What is Integrative Medicine?

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Here at Wellistic, we seek to create a space where integrative healthcare providers are under one roof, bridging the gap between Western traditional medicine and more alternative modalities of healing. The fact is, conventional medicine is no longer the only path to better health and wellness. More and more people are seeking different ways to complement their medical care. As research begins to show that alternative healing practices can benefit people when coupled with, or outside of, conventional medicine, it is no wonder that this transition towards integrative medicine is accelerating.

In fact, over 30% of American adults use healthcare approaches that are not typically part of conventional medical care. Both complementary and alternative medicines exist to create this new path of healing by incorporating non-traditional methods of care. While alternative medicine allows for non-mainstream practices used in place of conventional medicine, complementary medicine involves non-mainstream practices used in conjunction with conventional medicine.

Integrative medicine is yet another approach to health and wellness, different from complementary and alternative medicine. It combines these alternate paths to healing with western, conventional medicine.

What is integrative medicine?

Integrative medicine refers to healthcare coordinated between different providers and institutions that brings together complementary and conventional approaches. It focuses on understanding a patient’s set of circumstances and the physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental influences on their health. It seeks to treat holistically– in other words, treating the whole person instead of just a single part of the body. Treating holistically also means focusing on not just the wellness of the body, but the wellness of the mind and spirit as well.

Integrative medicine also seeks to address all the causes of an illness, not just manage its symptoms. It is centered on prevention and developing healthy behaviors and skills that patients can use for the rest of their lives.

What does integrative medicine entail?

Integrative medicine includes both traditional medicine practices such as prescription medications, surgery, chemotherapy, etc. with scientifically-validated aspects of complementary medicine approaches that can be divided into two categories– natural products and mind and body practices.

Natural products include herbs, vitamins and minerals, and probiotics often sold as dietary supplements. Mind and body practices include a wide range of healing procedures and techniques, including:

• Yoga
• Meditation
• Aromatherapy
• Massage therapy
Music therapy
• Animal-assisted therapy
• Chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation
• Qi gong
• Tai chi
• Relaxation techniques
• Hypnotherapy

Other health approaches and practices such as traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, and naturopathy may be used. Integrative medicine utilizes these kinds of practices without ignoring traditional medicine, in a way that tries to improve quality of life.

Principles of integrative medicine

Regardless of the specific modalities that are used, medicine can be integrative when the following defining principles are applied:

• The patient and practitioner are partners in the healing process.
• All factors that influence health, wellness and disease are taken into consideration, including body, mind, spirit and community.
• Providers use all healing sciences to facilitate the body’s innate healing response.
• Effective interventions that are natural and less invasive are used whenever possible.
• Good medicine is based in good science. It is inquiry driven and open to new paradigms.
• Alongside the concept of treatment, the broader concepts of health promotion and the prevention of illness are paramount.
• The care is personalized to best address the individual’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances. Practitioners of integrative medicine exemplify its principles and commit themselves to self-exploration and self-development.

What can integrative medicine help treat?

Integrative medicine can help people with cancer, persistent and chronic pain and fatigue, fibromyalgia, obesity, asthma, headaches/migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and many other conditions. It helps with managing symptoms that accompany these illnesses and their treatments.

Some examples of integrative treatment plans and approaches for specific patients include:

• A treatment model involving chiropractors, primary care providers, and mental health providers for veterans with spine pain and mental health conditions
• A treatment model involving yoga and acupuncture to help alleviate a patient’s pain and fatigue associated with conventional cancer treatments

Treatments promoted in integrative medicine are meant to be used alongside, not instead of, conventional medical treatment. Some practices and products aren’t recommended for certain patients or medical conditions, so it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider about a specific therapy you’re looking into before trying it.


  1. https://dukeintegrativemedicine.org/about/what-is-integrative-medicine/
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/complementary-alternative-medicine/about/pac-20393581
  3. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/integrative-health
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Kristen Luft is a digital marketer working on health-centered blog posts for Wellistic. When she's not writing, you can find her reading, snuggling her greyhound or chihuahua, or following the latest trends on Instagram.

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