The History of Holistic Medicine: The Modern Age

Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on April 8, 2009 by Paulina Nelega, RH

Holistic medicine – medicine that focuses on the mind, body and spirit as a whole – is built on a tradition of ancient healing systems like Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.

Following advancements in medicine in the 20th century – including the discovery of penicillin and cortisone, as well as advancements in surgical techniques – holistic medicine branched away from the mainstream in an attempt to maintain gentler, more natural forms of healing that treated the individuals as a whole.

Unlike modern allopathic medicine, which focuses on the treatment and elimination of symptoms, modern holistic medicine still focuses on treating the whole person in order to allow the body to heal itself and stay healthy.

20th century holistic medicine retains a remarkable similarity to its forebearers. Many modalities – such as Chinese Medicine, homeopathy and Ayurveda – have weathered the centuries unchanged, while recent holistic modalities such as osteopathy, chiropractic and naturopathy are new models that draw on ancient traditions of herbalism and energy medicine.

Today, there is a distinct line that has been drawn between modern medicine and holistic health care. While there is a place for both in creating an overall picture of health, it is up to the individual to find a balance between the two types of care. Most practitioners of medicine are hesitant to recommend holistic care and vice versa.

Millions of patients, however, have managed to find just such a balance. Holistic medicine is booming worldwide, and in many cases there has been a return to a more holistic model of health as news reports of dangerous pharmaceuticals and medical mistakes skyrocket.

Today, as it was thousands of years ago, holistic health care providers take into account the unique physical, emotional and spiritual needs of their patients in prescribing a course of treatment that will rebalance their bodies, allowing the body’s innate wisdom to kick in and bring about healing. Just as Hippocrates suggested it would do nearly 3000 years ago.

Read the Rest of the History of Holistic Medicine Series.
The History of Holistic Medicine: The Indian Tradition of Ayurveda
The History of Holistic Medicine: The Ancient Greeks and Holistic Medicine
The History of Holistic Medicine: Chinese Traditions

Photo Credit: somegeekintn

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Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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