Holistic vs. Homeopathic Healthcare: Understanding the Differences 

A recent report by McKinsey found that there was a $1.5 trillion market in the wellness field that focused heavily on homeopathic and holistic care options. However, holistic vs homeopathic isn’t necessarily a 1-to-1 thing: in fact, the difference between holistic and homeopathic care is bigger than you might expect! In this article, we’ll check the homeopathic vs. holistic debate and answer the burning question: “What is the difference between holistic and homeopathic care?”

What is Holistic Healthcare?

Holistic healthcare is a treatment method that focuses on treating the whole person rather than simply their specific illness. It has a multi-tiered process that focuses on the mind, body, and spirit to ensure that you get the attention you need. Often, a holistic doctor works directly with a traditional healthcare provider to provide high-quality care that heals a person effectively.

Holistic care may utilize many types of treatment methods, typically in conjunction with other types of care. Just a few of the most common types that you’re likely to see include:

  • Eclectic or integrative therapy that uses multiple traditions (such as herbal or acupuncture care) to take care of your illness
  • Mind-body therapy that focuses on improving your bodily function through relaxation techniques
  • Somatic therapy that focuses heavily on the body with breathwork, dance, and other treatments
  • Spiritual support that tries to enhance your connections with your spiritual beliefs

Typically, holistic care may include things like acupuncture, biofeedback, guided imagery, hypnosis, massage therapy, mindfulness, meditation, Tai Chi, Reiki, yoga, and even breathwork. It may also include talk therapy, meditation, aromatherapy, music therapy, and scent-based treatments that work to minimize your physical, emotional, and spiritual issues.

The Concept of Homeopathic Healthcare

When debating holistic vs homeopathic care, it’s important to understand that approaching this concept in this way isn’t entirely accurate. For example, homeopathic vs holistic treatments is a misleading idea because homeopathic care is a holistic technique. However, holistic therapy doesn’t always include homeopathic ideas. That’s the key difference between holistic and homeopathic care.

Defined slightly differently, all homeopathic care is holistic, but not all holistic care is homeopathic. That’s because homeopathic care focuses on a whole-person approach but uses specific ideas to provide high-quality treatment. The key idea behind homeopathy is “like cures like,” a concept that says something that causes illness might be best treated with diluted remedies.

For example, WebMD states that red onion is often included in various homeopathic remedies for allergies because it makes a person’s eyes water. The idea is to trigger the body’s natural defenses and cause the body to naturally manage a disease itself. This concept has been controversial in some areas because it veers so heavily from traditional care options.

The Homeopathic Controversy

Many medical scientists find that homeopathy is not tested rigorously enough or that there’s no proof that it actually works. Proponents believe that the idea itself is sound and it is similar to the concept of vaccines. However, critics suggest that the treatments utilized by homeopathic experts are not carefully tested or approved and lack medical veracity.

That’s an important fact to consider because holistic medicine is typically considered an effective way of managing many health issues. Homeopathy, by contrast, is still controversial. Let’s take an even deeper look into answering the question, “What is the difference between holistic and homeopathic therapy?” to ensure that you feel comfortable choosing a treatment option.

How Holistic and Homeopathic Healthcare Differ

Holistic healthcare is an umbrella term, as we’ve implied that can apply to many types of treatment methods. The key point uniting all these techniques is that they treat a whole person rather than just a specific symptom. Here’s an example of a holistic care method for depression that addresses a person’s physical, mental, and spiritual health at the same time:

  • Physical: Depression may be tied to nutritional deficiencies, so a holistic care option may look to improve a person’s diet and get them exercising more regularly.
  • Mental: Fighting depression’s mental symptoms may include therapy like talk treatment, as well as behavior adjustments, that can improve a person’s health.
  • Spiritual: Often, a person may need to talk with a spiritual leader about their depression to build a stronger connection between their personal beliefs and their emotional health.

The idea behind holistic care is to address things that traditional care may miss or to combine multiple therapeutic options into one bold umbrella. This approach helps to cut back on potential complications and eases a person’s symptoms. This differs heavily from a homeopathic approach: below, we’ll examine how homeopathy might manage depression.

A Potential Homeopathic Depression Treatment

An article in Doctors Health Press highlights a few potential homeopathic treatments for depression. These are typically chosen based on a person’s specific personality and needs and are carefully applied by a therapist to help them get through treatment effectively. Just a few options that homeopathic experts may use in this approach include:

  • Causticum: This treatment is a diluted dose of this element that’s designed to help someone if they’re depressed after losing a loved one or when grieving.
  • Ignatia Amara: Homeopathic therapists suggest this care option for sensitive people to help suppress disappointment and grief in life.
  • Sepia: Sepia is a traditional homeopathic care for someone who’s depressed due to struggles with loved ones or family members.
  • Staphysagria: Homeopathic experts use this treatment for someone who’s sensitive and emotional to help them fight these symptoms.

Methodology Differences

The basic methodology behind homeopathy is to dilute and mix various ingredients or chemicals into a solution that is designed to trigger the body’s natural healing method. Even mental health problems can be treated this way, according to homeopathic experts. Most medical experts (including a systematic 2007 review) found that these remedies were safe (usually).

By contrast, holistic therapy uses a broader range of potential care options to address every level of a person’s health issue. Note that homeopathic care does consider physical, mental, and spiritual care within its window. That said, its care methods focus on “like cures like,” meaning that mental health concerns may be managed via treatments that create similar emotional reactions.

Benefits and Limitations of Holistic Healthcare

Holistic healthcare provides many unique advantages that make it useful for a variety of health conditions. Let’s take a deep look at a few of the reasons why many physicians use this technique with their patients. Just a few of the most common benefits of holistic care include:

  • Natural Therapy: Holistic treatment often uses natural medicines, such as herbs and noninvasive approaches that may work well for many people. That said, it’s important to ask your doctor if these care options are suitable for your overall healthcare needs.
  • Personal Approach: Each holistic treatment option is based on careful consultation with a patient that assesses their overall care and prevents issues from occurring again. This approach works well to minimize a person’s adverse reactions to various care options.
  • Reduced Side Effects: Holistic therapy typically doesn’t have many side effects because it uses more natural care options. That said, it may be paired with more traditional medical treatments, like medication, that may have side effects that affect a person’s treatment.
  • Chemical-Free Therapy: Most holistic treatments use little to no pharmaceutical products, which makes them a smart option for someone who may be allergic to medications or who simply doesn’t want to take many in their day-to-day life.

Potential Downsides

While holistic care can be very beneficial, it does have some downsides, including:

  • Limited research into holistic care means that some treatments may not be as effective as stated
  • Some care methods are improperly listed as holistic due to questionable marketing strategies
  • There can be dangerous interactions with some types of holistic care when used improperly
  • Holistic care may take more time to work because it’s typically less invasive and gentler
  • Some people may receive no benefits from holistic care, even with sustained treatment

Real Success Stories

Holistic healthcare firm All Get Well highlights a few success stories from people that they’ve treated holistically. For example, a man named Dennis Laferty Senior discussed how Prolozone therapy (a common holistic treatment) helped reduce his pain severely while providing him with emotional and spiritual support that made his recovery easier.

In another case, a man named James Fox discussed his treatment for pulmonary fibrosis and how holistic therapy (using chelation therapy, nutritional care, and Plaqex treatments) helped reduce his pain and make his life more comfortable. These are just two examples of the many stories shared on this and other holistic healthcare sites.

Benefits and Limitations of Homeopathic Healthcare

Homeopathic healthcare is like any kind of treatment in that it has many benefits and disadvantages that make it worth considering. Let’s break down some of the most common of these benefits to ensure that you fully understand why you might want to try this option:

  • Homeopathy carefully considers all of your health states to find a treatment method similar to holistic care
  • It uses very low doses of each of its treatment solutions to minimize potential reactions and improve your recovery
  • Homeopathy can help with allergic reactions by reducing how a person’s body reacts to allergens
  • It could help manage pain and provide relief from a variety of common health symptoms
  • Some people report benefits for depression and other types of mental concerns

Downsides of Homeopathy

Like with any alternative care method, there are some concerns that need to be addressed before you try homeopathy. Some of the most common of these include:

  • Lack of proper oversight could result in questionable care options from some therapists
  • Not much evidence proving that it really provides benefits for common health issues
  • Lower doses might not provide enough benefits for people with severe issues
  • Some side effects may result and could impact a person’s overall health
  • People using this method may need more focused care methods to fully recover

Conditions That May React Well to Homeopathic Care

A few conditions that might react well to homeopathic care include:

  • Colic or a severely crying baby
  • Fever that won’t break in any other way
  • Pregnancy-related depression and pain
  • Behavioral disorders like ADD
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Minor pain conditions
  • Allergic reactions

Talk with your doctor about these treatments, and make sure that you choose an option that fits well with your current health.

Sean Byers, MD

Sean Byers, MD

Sean Byers is currently a Resident in the Internal Medicine program at UTMB. He studied at the University of Queensland School of Medicine as well as received his Master’s in Public Health with a focus in epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Southern California. His background is in biology, computer science, public health, and internal medicine.

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