Holistic versus Conventional Medical History
Updated: Mar 12
What about Conventional Medicine?
The dichotomy between conventional medicine and holistic healing modalities (homeopathy, traditional naturopathy, chiropractic, etc) has its foundations in the ancient history of medicine. The two theories of medical thinking are traditionally referred to as Empiricism and Rationalism. A thorough history of medicine is outside of the scope of a basic blog post (extensively written tomes on medical history have been written elsewhere, such as Harris Coulter's "Divided Legacy" series of books). The goal of this post is to share the basic tenets and philosophical differences between the two schools of thought.
Empiricism versus Rationalism in the history of medicine
Empirical thinkers, such as Paracelsus (1490-1541), Van Helmont (1578-1644), and eventually Dr Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), the founder of modern homeopathy, viewed health and healing holistically. In a nutshell, Empiricists believe that the body has within itself the capacity for self-healing. Within this method of treatment, symptoms within any disease should be closely observed and viewed in an individualized manner, and should be respected as signs that the body is involved in a healing process. Empirical therapies are more oriented toward strengthening the patient's constitution and in helping to lessen the susceptibility and predisposition to various illnesses. Empiricism utilizes the law of similars when choosing a medication/remedy, in order to help move the body's own healing capacity. This can be very clearly demonstrated within the basic tenets of homeopathic medicine (details of which will be in a future blog post).
The history of Rationalistic Thinking (the roots of conventional medicine) within medicine has more of a mechanistic view of the human body. The body is likened to a machine with many disconnected parts. All symptoms are considered intrinsically harmful, rather than messages that the body is attempting to work toward healing. Medicines within the rationalistic method of medicine are based on "contraries" rather than "similars". For example, for pain, a "painkiller" is prescribed. Although all of us are very thankful for painkillers, the root cause of the chronic pain (or any other chronic condition) is typically not addressed within this school of thought. The goal is to eradicate symptoms, rather than determine underlying causality on a holistic level.
Why do the differences in holistic healing and conventional medicine matter?
Conventional medicine, especially in the United States, is brilliant and masterful regarding acute care and "heroic medicine". If you have a mishap and break your arm, or are involved in an accident of some type, our emergency medical care/surgical care is second to none in the world. However, conventional medicine, based on its very foundational principles, is ill- equipped to deal with most chronic health complaints. It simply cannot truly address chronic health issues, due to the nature of its foundational, philosophical tenets.
Holistic healing modalities attempt to work with the body in its self-healing capacities. Whether within homeopathic prescribing, naturopathic interventions, chiropractic adjustments, or acupuncture sessions, etc, holistic healing modalities work WITH the body rather than against it, to bring about eventual health within the organism.
Copyright Holistic Harmony Natural Health Counseling, LLC, Teresa Glick ND, CHom