What is holistic medicine?
Holistic medicine (health) is more than just an alternative medicine or just a herbal medicine. Holistic medicine supports reaching higher levels of wellness as well as preventing illness. Not just with nutritional supplements, vitamins or herbs. Most important factor is your lifestyle. People enjoy the vitality and well-being that results from their positive lifestyle changes, and are motivated to continue this process throughout their lives. Holistic medicine (health) is actually an approach to life. Rather than focusing on illness or specific parts of the body, this ancient approach to health considers the whole person and how he or she interacts with his or her environment. It emphasizes the connection of mind, body, and spirit. The goal is to achieve maximum well-being, where everything is functioning the very best that is possible. With Holistic Health people accept responsibility for their own level of well-being, and everyday choices are used to take charge of one's own health.
A recent positive trend has been in the medical schools, which are beginning to invite holistic physicians to lecture or to develop programs in the schools to complement their more conventional curricula. The National Institute of Health has developed an office to support and research holistic and alternative medicine practices. Some states are now passing laws to protect and support the practices of holistic providers, as they have sometimes been the subject of harassment by their more conservative colleagues, for their different orientation, techniques, and approaches to health care. With these current trends, the changing needs and perceptions by a more informed public, and the increasing scientific validation of holistic approaches, I see the holistic paradigm coming of age–the new frontier of health care and human awareness.
What is alternative and what is complementary medicine?
Alternative medicine: practices used instead of standard medical treatments. Alternative medicine is distinct from complementary medicine which is meant to accompany, not to replace, standard medical practices. Alternative medical practices are generally not recognized by the medical community as standard or conventional medical approaches. Alternative medicine includes nutritional supplements, megadose vitamins, herbal preparations, special teas, massage therapy, magnet therapy, and spiritual healing.
Integration of complementary and alternative medicine therapies (CAM) with conventional medicine is occurring in hospitals and physicians offices, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) are covering CAM therapies, insurance coverage for CAM is increasing, and integrative medicine centers and clinics are being established, many with close ties to medical schools and teaching hospitals. In determining what care to provide, the goal should be comprehensive care that uses the best scientific evidence available regarding benefits and harm, encourages a focus on healing, recognizes the importance of compassion and caring, emphasizes the centrality of relationship-based care, encourages patients to share in decision making about therapeutic options, and promotes choices in care that can include complementary therapies where appropriate.
Numerous approaches to delivering integrative medicine have evolved. Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States identifies an urgent need for health systems research that focuses on identifying the elements of these models, the outcomes of care delivered in these models, and whether these models are cost-effective when compared to conventional practice settings.
It outlines areas of research in convention and CAM therapies, ways of integrating these therapies, development of curriculum that provides further education to health professionals, and an amendment of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act to improve quality, accurate labeling, research into use of supplements, incentives for privately funded research into their efficacy, and consumer protection against all potential hazards.