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What is Holistic Medicine?

December 13 2007

Holistic Medicine is a system of healthcare whereby the person is completely involved and responsible for their health.  It is a system that leads towards the optimal attainment of the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of health.  All modalities of diagnosis and treatments are used, starting from the very subtle leading to drugs and surgery, if no safe alternative exists.  Instead of focusing on the disease in the body, holism focuses on the ability of the body to adapt to its environment through education and self-healing.

History of Holistic Medicine
As far back as 5,000 years ago, in India and China, the ancient traditions emphasised a healthy way of living in harmony with nature.  Socrates in the 4th century BC warned against treating only one part of the body “for the part can never be well unless the whole is wel”.  Jans Christiaan Smuts introduced the term holism in 1926 as a way of viewing living things as “entities greater than and different from the sum of their part,”, although holism did not become part of modern vocabulary until the 1970’s.

Although holism was part of the ancient traditions, the birth of modern medicine in the twentieth century created a dramatic shift in the concept of health, moving away from sellf-healing to looking to the outside for both disease and cure.  Germs were identified and drugs were created to kill them.  Unhealthy lifestyles became the norm and it was generally believed that modern medicine could counteract this inbalance.

Drugs were used that proved to be more harmful than the “disease” for example mercury and cyanide.  People began to look for alternative methods for help, turning to the ancient arts to reach levels of wellness.

The Basic Principles of Holistic Health
Holistic health is based upon the laws of nature – that the whole is made up of interdependent parts.  The earth is made up of interdependent systems, such as air, water, land, plants and animals.  If you take one away, the other systems would begin to get out of control and fail.  This is the same for the human body.  Take away a part that hurts and something else in the body will begin to change its way of working.

The Holistic Approach
The holistic approach goes beyond getting rid of the symptoms, it goes much deeper and looks towards the cause of the dis-ease.  For example, a headache.  Instead of giving a pill to block the nervous system and prevent it from telling the brain there is a problem, the holistic approach would be to study the whole body and deduce from the diagnostic techniques used for each therapy where the cause lies that makes the body register a headache.  For example, the headache could be coming from stress at work, or a vertebra out of place in the neck, excessive amounts of toxins built up in the liver or a brain tumour.  The holistic approach would use all diagnostic tools available to reach the cause of the headache instead of simply masking it with pain-killers.

Additional Benefits of Holistic Medicine
Holistic medicine not only goes to the cause of the dis-ease and treats the cause, it supports reaching higher levels of wellness as well as peventing dis-ease.  Through positive life-style changes and preventative treatments people enjoy the benefits of a higher level of wellness and are motivated to continue this process throughout their lives.

Sharon E. Nilsson Lic.Ac.

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