Comparing Holistic and Conventional Medicine

“Holistic Medicine is the art and science of healing that addresses care of the whole person — body, mind, and spirit. The practice of holistic medicine integrates conventional and complementary therapies to promote optimal health and to prevent and treat disease by mitigating causes.” as defined by The Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine .

The most distinguishing characteristic of Holistic Medicine is that it is based on the fundamental beliefs that unconditional love is life’s most powerful healer, and the perceived loss of love is our greatest health risk.


Holistic Medicine Conventional Medicine

Philosophy Based on the integration of allopathic (MD), osteopathic (DO), naturopathic (ND), energy, and ethno-medicine. Based on allopathic medicine.

Primary Objective of Care To promote optimal health and as a by-product, to prevent and treat disease. To cure or mitigate disease.

Primary Method of Care Empower patients to heal themselves by addressing the causes of their disease and facilitating lifestyle changes through health promotion. Focus on the elimination of physical symptoms.

Diagnosis Evaluate the whole person through holistic medical history, holistic health score sheet, physical exam, lab data. Evaluate the body with history, physical exam, lab data.

Primary Care Treatment Options Love applied to body, mind, and spirit with: diet, exercise, environmental measures, attitudinal and behavioral modifications, relationship and spiritual counseling, bioenergy enhancement. Drugs and surgery

Secondary Care Treatment Options Botanical (herbal) medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, manual medicine, biomolecular therapies, physical therapy, drugs, and surgery. Diet, exercise, physical therapy, and stress management.

Weaknesses Shortage of holistic physicians and training programs; time-intensive, requiring a commitment to a healing process, not a quick-fix. Ineffective in preventing and curing chronic disease; expensive.

Strengths Teaches patients to take responsibility for their own health, and in so doing is: cost-effective in treating both acute and chronic illness; therapeutic in preventing and treating chronic disease; essential in creating optimal health. Highly therapeutic in treating both acute and life-threatening illness and injuries.

This article was adapted from material that Dr. Ivker created during his term as president of the American Holistic Medical Association (1996 – 1999). It originally appeared in the Winter 1999 issue of “Holistic Medicine: The Journal of The American Holistic Medical Association” and was updated for AHHA in June of 2010.