Holistic health

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Holistic health (or holistic medicine) is a diverse field of alternative medicine[1] in which the "whole person" is focused on, not just the malady itself.[2]

Background and conceptual basis[edit]

The history of holistic health can be traced back to ancient Greece with the teachings of Hippocrates.[3]

Holistic health can include nineteenth century alternative medicine proponents of homeopathy, hydrotherapy and naturopathy.[4]

The holistic concept in medical practice, which is distinct from the concept in the alternative medicine, upholds that all aspects of people's needs including psychological, physical and social should be taken into account and seen as a whole. A 2007 study said the concept was alive and well in general medicine in Sweden.[5]

Some practitioners of holistic medicine use alternative medicine exclusively, though sometimes holistic treatment can mean simply that a physician takes account of all a person's circumstances in giving treatment. Sometimes when alternative medicine is mixed with mainstream medicine the result is called "holistic" medicine, though this is more commonly termed integrative medicine.[2]

According to the American Holistic Medical Association it is believed that the spiritual element should also be taken into account when assessing a person's overall well-being.[6]


Holistic health is a diverse field in which many techniques and therapies are used.[2] Practitioners of alternative approaches may include many ineffective methods such as colon therapy, orthomolecular medicine, and metabolic therapy.[2]


In their book Examining Holistic Medicine, Douglas Stalker and Clark Glymour have written that:

The leading holistic aims and tenets do not constitute a distinct conception of medicine for they amount to nothing more than banalities of orthodox medicine, truisms devoid of medical content, exaggerations devoid of relevance to the practice of medicine, or patent falsehoods. The holistic movement does contain, however, a reactionary impetus that is in direct opposition to the conception of medicine as scientific, and this leads holists to disparage not just scientific conclusions regarding their practices but also scientific reasoning itself.[7]

Philosophers of science, Daisie Radner and Michael Radner have noted that although holistic medicine is sometimes said not to replace conventional medicine, its proponents advocate pseudoscientific ideas and that the "writers on holistic health are curiously reluctant to tell their readers how to separate the wheat from the chaff in the alternative techniques of health care."[8]

There have been several published scientific studies that dispute the efficacy, beyond the placebo effect, of (alternative) holistic medicine in treating any known disease. The American Cancer Society recommends that if holistic medicine is to be used at all, it should be used only in conjunction with conventional medicine and not as a replacement.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dictionary of Metaphysical Healthcare – Glossary". Quackwatch. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Holistic Medicine". American Cancer Society. January 2013. Archived from the original on February 17, 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Kleisiaris CF, Sfakianakis C, Papathanasiou IV. Health care practices in ancient Greece: The Hippocratic ideal. Journal of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine. 2014;7:6.
  4. ^ Whorton, James C. The First Holistic Revolution: Alternative Medicine in the Nineteenth Century. In Douglas Stalker, Clark Glymour. (1985). Examining Holistic Medicine. Prometheus Books. pp. 29-48. ISBN 0-87975-303-X
  5. ^ Strandberg, Eva; Ovhed, Ingvar; Borgquist, Lars; Wilhelmsson, Susan (2007). "The perceived meaning of a (w)holistic view among general practitioners and district nurses in Swedish primary care: A qualitative study". BMC Family Practice. 8: 8. doi:10.1186/1471-2296-8-8. PMC 1828160free to read. PMID 17346340. 
  6. ^ American Holistic Medical Association
  7. ^ Stalker, Douglas; Glymour, Clark. (1985). Examining Holistic Medicine. Prometheus Books. p. 12. ISBN 0-87975-303-X
  8. ^ Radner, Daisie; Radner, Michael. Holistic Methodology and Pseudoscience. In Douglas Stalker, Clark Glymour. (1985). Examining Holistic Medicine. Prometheus Books. pp. 149-160. ISBN 0-87975-303-X

Further reading[edit]