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What Is Integrative Medicine?

The Definition

Integrative Medicine as promoted by the Osher Collaborative for Integrative Health:


Reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals and professions to achieve optimal health and healing.


Applies rigorous scientific research methods to evaluate physiological and therapeutic mechanisms, efficacy and use of approaches in society as they affect health, resiliency and well-being.


Educates practitioners, public and policy to appreciate and address the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect health.

The Approaches

Integrative medicine is both a philosophy of how healthcare can be most effective and a practice that expands our "toolbox" of therapeutic options. It incorporates safe and effective complementary health approaches with conventional medicine. The National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health groups these approaches into four major categories. In this new classification complementary approaches can be classified by their primary therapeutic input (how the therapy is taken in or delivered), which may be:


Special diets, dietary supplements, herbs, probiotics and microbial-based therapies


Meditation, hypnosis, music therapies and relaxation therapies


Acupuncture, massages and pinal manipulation


Combinations such as psychological and physical (e.g., yoga, tai chi, dance therapies and some forms of art therapy) or psychological and nutritional (e.g., mindful eating)

Growing Adoption

According to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, nearly two-thirds of Americans use some form of complementary and integrative medicine to treat common health concerns such as pain, anxiety or depression, gastrointestinal disorders and sleeping problems. Increasing numbers of patients are seeking integrative medicine as a means of achieving optimal health and wellness.

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