History Of Holistic Medicine
by Jack Norwood
Holistic medicine is defined as the art and science of treating the whole person. The person is seen as the sum of the body, mind, emotions, and spirit. The person is not seen as merely a manifestation of a particular disease or condition but as a unique individual. In treating diseases, all aspects of the patient are considered. This means taking an approach that considers physical, nutritional, lifestyle, social, environmental, emotional, and spiritual components as they relate to the individual.
More than 4,000 years ago in India books of wisdom known as Vedas were recorded in Sanskrit. Some of these texts listed more than 60 different preparations that could be used to treat a variety of ailments. This set of Vedas was known as the Ayurveda from the Sanskrit Ayu meaning life and Veda meaning wisdom. Today these holistic practices known as Ayurveda are still being used effectively by people around the world.
Around 3,000 years ago traditional Chinese medicine was being practised according to the concept of balancing the yin and yang of the Qi. The two opposing forces of yin and yang within the Qi should be kept in balance and many different ailments were seen as a result of imbalances in the Qi. The Qi in Chinese culture is the life force or spirit and this energy can be balanced by a Qi master using a non-contact technique using the hands to direct and balance the flow of the life force. In addition, the Chinese were master herbalists and the traditions of using herbal remedies and Qi balancing to enhance the body's natural healing mechanisms are still practised today.
Although the practice of acupuncture is nearly 5,000 years old, the Chinese were the first to standardize and publish medical texts on the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of diseases through acupuncture. These texts were written between 300-200 BCE. Treatment, in the beginning, used highly sharpened stone, but by 1000 BCE they were being replaced by bronze needles. Modern acupuncture is used to alleviate a wide range of symptoms and is most widely used to treat chronic pain.
At about the same time the ancient Greek and Romans began practising healing with different herbs and natural medicines, many of which were picked up from the Egyptians and in 700 BCE, the first Greek medical school was established. Greek medicine at that time was based on the concept of the four humors of the body - black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood and it was thought that disease originated from disturbances in the equilibrium between these substances. The Greeks were also one of the first civilizations to actively promote the theory that a person's health was directly affected by what they ate and drank and by the amount of exercise they participated in.
Western Europe embraced the herbal and hydrotherapy traditions of the conquering Roman armies from around 100 BCE to 100 CE. Traditional healers learned advanced herbal remedies and the local population learned the benefits of hydrotherapy from the many spas and mineral springs the Romans left behind. During medieval times cloistered monks experimented with and recorded many herbal remedies across Europe.
Long before English settlers arrived, Native Americans were using holistic practices to treat both the physical body and the spirit. Medicine men and women were well versed in medicinal herbs and healing plants as well as incorporating healing rituals to sooth the spirit. In North America seven out of the ten best known modern herbal remedies were being used long before the first Europeans arrived.
For thousands of years, the holistic approach was the only one available. There were no wonder drugs or advanced surgical techniques. Herbs, homoeopathic remedies, and plant-based compounds were the only treatment options for treating diseases and alleviating symptoms. Jan Christian Smuts introduced the term holistic medicine in 1926; however, this method of treating the whole person by natural means has been practised for thousands of years, only the term holistic medicine is relatively new.
By: Jack Norwood
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