What is Integrative Holistic Medicine?

(This is the first of hopefully many pieces by our new contributor, Dr Alan Mease, chief of pediatrics at Beijing’s United Family Hospital)

As a physician I have long recognized that caring for patients requires more than an understanding of the science of modern Western medicine. The human experience is so much more than physical. The success of medical science in treating diseases of the body and more recently the mind is remarkable but it is only a recent phenomenon less than 100 years old. It is increasingly recognized by both patients and doctors that there is something missing. This has led patients to seek alternative treatments and physicians to develop an approach called integrative holistic medicine. Integrative holistic medicine is the art and science of healing that addresses the whole person: body, mind, soul and spirit.

All good physicians realize that healing is more than treatment of the disease and requires an understanding of the whole person with the disease. A person is a very complex conscious being consisting of body, mind, soul and spirit. Today we have access to both modern science and the wisdom of all ancient healing traditions to help us understand the whole person. The terms soul and spirit are confusing because of religions connotations but these are important elements of the whole person. Correct understanding of these terms requires preservation of the enduring truths of the traditions without the outmoded interpretative frameworks. These truths then need to be integrated with new research showing that human bodies produce energy fields which are influenced by external energy fields.

Integrative holistic medicine has expanded its concept of healing to incorporate a human energy field which is the foundation of Eastern medical systems such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) including acupuncture. Physical energies including radiation, electromagnetic and light are used in modern medicine and can be easily measured. Ancient healing traditions teach that there are increasingly subtle energies associated with the increasing complexity of the physical body-mind and consciousness. There is recent scientific evidence for the existence of these subtle and difficult to measure energies interacting with the human energy field. At the center of this is an integral physiology with the pineal gland converting energies into all the body’s systems. “The pineal gland is the cornerstone of the biochemical interface with our environment and the subtle energy that both supports and transcends our sense perceptions and sustains our body…”1 The enormous contributions of Western medicine with the profound insights of the Eastern systems of human energy and health are united by the new science and by the recent philosophical work of integral thinkers like Wilber2. If Western medicine accepts the new research documenting a truly cohesive physiologic system it must incorporate a unifying theory that accounts for the existence of energy fields within as well as outside the human body. Out of this comes a new form of medicine which is truly holistic and integrative.

– Dr Alan Mease

The Scientific Basis of Integrative Medicine, Leonard Wisneski and Lucy Anderson, CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, 2000
The Integral Vision: A Very Short Introduction to the Revolutionary Integral Approach to Life, God, the Universe and Everything, Ken Wilber, Shambala, 2007

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2 thoughts on “What is Integrative Holistic Medicine?”

  1. Fascinating concept. And yes, very challenging to Western-trained allopathic physicians (such as myself). But only an arrogant person would say Western medicine is superior to all others, or that every phenomenon can be explained using Western science and research. I look forward to Alan's future posts. And as we discussed in other posts, it's actually a brain-healthy mental exercise to step outside of your comfort zone and challenge your beliefs…

  2. Thank you for this post! As a naturopathic doctor I am very pleased to read about these ideas. It is exactly what naturopathic medicine is all about! When a patient's care provider is cognisant of the interrelation between body, mind, and spirit, then their treatment will be much more holistic. In turn it will be more effective because all aspects of the patients health will be addressed. Looking forward to reading more!

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