The Differences Between Health and Wellness, Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Natural Healing and Holistic Health?


Alternative and complementary medicine, natural healing and holistic health, are all terms used to describe types of medicine and healing practices, which in many cultures have been used for centuries. Some medicine and healing practices fall within one or more of these terms, but generally the differences between these terms are as follows:-

Health and Wellness
‘Health’, or being well, is usually defined as, ‘a state of being free from illness or injury’. However, in the middle of last century the World Health Organisation labelled it ‘a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. Soon after, the phrase, ‘high level wellness’, began to become popular.

‘Wellness’, is a term generally used to define a healthy balance of the mind, body and spirit, which results in an overall feeling of well-being. The National Wellness Institute defines it as ‘an active process of becoming aware of, and making choices towards a more successful existence’. It is considered, care without drugs that can not only eliminate health problems but essentially prevent them.

Alternative Medicine and Complementary Medicine
‘Alternative Medicine’, commonly refers to any healing practice that is not considered conventional medicine, and used in place of conventional medicine. It covers a broad range of healing philosophies, and therapies, referred to as, ‘natural healing’, which focus on natural ways to achieve and maintain health without the use of artificial drugs.

‘Complementary Medicine’, is referred to as medicine or a practise which is used in addition to conventional medicine. It will be an alternative medicine, but when used alongside conventional medicine, it is known as complimentary. For example, acupuncture is used in many Chinese hospitals to relieve pain during surgery, instead of anaesthetic.  

Natural Healing and Holistic Medicine
‘Natural Healing’, is a broad term which refers to treatment with natural medicines, such as herbs, vitamins and supplements, and through physical, energy and spiritual techniques. It replaces conventional medicine produced from chemical, synthetic drugs. Therapy may be considered, ‘natural medicine’ if it relies on the body's own healing powers.

‘Holistic Medicine’, considers the complete person, on all levels. Whereas conventional medicine is divided up into specialists who treat only one part of the body, such as a cardiologist, orthopaedist etc, holistic medicine practices pay attention to the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health, as well as the physical body.  Holistic medicine focuses on the importance of self care to prevent, rather than cure, illness.


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