Take a deep breath,
for we are about to take a walk on the holistic path to healthy living. The
holistic way is not just about taking natural medicine and receiving alternative
treatments. While this is certainly apart of it, the holistic way is about being
mindful of a healthy inner life, fostering positive thinking and breathing
deep...just to name a few.
When many people stop to think about holistic medicine, health and living, phrases like "alternative medicine" and "unconventional healing" often come to mind. And while holistic healing is somewhat of an unconventional alternative in the wake of modern day medicine, it is by no means a passing fad with no substantial basis to its principles. Humans have actually been using holistic medicine to successfully prevent and treat ailments and disease for thousands of years. The surging interest in holistic healing these days is primarily due to its relatively recent introduction into a modern day health care system that has become characteristically materialistic. One might say that most mainstream health care practitioners do not abide by Hippocrates' Hippocratic Oath, which is a prescription of spiritual ethics for the art of healing.
These days, several branches exist in the tree of holistic medicine, including Acupuncture, Ayurveda, Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Aroma Therapy, Chinese Medicine, Meditation, spiritually infused Chiropractic treatment and meditation.
Acupunture - Originating in China and a mainstay of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is the practice of treating acupuncture points (meridians on the body, corresponding to specific vital organs) with needles. Mainstream medicine, including the American Medical Association, have validated the efficacy of acupuncture, especially in treating headaches, neck pain and chronic lower back pain.
Aromatherapy - Incorporated into mainstream medicine in France, aromatherapy uses distilled plant volatiles for a variety of treatments and purposes, including respiration, expectoration, decongestion, topical and internal infections, massage and relaxation to name a few. Essential oils of plants are primarily used in aromatherapy, which studies show has an impact on the functioning of the limbic system of the brain, via the olfactory system.
Ayurveda - A statutory health care system in India, Ayurveda is a body of medicinal practices that places emphasis on vegetable, animal and mineral medicinal preventives and cures. Ayurvedic medications are primarily composed of herbs, oftentimes mixed with varying proportions of metals and minerals. There are eight branches of Ayurveda - each of which places a specific emphasis on treating the physiological, spiritual and psychological. Ayurveda is considered to be a major influence on Chinese and Tibetan medicine.
Traditional Chinese Medicine - Embraced by the modern health care system in China, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been around for thousands of years. Common components of TCM include acupressure, acupuncture/massage and herbal medicine. An evidence-based branch of medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine has been influenced from the Taoist philosophy, Yin-Yang (every action has a cause), Five Elements and the meridian system in the human body. Classical Chinese medicine considers each persons health in relation to their physical environment.
Chiropractic - Largely misunderstood and a relatively young medical practice, Chiropractic medicine emphasizes treatment of the spine, thereby affecting the nervous system and improving health. Each patient is treated on an individual basis and primarily receives chiropractic treatment by means of spinal manipulation. The role of the spine in one's health is vitally important.
Homeopathy - Working on the principle of "similars" or "like cures like", diseases are treated as being part of the living whole, rather than something separate or foreign. The practice of homeopathy aims to rebalance the vital life force in all living beings, thus making it a perfect holistic treatment. Homeopathic tinctures contain minute dosages of natural ingredients (metals, plants, minerals) that produce symptoms similar to those of the disease or sickness, thereby stimulating the body to cure itself and get to the cause, rather than covering up the symptoms.
Meditation - The least "medicinal" of the aforementioned holistic treatments, meditating has lasting affects on the body, mind and spirit. In addition to developing concentration, focus and awareness, meditation helps to regulate breathing and heart rate. Considering all the positive benefits of meditation, meditation should be a daily practice in maintaining holistic health.
Naturopathy - As the name implies, naturopathy uses natural remedies for the treatment of illness and disease. Rather than destroying the causative agents of illness, naturopathy aims to assist Nature in restoring balance without the use of drugs or surgery, although minor surgery procedures are tolerated under naturopathic guidelines.
With pioneering work taking place since the early 1970's, the holistic philosophy has grown into more of a mainstream status which greater numbers of people are beginning to embrace - often being chosen over modern day medicine. And while it is not advised that holistic medicine should replace the cures and advances that mankind has discovered in this scientific age, holistic medicine certainly can go hand-in-hand with modern medicine.
More Than Just the Physical...
Integrating physical health with mental, emotional and spiritual health, "holistic" can be best grasped when it is thought of as a Way of Life and philosophy of living, rather than just a medicine or type of treatment. The greatest effectiveness in holistic medicine is in its power to prevent disease and sickness. The term 'holistic health' should not just be limited to one's physical well being. As mentioned, 'Holistic' is the integration and harmony between the body, mind, spirit and emotions. The holistic way is one in which a person is in harmony with their self and environment on all of these levels. When combined with modern day medicine, holistic treatment takes on an broad range of issues all aimed at finding the true cause of a disease and ailment, while simultaneously treating the symptoms of the cause. When the cause is discovered, not only is it then effectively treated with a cure, the cure is often found to be the very same principle needed to prevent the ailment/disease from reoccurring again.
The Power of Thought...
Holistic health examines all of
the factors that contribute to well-being or the lack thereof. In addition to
taking into consideration hereditary causes of a disease, the holistic approach
examines the emotional and even spiritual causes of disease. Hard-nosed
scientists and doctors can no longer write off one's manner of thinking in the
role of disease. In fact, scientists and doctors are now validating the role of
thought and belief in one's health. Watch the movie What the Bleep do we
Know?! and you will hear leading scientists and researchers
attest to the power of thought and its role in one's health and well being.
Specific thoughts trigger specific protein peptides, which in turn, attach to
cells and produce specific emotions. The more we entertain a certain mode of
thinking, the more our cells actually become conditioned to receiving the
corresponding protein peptides. In other words, we often become addicted
to our emotions. When these emotions are negative, this certainly leads to poor
health and accelerated aging.
For instance, there was a study out of the University of California at San Francisco done on fifty-eight mothers - thirty-nine of whom cared for children with chronic conditions like cerebral palsy and autism. In the end, the cells of all the mothers were put under the microscope. By focusing on a piece of DNA called the telomere, which is located at the tip of every cells chromosome's, scientists are able to gauge a cells age and vitality. What happens is that every time a cell splits, which is done in times of stress, the length of the telomere is shortened. Scientists can also measure levels of Telomerase, which is a chemical produced in order to help restore the telomere after a cell divides itself. The study showed that those mother's who experienced more stress from raising a handicapped child had significantly shorter telomere's and lower telomerase activity. Furthermore, those mother's who did not know how to properly manage their stress, had aged the most. By measuring white blood cells, scientists were able to determine that these mother's were much older on a cellular level than they were in real, chronological years.
How we deal with stress is essentially a manifestation of our thought process. If we view things as being catastrophic and negative, then our cells will react accordingly. If we view our circumstances with a light heart and acquired wisdom, our cells will also react accordingly. On the holistic level, the way in which we think is directly tied into how we view ourselves and the world around us, which in turn, is linked to our "spirituality" or belief system. Therefore, it should be apparent just how readily our emotional and spiritual well being is linked to our physical well being. Such is the basis for holistic medicine.
If you are looking for a holistic health care practitioner, there are several things to consider when choosing one. While most holistic practitioners use medical treatments that may be deemed "alternative", not every practitioner works in exactly the same way. Some may focus more on acupuncture, while others may specialize in mind-body medicine, herbal medicine or spinal manipulation. The bottom line is that no matter who you choose as a holistic doctor, the individual should have a philosophy and presence that feels right to you. Remember, holistic medicine operates on principles of energy integration. This principle should also apply to the integration of energies between you and your holistic practitioner.
For a longer stroll on the holistic path, please read our Holistic Living Articles below.