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What's a definition of holistic health?

  • How do you define holistic medicine?

  • How do you recognize a holistic physician?

Holistic health: definition:
"Of or relating to the medical consideration of the complete person, physically and psychologically, in the treatment of a disease."

Since it must view the whole person as a unit, rather than as a collection of components, or parts of a machine that function on their own, a holistic doctor will tend to view a person in terms of its wellness, instead of its sickness, since wellness is the "natural and normal" state of a person. A sickness starts looking like the human "system" is out of balance.

For example, migraines can come from multiple stresses. These stresses might be emotional stress at work or home, or from time spent viewing illuminated screens on computers, or on smartphones, or from televisions, etc. It could be caused by an allergy to a food or a chemical in your home or work place.

Or maybe it is not actually a migraine and is a result of adrenal stress and exhaustion. There could be other causes that help ramp the headaches up, like a .lack of fresh air and exercise, or poor stress management techniques. Some people are even affected by the electro-magnetic fields.

A holistic doctor needs to consider the whole picture and knit all the pieces together into a unified picture. She looks to address the cause of the problem, not just give you a painkiller, especially since the cause could be creating other problems that you do not suspect.

That's just the way life works. It's all interconnected.

So holistic medicine is defined as

a healing approach that looks at the whole person, not just a few symptoms in isolation. It takes into account physical, environmental, nutritional, emotional, social, and spiritual lifestyle conditions.
Holistic medicine is an approach to healing, rather than to  making the human machine able to continue functioning in spite of a problem.

Willis Harman, the famous futurist and visionary wrote:
Wholeness implies that all parts belong together and partake of each other. Each is part of the whole; each participates in the whole.

In the area of health, that means the heart talks to the bowels, or to the feet. It means the immune system is part of the emotional system and every other system in the body. A holistic or integrative doctor would see you as a whole, would take the time and have the skill to find the connections.

To practice holistically means you consider different aspects of the human being, that you look at the effects of an action or condition across to other areas that may not seem at all related to a specialist in, say, the endocrine system, or allergies, or headaches, or pain management. . 
  • For example, taking antibiotics for a sore throat will also have an effect in the intestines, which is that it would kill colonies of important bacteria in the intestines that we all need to stay healthy.  
Out of this understanding, a holistically oriented physician needs to find other solutions. He or she might look at herbs and other treatments that can help heal the sore throat as well as support the restoration of a weakened immune system. This doctor might also use herbs because they do not cause the same damage to gut.

And a holistic doctor might still prescribe antibiotics for some conditions.

Training of a Holistic Doctor
A  holistic physician would already have the same training as other doctors from medical school and residency, but might also take the time to learn about homeopathy, herbs,  acupuncture, herbs, jin shin jyutsu, chiropractic, network spinal analysis (NSA),  and many other healing tools. There are many possibilities.

There is openness to ancient and new ideas of healing that are unfamiliar to those of us raised in conventional medicine. All modalities of diagnosis and treatment can be considered, including drugs and surgery if no safe alternative exists.

Many names are used for holistic medical care, but they do not all mean the same thing:  alternative medicine, complementary medicine, integrative medicine, complementary alternative medicine, alternative health care medicine and others. We cover these terms below.

Check out the Ten Principles of Holistic Medicine from the American Board of Holistic Medicine.

The future of medicine

At Healing Oceans, we believe in using the tools of modern medicine, but from the perspective of holism and from a broad understanding of how the body heals, how it works, and how the parts work together, such as how the immune system works with digestion. The hand does not heal apart from the arm. The body may not heal apart from the mind, the heart, the spirit.

Check out the history of holistic medicine.

Dr. Ginsburg's work

Dr. Ginsburg, like other holistic physicians, sometimes refer patients to naturopaths, acupuncturists, herbalists, chiropractors, and others when these practitioners may offer something beneficial to the patient, may be able to address the situation from a different front than the physician. To do so requires that the referring physician understand the ideas of the field and how benefit may be obtained. Dr. Ginsburg also has experienced most of the modalities that she recommends to patients.


Holistic medicine becomes part of a holistic way of seeing the world, and it calls us to walk as integrated people, whole, and aware of who we are and what goes on around us. It calls us to the power of the human spirit.

At the same time there are many who prefer to not see things holistically and work to keep our world from moving in that way. This can often look like selfishness or greed. Pharmaceutical companies lobby for laws that restrict our ability to purchase vitamins. Other corporations lobby and put pressure on the FDA to allow chemicals and processes that have not been tested adequately. Some politicians use fear to pressure people to give up on things that are important, or to accept their decisions without questioning.

Everyone justifies their point of view, but we can only do such a think when not looking at the bigger picture, which is to look holistically. This takes courage, and returning to face ourselves honestly again and again, to draw on those who have wisdom to share.

These are challenges to the growth of a holistic lifestyle and holistic culture in our country. May we together build our culture to be more whole and nourishing for all of us.

Check out the concepts of holistic medicine here.