Using a system of medical therapeutics that seeks to also treat the patient's conditions that are antecedent to the immediate, accepted causes of a complaint. These are the causes of the causes and typically are considered to lie in the mental and personality domains which in turn effect some postulated root physical force such as a vital spirit.
Holistic medicine was begun as a reaction to the rather narrow, body-focused approach of Western medicine. Western medicine concentrates on the corporeal body and does not recognize that the life force. In non-Western, ancient healing, it is thought that the life force heals the corporeal body, not the other way around. A holistic doctor will look at the whole person – body, mind, and spirit – and use a variety of Western or non-Western techniques to treat, based on the individual. Essentially, a holistic doctor enters into partnerships with patients, encouraging them to learn how to reduce risks of illness and how to choose therapies that they're comfortable with. It is an approach to health that emphasizes self-care and personal responsibility for wellness.
The theoretical basis of homeopathy is that diseases are curable by those drugs which produce effects on the body similar to the symptoms caused by the disease. The effect of the drug is increased by giving them in minute doses. Many traditional systems of medicine that are pre-scientific are also holistic, such as the four humours, yin-yang, and various schools of the mind over matter persuasion. Holistic medicine is also practised whenever there is universal treatment of the body by electricity, magnetism, immersion in still or agitated water, immersion in mud, hypnosis, colours, music, yoga, massage, herbs, herbal packs and compresses, dietary regimes, copper bracelets and metallic talismans, and astrological charms or witchcraft.
Integrated systems of alternative medicine include: Anthrosoposophical Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, Chiropractic Medicine, Healing Systems of Central and South America, Homeopathy, Kampo and Traditional Japanese Medicine, Native American Medicine, Naturopathy, Nursing, Osteopathy, Tibetan Medicine, Tribal African Healing, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and various other indigenous medical systems.
Methods employed by alternative and complementary medical practitioners include: Art Therapy, Behavioural Kinesiology, Bioelectromagnetic Treatment, Bioenergetics and Orgonomic Medicine, Biofeedback, EDTA Chelation Therapy, Hypnotherapy, Imagery, Light Therapy, Magnetic Therapy, Massage, Medical Acupuncture, Meditation and Mindfulness, Megavitamin and Orthomolecular Therapy, Music Therapy, Phytomedicine, Qi Gong, Radonics, Reiki, Relaxation, Shamanistic Practices, Sound Healing, Therapeutic Touch, Transendental Meditation, Yoga, and a variety of other Body Work approaches.
About 80% of the people in Africa use traditional medicine. Similar proportions can be found in much of the developing world where more than one-third of the population lacks access to essential medicines. Traditional medicine has been fully integrated into the health systems of China, North and South Korea and Viet Nam.
In wealthy countries, growing numbers of patients rely on alternative medicine for preventive or palliative care. In 2001: in France, 75% of the population used complementary medicine at least once; in Germany, 77% of pain clinics provided acupuncture; and in the United Kingdom, expenditure on complementary or alternative medicine stood at US$ 2,300 million per year (2001), more than double that of the whole of western Europe 20 years previously. The global market for traditional therapies stands at US$ 60 billion a year and is steadily growing.
There are at least three levels at which both conventional medical and complementary therapies can work. These are:
[Physical/physiological/pharmacological level] The level of the physical body where direct physical and chemical effects of therapies can occur. This is where medical science considers most treatments operate and where it is clear that many procedures such as surgery, drugs and herbal treatments can have an important effect.
[Psychological/mental level] Medical science recognizes that this level does play some part in health care, mainly through such mechanisms as the placebo effect, psychoneuro-immunology and similar psycho- somatic processes. It is likely that good therapists are effective in eliciting the placebo response.
[Higher mental/spiritual levels] Much of mainstream medicine has no place for these levels in its theoretical base – indeed it probably does not recognize their existence. However, levels 2 and 3 may well be the most important levels from the point of view of complementary therapies, and it is at level 3 that we believe many complementary therapies essentially operate.
Alternative medicine is merely a politically correct term for what used to be called quackery. Any alternative therapy that can be proved valid will swiftly be incorporated into mainstream medicine. Any "medicine" that is based on myth, irrationality and deception will eventually be rejected.