of the person's life using a variety of practices.
  • Treatment involves fixing the cause of the condition rather than alleviating symptoms. The goal of treatment is to fix the underlying cause of illness.
  • Prevention first, treatment second.
  • Good health is a combination of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness.
  • The relationship between the doctor and the person being treated determines the outcome. 
Holistic Medicine vs. Conventional Medicine 

Holistic Medicine 

  • Treats the entire body as one 
  • Aim to treat the root cause behind the disease 
  • Treats with herbal supplements, dietary, and lifestyle changes
  • Usually can’t prescribe prescriptions
  • Considers mind-body and spirit as one interdependent entity 
  • Longer-lasting treatment
  • A medical degree is sometimes licensed
  • Diagnosis and treatment are unique to the individual and rely on a close relationship between doctor and patient 
  • Physical, emotional, and spiritual
  • Based on ancient traditions 
  • Not covered by insurance 
  • Patients are seen when they’re well and sick
  • Slow-Paced

Conventional Medicine 

  • Treats specific symptoms
  • Provides medical solutions to alleviate disease, pain, and symptoms
  • Treats with prescriptions, radiation, and surgery 
  • Can prescribe prescriptions
  • Considers illness to be isolated to the portion of the body most affected 
  • Quicker, short term treatment
  • Always have a licensed medical degree
  • Diagnosis relies on the most statistically likely and treatments are based on scientific data that works on large populations
  • Purely biophysical 
  • Based on modern science 
  • Typically covered by insurance 
  • Patients are only seen when they are unwell
  • Fast-Paced
Other names for holistic medicine
  • Holistic healthcare
  • Functional medicine 
  • Integrative medicine
  • Unconventional medicine 
  • Unorthodox medicine 
  • CAM: Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • Alternative Medicine
  • Eastern Medicine 

Different Types of Holistic Treatment 

There are dozens of different types of holistic treatment. Holistic medicine is a term that tends to embrace the larger system of treatments and practitioners who work outside of conventional medicine. This system embraces the idea of an integrative medical approach where the individual can benefit most from a combination of different treatments. This can be a combination of different holistic treatments and conventional healthcare. Before embarking on a holistic medicine journey, it is important to know the different types of treatment available and their unique benefits.  


Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DOs) help their patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that prevent illness. DOs are licensed physicians. They are medical doctors who attended medical school, completed a residency, and took the same exam as conventional doctors to become licensed physicians. Osteopathic care typically involves physically manipulating the musculoskeletal system. Treatment is based on the idea that the musculoskeletal system, our muscles, bones, and nerves, affects the entire body. 


Homeopathy is a 250-year-old science based on the belief that the body can cure itself. One of its primary principles is “like cures like.” For example, they believe if large doses of a substance produce symptoms, a small quantity will cure the illness. Homeopathic medicine also believes in the concept of constitution, which is that the body should be treated as a whole and the right remedy will kick start the body into healing. Another principle of homeopathy is the law of infinitesimals which states that the more you dilute a drug, the more potent it gets. Remedies are typically diluted herbal remedies. Homeopathic doctors require highly detailed discussions on the first visit. Doctors want to know everything about the individual’s life to treat their entire being. 


Ayurveda, derived from the Sanskrit words Ayur (life) and Veda (knowledge), is an ancient form of Indian medicine that has been around for more than 3,000 years. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that health problems are caused by imbalanced life energy which can be treated through diet, herbal remedies, and lifestyle changes. In India, it is the primary system of healthcare, and doctors complete professional standardized training at an Ayurvedic school. In the US there are no licenses or certifications for Ayurvedic doctors so they are unfortunately not recognized as medical doctors. 


Naturopathic medicine is a combination of western science, natural therapies, and holistic approaches. Naturopathic doctors attend naturopathic medical colleges and take professional board exams to receive licenses, but they still aren't recognized as medical doctors. Treatment typically involves natural remedies to help the body heal itself including herbs, massages, and counseling. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) 

Traditional Chinese Medicine is an ancient form of Chinese medicine that has been practiced for over 2,000 years. TCM believes that every person has a life force or qi. Our good health depends on the balance and flow of this qi and if your qi is blocked, the result is disease. Practitioners balance their patient’s qi through acupuncture, herbal medicines, and lifestyle therapies. They must attend 4 years of school and earn a certification but are still around recognized as medical doctors in America. Acupuncture is a key component of TCM. This involves inserting very thin needles into a patient's skin at strategic points along the body, Acupuncture typically isn’t uncomfortable and provides relief by interrupting pain signals in the body. This practice is increasingly being used in western nations for pain management and overall wellness. 

Craniosacral (CST)

Craniosacral therapy is a gentle technique that involves light touch to manipulate the joints, typically those in the cranium, pelvis, and spine. This touch is meant to examine and affect the pressure of membranes and the movement of bodily fluids. The process is used to relieve pain and other health issues. This type of therapy is often employed by osteopathic doctors, chiropractors, years massage therapists. 

Other types of holistic treatment
  • Massage: Massage is one of the oldest remedies for pain relief dating back 5,000 years. There are many different forms and practitioners of massage but most are certified massage therapists.  
  • Yoga: Yoga is an ancient practice of movement, meditation, and breathing. This mind, body practice promotes mental and physical well-being. 
  • Tai Chi: Tai Chi involves integrating the mind with the body through controlled movements, breathing, generating internal energy, mindfulness, and song. The purpose of Tai Ci is to cultivate “qi” within each person so that their energy can flow smoothly and powerfully and they can achieve harmony between their inner and outer selves.
  • Reiki: Reiki is a Japanese form of alternative medicine. It is also called “energy healing.” The main technique used in Reiki is known as palm healing. In this practitioner, universal energy is said to be transferred through the palm of the practitioner to the patient to encourage emotional and physical healing.
  • Chiropractic: Chiropractic medicine was developed in the 19th century and is often not accepted as a legitimate form of medicine. Regardless, chiropractic care can be helpful for musculoskeletal pain. Practitioners believe joints slip out of place and must be manipulated back into their correct place. 
  • Herbalism: Herbalism has been around for thousands of years. Today herbalists engage in training to understand what healing powers herbs possess and how to prepare effective herbal remedies.

Benefits of Holistic Medicine

There are lots of benefits to holistic medicine. Integrating holistic practices into your conventional health plan can provide extremely effective results. 

  • Avoid side effects of prescription medications 
  • Avoid relapse because treatment finds the root cause
  • Provides a whole lifestyle change rather than a quick fix 
  • Non-invasive methods 
  • More consultation time with doctors 
  • Allows the individual to take more control over health and wellness 
  • Patient-centric 
  • Patients are seen when well and when sick which forms a plan for continued wellbeing
  • Doctors take time to understand patients as a whole and treat them as such 
  • Safe, natural, and effective 
  • Focused on healthy habits like diet and getting enough rest 
  • Restores sleep patterns, lowers stress, and balances mood 
  • Alleviates pain with long term results 
  • Effective in addressing gut and digestive issues 
  • Assist in delivering healthy babies  

How do I Put Together My Own Integrated Health Team? 

The best application of these practices is to integrate holistic treatments and philosophies into your conventional medical plan. We see holistic medicine as an additional layer rather than a replacement for conventional medicine. As you experiment with different types of holistic treatment, make sure to consult your conventional doctors. Always talk to your conventional doctor first before trying herbal supplements or alternative treatments to avoid possible side effects. Ask your doctor to be a supportive partner as you learn about other options and integrate other treatment methods. Since many holistic doctors aren’t certified medical doctors it is important to pick the right one. Getting recommendations from friends and family is a great start. You should also always research and check for practitioners’ training, certifications, license, associated organizations, and treatment philosophies. 

Below are two great resources to check out as you start creating your integrated health team. 

American Holistic Health Association 
  • Visit the American Holistic Health Association website to help you find trusted practitioners near you. On their website, you can find tons of resources including referrals, trusted practitioners, and recommended healing centers. They also have a great section of their website where you can search for holistic practitioners near you, based on your zip code or state. 
Parsley Health Membership 
  • Subscribing to an integrated membership program can be extremely helpful in incorporating holistic medicine into your conventional healthcare plan. We recommend Parsley since they are currently the leading integrated health care membership. When you join Parsley, their practitioners will work with your conventional doctors to create the best health care plan for your needs. How it works is you first meet your team, either online or in one of their many treatment centers. Parsley then conducted personalized, in-depth lab work to help create your plan. Your team will then help you start this plan, which is typically a combination of nutrition, lifestyle changes, and supplements. But it doesn’t end there-Parsley’s membership model offers ongoing support throughout your journey to help you achieve the best health possible. Parsley specializes in reproductive care, pediatric care, and mental wellbeing. Their work has shown significant symptom relief from IBS, PMS, Eczema, and Insomnia. Member outcomes show that 79% of Parley members improved or resolved their symptoms. If you are looking for an in-depth, and trusted integrated health care model, but don’t know where to start, Parsley could be the right fit for you.









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