What is Holistic Medicine?


What is Holistic Medicine?

Holistic medicine is any healing practice that uses alternative methods to address health issues through natural, non-invasive means from a whole-person perspective. Popular forms of holistic medicine include acupuncture, acupressure, massage therapy, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), body movement therapy, and naturopathic medicine.

Essential lavender oil and a bunch of lavender

Why is a Holistic Approach to Health Important?

While conventional medicine is absolutely essential in some cases, many people are drawn to holistic medicine either on its own or as a complement to conventional medical treatments. Holistic medicine allows patients to take a more active role in their own health through dietary and lifestyle changes, finding the tools to cope with stressors in a healthy way, and learning to identify personal health triggers by becoming more in touch with their bodies. A holistic approach to health means looking at the whole person—body and mind—and taking into account all external factors such as environment, lifestyle, outside stress, and more in order to determine the causes of health issues and treat them at their root.

What is a Holistic Doctor and What do They do?

There are a number of types of holistic healing practices, and different holistic healthcare practitioners do different things, from acupuncture to herbal/botanical medicine to massage and manipulative therapy, but commonly when people talk about a holistic doctor what they mean is a naturopathic doctor, or ND. Licensed naturopathic doctors take a whole-body-and-mind approach to medicine with a focus on prevention. They collaborate with their patients to come up with individualized treatment plans that address diet, lifestyle, and mental wellness in order to achieve positive health outcomes.

A variety of holistic fresh herbs and extracts

The Six Principles of Naturopathic Medicine

1. First, Do No Harm

Naturopathic doctors use the least invasive approaches to healing. The intent of holistic medicine is to provide treatment that is safe, gentle, and does not cause any harm to the patient. This is the first principle of naturopathic medicine and is an essential fundamental to all holistic medical practice.

2. The Healing Power of Nature

NDs recognize the value of our natural world in assisting the healing process. Not only do NDs utilize substances that originate in nature, but they also incorporate a healthy natural environment as foundational to human health. Naturopathic doctors recognize and harness the body’s inherent wisdom to heal itself in order to guide patients to wellness and total health.

3. Identify and Treat the Causes

There is a time and place for symptom suppression, however most naturopathic patients will benefit from identifying the underlying causes of illness and removing obstacles to cure.

4. Doctor as Teacher

The word “doctor” comes from the Latin “docere,” which means “to teach.” In naturopathic medicine, a doctor is someone who teaches healing as well as facilitates it. This focus on education empowers patients to take a more active role in their health and gives them the tools they need to implement healthy prevention practices into their daily life.

5. Treat the Whole Person

Naturopathic medicine acknowledges the interconnectedness of various parts of the body and how a problem in one area may exacerbate or cause a problem in a seemingly unrelated area. A naturopathic doctor will also look at the connection between environment, lifestyle, and a person’s health, known as a holistic approach. By treating the whole person and their environment, NDs are able to better identify the triggers of health problems and properly treat the cause, not just the symptoms.

6. Prevention

The prevention of potential problems is a major focus of naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic doctors work with patients to identify imbalances and behaviors that could cause illness if left unchecked, then coming up with a strategy to address these factors. By emphasizing prevention, NDs help patients take control over their health and maintain a sustainably healthy lifestyle.

Various herbs, tinctures, and supplements for natural healing

A common misconception about naturopathic medicine is that NDs are not “real doctors.” A naturopathic doctor’s education is comparable to that of a medical doctor and includes practical application, laboratory experience, clinical residency, and coursework. It is important to check the credentials of any holistic healthcare practitioner before following their advice and always choose a fully licensed naturopathic doctor who has graduated from an AANMC school.

Now that you know the basics about holistic medicine, further your understanding of this exciting career path by learning more:

  1. Benefits of Holistic Medicine
  2. Holistic Doctor Salary
  3. Best Alternative Medicine Schools