Medicine in a global landscape can be a convoluted subject, as much the product of cultural tradition as scientific research.
In a recent study conducted by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council, results indicated that “…homeopathy is not effective for treating any health condition.”
It seems that the council hopes to discourage this ancient practice in the hopes of curbing the harmful outcomes resulting from delay or outright rejection of modern medical treatments in favor of a traditional, less immediately effective remedy. And this appears a noble goal.
But what of those who hold strong beliefs in their holistic traditions? Perhaps there is a reason, overlooked by the research council, for the centuries-long persistence of this holistic tradition. This begs the question: What exactly is a holistic tradition? What separates these schools of thought from modern medicine? Webster’s dictionary defines “holistic” as “relating to or concerned with complete systems rather than with individual parts.” This definition itself would suggest that there is a fundamental piece of understanding missed at least in part by modern medicinal practices.
For example, how is it that exercise is immutably linked to mental health? How is it that the ancient tradition of Yoga has found a place in our modern society as a way of healing and self-improvement?
The answer, and what makes the above practices holistic, is simple: You get out what you put in. This saying is one of many common truths passed through generations. A consideration of its tried-and-true meaning reveals that progress away from holistic schools of thinking may be more detrimental than we realize.
In the case of the study done on homeopathy, the researchers were likely interested in discovering the efficacy of the method in comparison with modern medical techniques. This very bias towards modern, instant-fix practices may be a significant detriment to older, long-standing procedures which require a specific configuration of the mind, routine and self-care.
Modern medical practices are designed to heal from the outside in: ”Take this medicine; you’ll feel better soon.” This approach is often counter to more holistic traditions, which seek to heal not only from the outside in, but also from the inside out by combining positive states of being with positive action.
Our understanding of psychology has also enlightened us of the placebo effect. Could it be that the placebo effect we have observed to-date is only the tip of the iceberg? Perhaps one day we will heal ourselves more effectively through the integration of modern medical breakthroughs with ancient wisdom. Though the physical applications of homeopathy and other “natural remedies” may ultimately be revealed as less wholly effective than modern practices, the analysis, intentions, and methods for each should continuously include the entire person: mind, body and spirit.
Author: Tyler Farr
Editor: Caroline Beaton