Holistic medicine has become progressively popular In the last 10 years in the US. In fact, more people than ever are now choosing the holistic approach as their primary approach to their health care and the health of their children. The WHO (World Health Organization) has estimated that between 65 to 80 percent of the world’s population (around 3 billion people) rely on holistic medicine as their primary and preferred form of health care.
In the United States 30% of adults are now using some form of holistic medicine, whether its a holistic practitioner for a chronic health condition, massage for muscle pain, meditating to tame stress and anxiety, or exploring supplements to fend off the common cold (according to the NCCIH – National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health).
We are seeing an even greater percentage of the US population (74 percent) prefer a natural approach as their primary option to health care and the reasons for this growing shift towards holistic care are many. Those with chronic pain are turning to holistic medicine to reduce their dependence on opioids. Others are using alternative treatments to help handle conditions which can be difficult to treat solely with medication, like depression and many autoimmune diseases.
Those who are wanting to optimize their health are turning to holistic therapies to improve their overall well-being to boost energy, enhance the quality of sleep, lift their mood, manage stress, and optimize their bodies and minds. And there are many people weaving holistic health practices into the mainstream, or allopathic, a medical model which is often is described as complementary or integrative medicine.
As growing numbers of the US population are demanding safer and more natural approaches the medical community has responded. Over the last decade more than one-third of American medical schools including John’s Hopkins, Harvard, Georgetown University, and Yale, have added coursework in holistic methods and The American Medical Association (AMA), in Resolution #514, “is encouraging its members to become better informed regarding holistic medicine and to participate in appropriate studies of it.
The holistic approach to self-care can be extremely effective, and many are cornerstones of age-old conventional medical systems throughout the world, like Ayurveda (which is originally rooted in India) which has a tried and true history of being an acceptable approach to many health conditions.
Types of Holistic Treatments
Holistic treatments vary significantly and typically specialize in their respective fields. Chiropractors, for example, are focused on the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system. Holistic doctors are focused on environmental influences on gene expression or biochemistry imbalances that are the underlying cause of diseases or other chronic conditions. We have provided a list of some of the most common types of holistic treatments along with their focus for you to read below.
Acupuncture, which has been used for thousands of years in conventional Chinese medicine, supports healing by stimulating the body’s circulation of vital energy (also known as “chi”). Acupuncture is done through the insertion of very thin needles into particular points on the body by a trained acupuncturist.
According to the concepts of conventional Chinese medicine, these points are located along invisible lines of energy flow called “meridians,” which link our organs to other parts of our body.
One of the most commonly studied alternative holistic treatments available; acupuncture has been found to effectively relieve various types of pain (including neck pain, low back pain, and osteoarthritis-related pain), menstrual cramps, and more. There’s also some proof that acupuncture can help reduce the frequency of tension, headaches, and prevent migraines.
Aromatherapy involves inhaling the fragrance of essential oils extracted from particular plants, such as rosemary and lavender. The use of essential oils in aromatherapy and applied topically can influence health in part by affecting particular brain chemicals.
A growing population around the world have turned to essential oils for addressing many health conditions such as helping to reduce stress, relieve common health problems like insomnia and menstrual pain, and essential oils have even been studied as a potential treatment for multiple side effects of cancer treatment such as nausea, dry mouth, and vomiting.
Some commonly used essential oils, and their uses include:
A small citrus fruit, this essential oil has unique chemistry for a citrus essential oil. This oil is both uplifting to the body and calming to the mind, making this citrus oil one of our favorites for a calm focus. It is great to diffuse or apply topically when you require focus and attention.
A wood oil distilled from the cedar tree. Cedarwood essential oil is a wonderful emotionally grounding essential oil and has similar benefits as patchouli, sandalwood, and vetiver. After a long day or when you are stressed out, apply 3 drops of cedarwood to your wrists or neck and chest to create emotional balance.
Roman chamomile has been studied to have profound effects on our mood and memory. Adverse emotional or physical events/trauma often lead to a decreased activity and size of our hippocampus. (a specific part of our brain) Roman Chamomile has shown to increase the activity level in our hippocampus leading to greater happiness and joy. Apply this oil to your wrists or neck when you are feeling sad, lonely, or depressed.
Of course, eucalyptus is a wonderful oil for supporting breathing and opening of our airways. A little science about this great smelling oil is that the primary molecule in eucalyptus is 1-8 Cineol which has been extensively studied for helping clear breathing.
Alpha-zingiberene is a very unique molecule in ginger essential oil. This oil aids in detoxification and is great for supporting the health of our liver. Ginger can also be used to ease feelings of nausea or dizziness.
This is the most popular oil in the world. Lavender contains a high concentration of the molecule Linalool and is considered the Swiss army knife of essential oils. Lavender has diverse chemistry and a molecular structure that supports just about every body system. From repelling bugs to calming our nervous system, and even for skin irritations, we recommend getting into the habit of using lavender on a daily basis.
Limonene is the molecule in Lemon responsible for the diverse benefits of this oil. All citrus oils are pressed from the rind of the fruit. Lemon aids in detoxification is emotionally energizing and uplifting, and very cleansing oil. Many essential oil users love to add 3 drops of lemon oil to their water at least once a day to experience the benefits of lemon essential oil.
Part of the mint family, rosemary is a beautiful oil. This is a great oil to use in your hair after taking a shower. Rosemary helps promote strong, smooth, and shiny hair. Rosemary also is a great oil to help with memory. If you are studying for an exam, diffuse rosemary and then when you have to execute the exam, apply three drops of oil on your neck and chest to stimulate your memory.
An all-time favorite aroma and essential oil for many of us who geek out on essential oils is Sandalwood. Sandalwood is a rare and beautiful oil! The primary molecule is alpha-santalol. Sandalwood supports brain and neurologic function profoundly and is considered a daily use oil for many of us. This essential oil is emotionally grounding and balancing; because of the effects, it has on our neurotransmitter receptor sites. If you are feeling depressed or anxious, this is a wonderful oil to use.
Menthol is the primary molecule of an authentic peppermint essential oil. Menthol has diverse benefits in our body. It helps to open airways when you are having trouble breathing, menthol is a powerful molecule to aid in digestion problem and calm an upset stomach, and this oil will also give a boost of energy on a long travel day or car ride. Many use peppermint daily because it’s so diverse.
Ayurveda, as an important healing tradition in India, and is growing in popularity in the US and around the world. It is based on the premise that the human body is made up of a mixture of air, water, earth, fire, and space which combine to form 3 doshas (Vata, Kapha, and Pitta) that specify a person’s primary energy.
For example, a person’s dosha defines his or her risk of the individual tendency for illness. An imbalanced dosha interrupts the natural flow of vital energy, disrupting digestion and allowing for the build-up of body waste, which further impairs digestion and energy.
The practice of Ayurveda involves diet, cleansing, and detoxing (for example, by fasting), herbal medicine, yoga, exercise, meditation, and body treatments like massage. These elements are combined into personalized treatment plans by an expert Ayurvedic professional.
Chiropractors are designated by the AMA as physician-level providers who focus on disorders of the nervous system and musculoskeletal system and their effects of these disorders on general health. Back pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, neck pain, and headaches are readily relieved through the use of chiropractic care. Treatments are based on manual manipulation of the spine, and other body parts typically called adjustments, which focus on removing nerve interference in the body caused by misalignments (subluxations) in the joints.
Chiropractic is also considered by traditional medical standards to be the first line of defense in the management of back pain and spinal disorders that can often enable patients to reduce or avoid the need for riskier treatments, such as prescription opioid pain medications and surgery.
Supplements are frequently used as a part of the holistic approach and are frequently included in healing protocols used by holistic doctors, naturopathic doctors, and functional medicine doctors. Supplements vary greatly and include a wide range of products, which can provide safe yet powerful solutions for health issues ranging from acute infections to chronic illnesses and can include vitamins, herbs, minerals, antioxidants, probiotics, amino acid therapy and other natural substances such as fish oil.
Supplements can have incredible benefits for helping to heal chronic conditions and to maintain health. More and more studies are being conducted proving the effectiveness of supplements such as extensive studies on fish oil (found to improve brain and heart health) and vitamin D (to strengthen bones and the immune system).
The world of supplements is vast and varied and for anything other than a well made multivitamin, fish oil, or mineral taken for preventive health, it’s important to check with a holistic doctor or other holistic health professional who is well educated in how to use supplements before including them your routine, especially if you are wanting to try supplementation to address an acute or chronic health condition or if you are taking prescription drugs, as some may interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications.
Massage is yet another holistic practice that has been used for thousands of years and has multiple variations which can have a powerful effect on mental and physical health. Research has found that massage can help treat health problems ranging from different types of chronic pain and arthritis to stress headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, anxiety, and even depression.
Many types of massage techniques can be used including Swedish massage (which includes kneading, long strokes, and deep, circular movements), deep tissue massage, and shiatsu (which concentrates on applying pressure to the exact same points on the body targeted by acupuncture).
Practices such as yoga, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and tai chi may provide a wealth of health benefits (when practiced consistently) ranging from reducing depression to helping to lower blood pressure by reducing stress.
As more and more research studies show a strong link between stress and pain, there’s also some proof that some mind-body techniques that can benefit people with pain-causing conditions.
For instance, research studies published found that therapies like yoga, breath therapy, and other relaxation techniques can help chronic pain sufferers take their mind off their pain and can help to override established pain signals. There have even been studies showing that tai chi is more effective than physical therapy for treating knee arthritis.
These involve customizing the diet to facilitate the healing of chronic or acute conditions. An example is a trend of combining specific fresh fruit and vegetable juices to boost health and enhance energy and detox the liver. Other examples include eliminating inflammatory foods to heal the immune response and inflammation in the body that often accompanies autoimmune conditions.
More examples of widely practiced nutritional therapies include drinking green tea for its antioxidant benefits, eliminating dairy and sugar to reduce inflammatory conditions such as acne and IBS, and following a gut repair food specific diet plan to heal and manage gut disorders like Chron’s, IBS, Celiac, or other gut-related or immune-related conditions.
Are Holistic Treatments Safe?
The reality is that allopathic medicine is the number 3 cause of death in the US – Prescription drugs are designed to alleviate symptoms, and many of them are designed for short term use but are being prescribed long term and are causing high rates of mortality as well as permanent health issues in many individuals.
So the question poses, should we be leaning more into the holistic approach as it is safer than allopathic medicine?
Many holistic practitioners believe the answer lies in a balanced approach. While western or allopathic medicine saves lives without a doubt, pharmaceuticals, in most cases, are not designed to address the underlying causes of chronic diseases. This is why holistic medicine is fast becoming the first choice for those who want to solve the underlying problems that are causing their symptoms because this approach is safe and sustainable.
A Word from Modern Holistic Health
There are many natural approaches that can be safe and incredibly effective additions to a treatment regimen for a particular disease or condition or simply as part of a healthy lifestyle. Before discussing alternative or holistic treatments with your physician, make sure to do your homework by checking out the latest research on your holistic therapy of interest.