Definition of Holistic

What is the Definition of Holistic?

Maybe you’re at the point of asking, “slow down please… what’s the definition of holistic anyway?” Good question. Here’s the way I see it. It’s a useful word, a practical word, that implies seeing the whole rather than just the parts. When someone asks me “what is holistic health?” I would say something like this.

Holistic health is a natural approach to health and healing that recognizes that human beings are more than just chemistry and body parts. Its first choice for treatment options will be natural approaches which work in harmony with the body’s wisdom, like herbal medicines , nutrition, and mind-body medicine.


So that defining holistic that way is pretty easy, and it strikes a chord with most people who hear it. It helps to define a holistic approach in medicine as different from the practice of many conventionally trained medical doctors. But it actually in my view does not go quite far enough in explaining the concept of Integrative Medicine. As a professional, I view my practice more as Integrative Medicine than as holistic health care, because that implies I also have training in the best use of conventional medicine when needed. But very few people in the general public have an immediate sense of what Integrative Medicine is, while many people immediately know what sets a holistic doctor apart from colleagues when we say we practice holistic medicine. I hope putting it that way gives you a clear sense of the definition of holistic. But it in the long run, it’s just a definition, just words. Find a doctor who embodies those principles, no matter what they call it.


To your health and wellness,


Robert Pendergrast, M.D.

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