The American Holistic Medical Association defined holistic medicine as “the art and science of healing that addresses the whole person—body, mind and spirit,” which “integrates conventional and alternative therapies to prevent and treat disease, and most importantly, to promote optimal health.”
When a patient sees a holistic physician, she may receive conventional treatments, such as drugs and surgery, and complementary treatments, such as homeopathy and aromatherapy.
Part of holistic medicine involves educating patients on lifestyle changes that can improve their health. For example, nutrition is a part of holistic treatment, so a holistic physician may work with a patient to create a dietary plan that will promote healthy living, which may include vitamins and supplements.
Lifestyle changes may also include quitting smoking, practicing deep breathing and regularly exercising. Since prevention is an integral part of holistic medicine, treatment may focus on how these lifestyle changes can reduce a patient’s risk for future health conditions.
Spiritual and emotional aspects of a person’s life play a role in holistic treatments. As part of treatment, patients are encouraged to use the healing nature of certain emotions, such as love and hope, and let go of the negative feelings, such as grief, hostility and shame, according to the American Holistic Medical Association. Patients may undergo counseling or attend support groups for specific conditions as part of their treatment.
Several complementary treatments are incorporated into holistic medicine. These may include treatments such as yoga, spiritual healing, botanical supplements, art therapy and hypnosis.
Some patients may undergo craniosacral therapy and healing touch as part of their treatment. Other complementary treatments used in holistic medicine include qigong, acupressure, antioxidants and acupuncture.
The American Cancer Society noted that some holistic medicine promoters believe that only holistic interventions can treat cancer and other diseases, but the organization warned that current scientific evidence does not support these claims.