Complementary and Alternative Medical Practices and the Significance of Holism and Vitalism
Complementaryand Alternative Medical Practices and the Significance of Holism andVitalism
Complementaryand Alternative Medical Practices and the Significance of Holism andVitalism
Consideringthe criticality of healthcare on sustainable development, the medicalpractitioners have increased their commitment to seeking approachesof reforming healthcare to align with sustainable development. Whiledifferent options have been exploited, the advocacies of changes,integrating complementary and alternative medicine in health carehave been perhaps the most notable. In this case, a treatmentmodality can be referred to as complementary when it is utilized inaddition to the orthodox (conventional) treatments, and alternativewhen it is used instead of the orthodox methods (Shore, 2014). Theadvocates have lauded complementary and alternative medicine to besafe and efficient in treating and preventing various healthcomplications. It is noteworthy that the complementary andalternative medicine spans different practices, including mind-bodyinterventions, biologically based treatments, mind-bodyinterventions, energy therapies, and manipulative and body-basedmethods. However, the use of certain methods, for instance, mind-bodyinterventions and divine healing, has elicited philosophicalquestions regarding the premises of medical practice (Sébastien2012). To a certain extent, the issue has presented itself as acontested debate regarding vitalism.
TheSignificance of Holism and Vitalism in Relation to the CAMPhilosophies
Theprinciple of holism is premised on the theory of systeminterconnectedness, that is, all the organs and organ systems work asan interrelated unit such that, for instance, anything that affectsthe nervous system or mind will have a significant medical conditionon other parts of the body. Indeed, ‘holism’ is a derivative ofthe Greek words ὅλος holos, which mean entirety(Shore, 2014). In the realm of science and practice, it essentiallyimplies that properties of the particular phenomenon cannot beapproached, studied, or ascertained by only focusing on certainisolated elements. Rather, they must be perceived and approached as awhole. Many complementary and alternative medicine practices areconsidered holistic, which means that the medical practitionersconsider different elements that could potentially affect the healthof an individual, for example, the emotional, religious, cultural,mental, and physical dispositions. Certainly, in its quest forholism, the approach valorizes other diverse perspectives such asvitalism. Unfortunately, such a position turns out to be the borne ofcontention (Phillips, 2017).
Inthis case, vitalism is a philosophical thinking that living thingsfunction based on certain forces that cannot be otherwise physicallyor emotionally ascertained or measured. The forces include divine andreligious interventions (Susan, 2013). In essence, vitalism conceptis at the center of many alternative medical intervention practices,espousing itself with the certain forms of thinking, for example, thestance that human beings have souls and spirits that exist as a vitalforce even after one is death, and these could continue affecting theliving in some ways. Ideally, the driving factors behind vitalismwere religious and superstitious beliefs, which were thought to playa crucial role in intervening human wellbeing. However, thephilosophy lost popularity because of the limited scientificevidence. Nevertheless, the waning popularity has also beenorchestrated by the advancements in molecular and cell biology, whichhave approached various biological conditions in physical andchemical terms, dispelling myths and superstitions (Scott &Sahotra 2012).
Theholistic approaches have altogether played a crucial role in servingas an indispensable premise for medical practices such asnaturopathy, western herbal medicine, and nutritional therapy.Naturopathy is a form of alternative medicine that integratesdifferent types of natural and non-invasive medicine, primarilyoriented towards self-healing. This method is based on vitalism. TheWestern herbal medicine also utilizes herbs and divinity in curingthe patients. Similarly, the nutritional therapy also fits into therealm of the holistic paradigm of treatment of a medical condition(Bradley, 2014).
TheFactors that Distinguish the CAM Approach to Illness from OrthodoxMedicine
Ideally,what sets apart the complementary and alternative medicine approachesfrom the orthodox medicine is its emphasis on the holistic nature ofmedical conditions. As earlier noted, the complementary andalternative medicine approach considers that the functioning of abody can be affected by different interconnected factors such as thephysical, mental, psychological, and divine aspects, which must bealtogether targeted for treatment of a medical condition. Incontrast, the orthodox medicine is espoused to the thinking thatthere can only be a certain cause of a medical condition, somethingthat can be ascertained, measured and be treated using only certainevidenced-based or falsifiable methodologies (Linda Dani &Gertrudis, 2012). Orthodox treatment may not strictly reject theholistic tendency, but vehemently rejects the premises of vitalism.Therefore, the complementary and alternative medicine goes beyondorthodox medicine to valorize vitalism (Coulter, 2014).
Literatureon the Principles of Holism that Underpin CAM Clinical Practice inNaturopathic, Nutritional and Western Herbal Medicine
Theliterature lauding the role of vitalism is complementing and servingas an alternative to orthodox medicine is documented and highlightsdifferent ways that the approach is beneficial. The role of religionis curing psychological conditions is perhaps one of the examplesworth mentioning. According to Segaland Yanagisako (2014),for instance, beliefs play a crucial role in addressing what theconventional medical practices cannot offer. In particular, thereligious teachings could serve as the mind healer, providingexplanations for mysteries clogged in one`s mind and providing hopeto cope with the overwhelming conditions. Moreover, Shore(2014)has discussed that religiosity could serve as a self-regulator tohelp one turn from practices that could compromise overall wellbeingof an individual. Several studies have also found a positivecorrelation between health outcomes and level of belonging toreligious beliefs (Canguilhem, 2012). In this regard, it can bereasoned that religion, in self-regulating, healing the mind andgiving hope, could address various psychological complications suchas post-traumatic disorder and depression, thereby translating inimproved overall health in an individual. This outcome is possiblebecause it shuns other medical conditions related to stress, such asdiet, obesity, hypertension, and cardiac arrest (Maeia &Alexander, 2013). This line of argument creates the allowance toinfer that vitalism still has a place in contemporary medicalpractice.
Inconclusion, the aim of this paper has been to explore thesignificance of holism as it pertains to the complementary andalternative medicine practice. The discussion reveals differentplausible reasons underpinning the practice. However, certainpremises, especially vitalism, are controversial. The controversy ischaracterized by the lack of reliable, scientific evidence touchingon its efficacy. Although it is inherently difficult to test theeffectiveness of the vitalism, literature has presented differentreasons and even potential proof that the philosophy has a place ininforming the complementaryand alternative medicine practice. In particular, religions have beenshown to play a major role in fostering self-regulation, promotingmind healing and providing hope necessary for coping adverseoverwhelming medical conditions. In the lenses of holism, sucheffects are beneficial because they would affect their physiologicalconditions of an individual positively, curing related healthcomplications.
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