#Integrative Medicine #AWCIMagazine

What is Integrative Medicine?


Integrative Medicine (IM) is a healing-oriented approach that considers the entire person, encompassing all lifestyle aspects. It highlights the therapeutic partnership between practitioner and patient, is informed by evidence, and utilizes all suitable therapies.

To grasp integrative medicine, it's essential to first distinguish between conventional medicine and complementary medicine.

Conventional Medicine and Complementary Medicine

Historically, the method of addressing health issues through pharmaceuticals and surgical procedures was known merely as "medicine." Recently, this method has been termed "conventional medicine," a designation reflecting its prevalent adoption in hospitals and clinics throughout America.

Despite its challenges, conventional medicine excels in critical situations, such as providing life-saving measures during severe accidents, infections, or strokes. Dr. Weil, the pioneer of integrative medicine, once remarked, "If I were hit by a bus, I'd want to be taken immediately to a high-tech emergency room."

Conventional medicine is undoubtedly crucial and beneficial but can also be costly, invasive, and often focuses on symptoms rather than the whole person.

Complementary medicine encompasses a broad spectrum of healthcare practices employed outside standard medical treatments. These practices are not typically part of conventional medicine. Complementary medicine includes various therapies like acupuncture, massage therapy, herbal remedies, meditation, and yoga.

Integrative medicine strives to merge the most appropriate conventional medical practices with complementary strategies to maximize health and wellness. It neither dismisses conventional medicine nor uncritically accepts complementary therapies, instead relying on science and evidence for guidance and prioritizing preventive measures and health promotion.

The Defining Principles of Integrative Medicine

The Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine is renowned for its pioneering educational programs, evidence-based clinical practices, and research that validates the field of integrative medicine and influences public policy.

Since its establishment in 1994, the Center's goal to make integrative care universally accessible is becoming a reality worldwide. Our program graduates are now empowering over 8 million patients to take an active role in their health and healing, guided by the eight defining principles of integrative medicine:

  1. Patient and practitioner are partners in the healing process.
  2. All factors that influence health, wellness, and disease are taken into consideration, including mind, spirit, and community, as well as the body.
  3. Appropriate use of both conventional and complementary methods facilitates the body's innate healing response.
  4. Effective interventions that are natural and less invasive should be used whenever possible.
  5. Integrative medicine neither rejects conventional medicine nor accepts complementary therapies uncritically.
  6. Good medicine is based in good science. It is inquiry-driven and open to new paradigms.
  7. Alongside the concept of treatment, the broader concepts of health promotion and the prevention of illness are paramount.
  8. Practitioners of integrative medicine should exemplify its principles and commit themselves to self-exploration and self-development.

Integrative Medicine Principles in Practice

At the Andrew Weil Center, we embody integrative medicine principles by:

  • Educating practitioners from all over the world through the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine, the Integrative Health and Lifestyle program for healthcare professionals, and the Integrative Health Coach certification program.
  • Offering our online courses with CME to everyone, including courses on Psychedelics, Pain Management, and Integrative Approaches to Breast Cancer.
  • Training Medical Students and Medical Residents.
  • Researching the impact of the built environment on health as well as the cost effectiveness of integrative primary care and other fields.
  • Promoting health and wellbeing through education for all licensed providers and helping people find an Integrative Practitioner to work with.

Integrative Medicine is Good Medicine

Understanding the definition and principles of integrative medicine often leads to the realization that it embodies good medicine. Dr. Weil, the namesake of our Center, concurs. His aspiration is that the term "integrative" will eventually become redundant, and that whole person healthcare, with a focus on evidence-based, natural, and less invasive interventions, will simply be recognized as the practice of good medicine.