The Integrative Medicine Wheel

Confused about what the term “integrative medicine” really means? The The Integrative Medicine Wheelsm can help. It illustrates the spectrum of therapies that come together to form the field of integrative medicine. This is a practical tool you can use in communicating with your physician and others on your healthcare team about treatment options for a given health condition, and complementary relationships among them.

This principle of complementarity is at the heart of integrative medicine. An abundance of research shows that integrating multiple forms of medicine in a complementary way can have an additive effect, and can be more effective than relying on any one approach by itself. For example:

  • Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and surgery have reduced side effects, faster recovery, and improved survival rates when they complement these treatments with mind/body medicine, herbal medicine, and nutritional medicine.
  • Heart disease patients can halt and even reverse their disease process when they integrate mind/body medicine, nutritional medicine, lifestyle and behavior change with their regular treatment.
  • People with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia can reduce their symptoms and improve their chances of recovery with combined use of mind/body medicine, nutritional medicine, lifestyle and behavior change, and pharmaceutical drugs.
  • Preliminary findings indicate that antibiotic drugs to which bacteria have become resistant may become effective again when combined with certain herbs.

The mounting research in this field indicates that virtually all health conditions can benefit from an integrative approach. However, there is also evidence that certain combinations of therapies should be avoided. For example, some herbs can block the effects of certain drugs while other herbs can enhance or exaggerate them. The wise use of integrative medicine requires a balanced understanding of complementarities and conflicts.

The eight forms of medicine on The Integrative Medicine Wheelsm are described as follows:

  • Mind/body Medicine uses the mechanisms of mind-body interaction to promote physical health. Methods include imagery, meditation, biofeedback, relaxation training, autogenic training, breath therapy, hypnosis, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, and group therapy.
  • Energy Medicine works with the energy system of the body or treats it with energies introduced from outside. Methods include acupuncture, homeopathy, hands-on healing, off-body energy field healing (Therapeutic Touch, Reiki), qi gong (chi kung), spiritual healing, magnetic therapies, flower essences, energy meridian-based approaches to psychotherapy, neuro-energetic therapies, and electrical stimulation.
  • Manipulative Therapies use physical manipulation to promote healing. Methods include chiropractic, osteopathy, cranio-sacral therapy, massage therapy, bodywork, physical therapy, and hydrotherapy.
  • Surgery includes all forms of invasive surgical intervention.
  • Pharmaceutical Drugs includes all forms of synthetic drugs, prescription and over-the-counter.
  • Herbal Medicine includes Western herbs, Chinese Herbs, Ayurvedic herbs, and aromatherapy.
  • Nutritional Medicine includes specific dietary therapies and nutritional supplements.
  • Lifestyle & Behavior includes healthful eating habits, work habits, exercise, stress reduction, rest, sleep, social support, intimate relationships, and spiritual involvement.