Holistic treatment is an approach to good health that takes into account the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional wellbeing. The term holistic originates from the word “holos” which is Greek for “all” or “entire”. Holistic medicine is, therefore, an approach to health which appreciates that good health cannot be limited to only one aspect of the person. In other words, treating the body without considering the state of the mind, spirit and emotional wellbeing does not amount to good health.
This approach makes sense, considering that besides the physical symptoms, many ailments have a nervous or mental aspect. Holistic treatment addresses the various aspects of illness in order to achieve wholesome balance in a person’s life.1)
Different cultures have practiced holistic medicine for thousands of years. These include the Maori of New Zealand, Chinese, Native Americans, and the Middle Eastern cultures.
Is Holistic Treatment the Same As Alternative Treatment?
While holistic medicine is related to alternative medicine, the terms cannot be used interchangeably. Holistic treatments are meant to support a healthy whole using any type of remedy that can lead to wholesome wellbeing. This is different from alternative treatments which are treatment methods that are outside of conventional medicine practices.
Therefore, although holistic treatments sound like a part of alternative medicine, it is different in that it incorporates the best methods to achieve good health. This includes conventional medicine and any form of alternative treatment.2)
Holistic Treatments in Modern Medicine
While holistic approach to health has been in existence for thousands of years, its importance similar to other old medical practices like herbalism, was relegated to the edges of healthcare with the advent of conventional western medicine.
However, holistic medicine is now getting acceptance in mainstream medicine. This is thanks to the rise in previously rare conditions like autoimmune diseases, metabolic disorders, mental disorders and cancers among others. This has caused more people to develop an interest in the management of their health. And while these old healthcare methods are typically called alternative medicine, they are in fact the original methods of healthcare.
Bridging the Gap Between Conventional and Alternative Medicine
Because it incorporates both conventional and alternative healthcare practices, holistic medicine can be thought of as the bridge between the two. Still, holistic treatments are not limited to either. And therein, lies their strength. Ordinarily, in conventional and alternative medicine, the health practitioner provides some quick fix solution to a health problem.
However, in holistic medicine, good health is treated as an ongoing team process involving the healthcare provider and the patient with the objective of attaining wholesome health using the most effective and sustainable methods. This means that the holistic practitioner serves more as a guide instead of a solution provider. This approach places a lot of responsibility for the achievement of good health in the hands of the individual.
Principles of Holistic Treatments
As mentioned earlier, holistic treatment incorporates any practices that can help achieve and maintain balance in life devoid of disease. To achieve this state and prevent most illnesses, holistic medicine follows some principles that ensure that the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of a person are taken care of.
These principles include; striving for good health in the entirety of a person, prevention of illness, treatment of the person holistically, integration of treatment methods for best results, seeking innate balance to achieve good health, team approach to management of health, appreciating the uniqueness of every individual.3)
Remedies Used in Holistic Treatments
By following the principles of holistic health, it is possible to reduce the risk of many illnesses. Still, illness can still occur. When this happens, a holistic doctor will be guided in treatment by a diagnosis that is based on examination, tests, and interviewing. This will help to determine the best method or combination of treatment options to use. Treatment methods used in holistic treatments include:
- Nutritional supplements
- Massage therapy
- Physical exercise
Benefits of Holistic Treatments
Because it is not biased towards or against any form of treatment, holistic medicine is beneficial to patients in many ways. The main health benefits include the following:
Treats the Underlying Cause of Illness
In most cases, administration of traditional treatments is based on the symptoms of an illness. This can work if the illness is purely physical. But, if there is an underlying cause such as stress, poor nutrition, or lack of physical exercise; the illness may recur. Holistic treatment methods on the other hand, are administered differently. While normal diagnosis is based on any conventional tests, further considerations are made based on the nutritional, mental, emotional, spiritual and environmental conditions of the patient. This helps to pick up hidden cause of illness so that wholesome treatment can be administered.
Achieve Wholesome Health
Because holistic treatments are designed to address the health status of a person in their entirety, they can lead to better health. This approach is different from conventional treatments which are designed to treat a specific illness without much attention to the rest of the body.
Reduce Risk of Dangerous Side Effects
Because holistic medicine considers the body as a whole, and seeks to achieve overall health, it avoids treatments with known dangerous side effects. Instead, it uses alternatives which are known to work without posing new health risks to the patient. This way, the patient does not end up suffering from a new health condition as a result of treatment for the initial condition.
Holistic Treatments Provide Long-Term Health Solution
The objective of holistic treatments is to achieve life balance by treating a person holistically; appreciating that the parts composing the person are interconnected. Good health is achieved when the various subsystems in a person are in harmony or balance. For instance, instead of prescribing some pills for a person suffering from fatigue, further investigation may show that the patient has nutritional deficiencies. When such deficiencies are addressed probably in addition to medication, the patient is likely to get over the problem for the long-term.5)
Develop Interest in Personal Wellbeing
Ordinarily, in conventional medicine, and indeed in alternative medicine, the patient need not know much about the treatment given. As a result, the patient is largely ignorant of their health and what they need to do to improve it. However, in holistic medicine, the patient is required to be involved in managing their health. To do this, the patient learns about the things and practices that may be causing illness in order to avoid them. This health education can help the patient to achieve sustainable good health.
Holistic treatments use any and every possible method to maintain good health in a person. Additionally, it looks beyond the obvious signs and symptoms of an illness in order to identify and address any underlying issues that could be causing an imbalance in a person. This way, holistic medicine can achieve good and wholesome health physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally using the least invasive treatment options.