Oriel.org Medical Research Resources

Friday August 18, 2017
Alternative Medicine: Whole Medical Systems
Whole Medical Systems

Whole medical systems exist within the scope of complementary and alternative medicine. Specifically, the term refers to the full theory of an idea and the practice of its methods. There is relevant information about the concept, a diagnosis of the problem, a way to implement healing, and practice the method universally. Although whole medical systems may not be as prevalent in Western society, other countries and cultures have used these systems as their traditional medicine for hundreds and even thousands of years.



Typically whole medical systems consist of four types of medicine within two categories.

Those developed in Western Societies:

  • Homeopathy
  • Naturopathy

Those practiced in Non-Western Cultures:

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Ayurveda

Homeopathy is taken from two Greek words. "Homeo" meaning "like" and "patho" meaning "disease". Invented by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in the early 1800s and then refined and advanced by American physician James Tyler Kent, homeopathy is based on the premise that if an ingredient can produce illness in a healthy person, minute amounts of the same ingredient given to people already sick with the symptoms can actually heal them. Thus, the term "like disease" for homeopathy because "like cures like".

Hahnemann, Kent and their students took the process a step further by inquiring about their patients' general well-being, that of their minds not just their physical ailments. At a time when medicine could be considered barbaric and inhumane (such as bleeding with leeches), homeopathy was a welcome change. By diluting the natural ingredient from plants, animals and minerals, the thinned-down doses could be given to patients as a way to build their immune system against the symptoms.

Naturopathy, a preventative-care based system, seeks to heal the body through nature. By changing one's lifestyle or diet, patients should be able to effect change on their bodies or symptoms. In some instances, the various therapies such as massage, heat or cold therapies, and joint manipulation are used in conjunction with natural remedies such as herbs, and in other instances where appropriate, even pharmaceuticals may be administered. The profession is rapidly growing and as a result many licensed naturopathic doctors exist in the US.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is based upon the premise that diseases are the result of interruptions to the flow of "qi". Pronounced "chee", qi is the life force that flows through the body. Additionally, there is an imbalance between the "yin" and "yang" which are opposing forces. To be cured or healed, the forces must be returned to a balanced state. Examples of yin and yang in the body are heat and cold, and deficiency and excess. Typically, patients are treated with herbs, massage, acupuncture, and meditation such as "Tai Chi", a popular form of "Qigong".

Ayurveda is the traditional medicine in India. Considered to be thousands of years old, possibly even five thousand years, Ayurveda seeks a balance in the mind, body and spirit. Each person has his/her own mind and body types called "doshas". And everyone has three doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha) present, but in different proportions, making each person unique. It is thought that too much stress upon one causes disease. Forms of treatment to restore the balance, once a condition is diagnosed, are yoga, massage, herbs, lifestyle changes, and therapeutic elimination (cleaning out the bowels or washing the nose out with water).

Online Resources

If you're looking for more in-depth internet resources on this topic, please do visit these websites we endorse. We have, however, no control of their content at any time.