There are many types of Holistic medicine (sometimes referred to as “traditional medicine’) including, but not limited to, Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, and Native American Medicine. All of these examples are systematized forms of health care that take the entire person and their environment into account. The overarching goal of holistic medicine is to appropriately treat the mind, body, and/or spirit in order to promote self-healing.
Most (not all) holistic styles of medicine were formally developed thousands of years ago by cultures that lived daily lives much closer to nature than most modern humans in developed countries. Natural phenomena are the framework and foundation of Holistic Medicine. Symptoms, diseases, and various states of health are often modeled and named after natural phenomena. Our prehumen ancestors could not separate themselves from their natural environment like we can today. Over hundreds of thousands of years evolving, it has only been in the last couple hundred years that we have manufactured the ability to control our micro-environments (house, car, etc). Imagine the insight and wisdom that manifested in our ancestral human relatives simply because their stream of consciousness was so highly influenced by naturally occurring phenomena. There are many similarities between regionally different holistic medicine traditions. The variance between these traditions come when the framework of nature is decorated and built upon using cultural belief systems paired with generational knowledge.
The transmission of knowledge between teacher and student is sacred in the eyes of holistic medicine traditions. Before written language became widely available, direct transmission between humans was the only method of disseminating medical discoveries and practices. Evolutionary anthropologists can only speculate upon how early the human (or human ancestors) brain was capable of observing changes to health after interjection of some sort of treatment. This style of transferring knowledge remained until prescriptions and treatments could be scribed on tree bark, turtle shells, and rock walls. As time creaked forward tools for record keeping became readily available to ancient physicians. The space between the first creatures noticing health shifts after manipulation and the point at which every healthcare provider had access to writing utensils could have been hundreds or perhaps even hundreds of thousands of years. Needless to say, these traditions rely heavily on mistakes and triumphs observed by those who came before. Maintaining the theme of traditional medicine as a building, if nature is the framework then the knowledge passed through generations can be viewed as the walls.
Belief systems played a key role in the development and implementation of ancient styles of holistic medicine. As stated earlier, observing natural phenomena provided the scaffolding for “medicine-men”, sages, and healers to elaborate upon human disease. Knowledge passed from elder to student can be viewed as the sturdy walls that ware capable of identifying (separating) disease from health and possibly provide an effective treatment. As cultures and belief systems began to flourish, the hypothetical ‘house of health’ that we are constructing began to receive intricacies such as décor, plumbing, skylights, and additions. These intricacies allowed the house to become more habitable. Belief systems and religious institutions were capable of acting as a site for medical knowledge and natural observations to accumulate. Over time, religion and the observation of nature become interwoven. With this inseparable relationship, treating a human meant we no longer just patch an ant bite with a chewed up mass of plants, but address the mind and the spirit as well. Without cultural beliefs/religious systems influencing holistic medicine, the scaffolding that nature provided and the walls knowledge built would have remained undecorated and unappealing to humans as our brain continued to evolve.