FAQ Holistic Medicine
What is Holistic Medicine?
Holistic medicine is the art and science of healing that addresses the whole person - body, mind, and spirit. The practice of holistic medicine integrates conventional and alternative therapies to prevent and treat disease, and most importantly, to promote optimal health. This condition of holistic health is defined as the unlimited and unimpeded free flow of life force energy through body, mind, and spirit.
There are many terms used to describe approaches to health care that are outside the realm of conventional medicine as practiced around the world.
What is complementary and alternative medicine?
Complementary and alternative medicine, as defined, is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. While some scientific evidence exists regarding some CAM therapies, for most there are key questions that are yet to be answered through well-designed scientific studies--questions such as whether these therapies are safe and whether they work for the diseases or medical conditions for which they are used.
Are complementary medicine and alternative medicine different from each other?
Yes, they are different.
What is integrative medicine?
Integrative medicine combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.
What are the major types of complementary and alternative medicine?
CAM therapies into five categories, or domains:
1. Alternative Medical Systems
Alternative medical systems are built upon complete systems of theory and practice. Often, these systems have evolved apart from and earlier than the conventional medical approach used. Examples of alternative medical systems that have developed in Western cultures include homeopathic medicine and naturopathic medicine. Examples of systems that have developed in non-Western cultures include traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.
2. Mind-Body Interventions
Mind-body medicine uses a variety of techniques designed to enhance the mind's capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms. Some techniques that were considered CAM in the past have become mainstream (for example, patient support groups and cognitive-behavioral therapy). Other mind-body techniques are still considered CAM, including meditation, prayer, mental healing, and therapies that use creative outlets such as art, music, or dance.
3. Biologically Based Therapies
Biologically based therapies in CAM use substances found in nature, such as herbs, foods, and vitamins. Some examples include dietary supplements, herbal products, and the use of other so-called natural but as yet scientifically unproven therapies (for example, using shark cartilage to treat cancer).
4. Manipulative and Body-Based Methods
Manipulative and body-based methods in CAM are based on manipulation and/or movement of one or more parts of the body. Some examples include chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, and massage.
5. Energy Therapies
Energy therapies involve the use of energy fields. They are of two types:
Acupuncture is a method of healing developed in China at least 2,000 years ago. Today, acupuncture describes a family of procedures involving stimulation of anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques. American practices of acupuncture incorporate medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries. The acupuncture technique that has been most studied scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.
Aromatherapy involves the use of essential oils (extracts or essences) from flowers, herbs, and trees to promote health and well-being.
Ayurveda is a CAM alternative medical system that has been practiced primarily in the Indian subcontinent for 5,000 years. Ayurveda includes diet and herbal remedies and emphasizes the use of body, mind, and spirit in disease prevention and treatment.
Chiropractic is a CAM alternative medical system. It focuses on the relationship between bodily structure (primarily that of the spine) and function, and how that relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health. Chiropractors use manipulative therapy as an integral treatment tool.
Dietary supplements. Defined the term "dietary supplement" in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. A dietary supplement is a product (other than tobacco) taken by mouth that contains a "dietary ingredient" intended to supplement the diet. Dietary ingredients may include vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues, and metabolites. Dietary supplements come in many forms, including extracts, concentrates, tablets, capsules, gel caps, liquids, and powders. They have special requirements for labeling. Under DSHEA, dietary supplements are considered foods, not drugs.
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs, also called electric and magnetic fields) are invisible lines of force that surround all electrical devices. The Earth also produces EMFs; electric fields are produced when there is thunderstorm activity, and magnetic fields are believed to be produced by electric currents flowing at the Earth's core.
Homeopathic medicine is a CAM alternative medical system. In homeopathic medicine, there is a belief that "like cures like," meaning that small, highly diluted quantities of medicinal substances are given to cure symptoms, when the same substances given at higher or more concentrated doses would actually cause those symptoms.
Massage therapists manipulate muscle and connective tissue to enhance function of those tissues and promote relaxation and well-being.
Naturopathic medicine, or naturopathy, is a CAM alternative medical system. Naturopathic medicine proposes that there is a healing power in the body that establishes, maintains, and restores health. Practitioners work with the patient with a goal of supporting this power, through treatments such as nutrition and lifestyle counseling, dietary supplements, medicinal plants, exercise, homeopathy, and treatments from traditional Chinese medicine.
Osteopathic medicine is a form of conventional medicine that, in part, emphasizes diseases arising in the musculoskeletal system. There is an underlying belief that all of the body's systems work together, and disturbances in one system may affect function elsewhere in the body. Some osteopathic physicians practice osteopathic manipulation, a full-body system of hands-on techniques to alleviate pain, restore function, and promote health and well-being.
Qi gong is a component of traditional Chinese medicine that combines movement, meditation, and regulation of breathing to enhance the flow of qi (an ancient term given to what is believed to be vital energy) in the body, improve blood circulation, and enhance immune function.
Reiki is a Japanese word representing Universal Life Energy. Reiki is based on the belief that when spiritual energy is channeled through a Reiki practitioner, the patient's spirit is healed, which in turn heals the physical body.
Therapeutic Touch is derived from an ancient technique called laying-on of hands. It is based on the premise that it is the healing force of the therapist that affects the patient's recovery; healing is promoted when the body's energies are in balance; and, by passing their hands over the patient, healers can identify energy imbalances.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is the current name for an ancient system of health care from China. TCM is based on a concept of balanced qi (pronounced "chee"), or vital energy, that is believed to flow throughout the body. Qi is proposed to regulate a person's spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance and to be influenced by the opposing forces of yin (negative energy) and yang (positive energy). Disease is proposed to result from the flow of qi being disrupted and yin and yang becoming imbalanced. Among the components of TCM are herbal and nutritional therapy, restorative physical exercises, meditation, acupuncture, and remedial massage.
What is Chinese medicine?
Traditional Chinese Medicine is an ancient method of health care that combines the use of medicinal herbs, acupuncture, food therapy, massage, and therapeutic exercise. It has proven effective for many conditions, including chronic degenerative disease, cancer, infectious disease, allergies, childhood ailments, heart disease, and AIDS.
How can it help me?
Western medicine generally provides treatment for a specific illness, whereas Traditional Chinese Medicine addresses how the illness, manifests in a particular patient and treats the patient, not just the disease. The TCM practitioner also looks at the impact of a wide range of personal and environmental factors. Mood influences, activity, sex, food, drugs, weather, and seasons of the year can each affect the healing process. The TCM practitioner educates the patient about diet, exercise, stress management, rest, and relaxation.
Does it hurt?
No, diagnostic tests nor treatment will hurt.
Is it safe?
Traditional Chinese Medicine views the human body as a
reflection of the natural world-the part containing the whole-the TCM
doctor thinks and speaks in analogies with nature. The flows of energy
and fluids in the body are spoken of as channels and rivers, seas and
reservoirs. A diagnosis might describe the body in terms of the
elements-wind, heat, cold, dryness, and dampness. Despite this poetic
language, TCM is not a folk medicine but a comprehensive professional
discipline; based on an alternative, complete system of thought.
TCM also introduces a major component of the body, qi (also
referred to as chi) that Western medicine does not even acknowledge. Qi,
according to Dr. Ni, is difficult to define. "We call it life force, and
it is all inclusive of the many types of energy within the body and is
essential for life itself," he says. This vital life energy flows
through the body following pathways called meridians. Organs can be
accessed for treatment through their specific meridians, and illness can
essential in TCM to keep the qi flowing in order to maintain health.
The organs are also divided up into two groups of yin and