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As health care evolves to encompass more than just medical doctors, our vocabulary must also change. Many people use different terms to describe similar ideas and concepts in medicine and the healing arts. Our hope here is to help clarify our use of these terms.

ALLOPATHIC MEDICINE: relating to or being a system of medicine that aims to combat disease by using remedies (as drugs or surgery) which produce effects that are different from or incompatible with those of the disease being treated (source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. July 12, 2006. <>)

The “back story” about the term allopathic is that it was coined in the late 1700s by a German physician named Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, to define the methods of his medical foes. We feel the word is used by many not as a derogatory term, but rather as a neutral term meant to distinguish orthodox (or conventional) medicine from other medical paradigms. However in our experience, many MDs find this term distasteful.

For those interested in etimology, allos means opposite and path means disease – indicating that allopathic medicine defines the pathway of health as one in which the symptoms move in the opposite direction of those caused by the disease. This is the opposite of homeopathy, in which the path to health is thought to be gained by administering a dose of medicine that would produce similar symptoms in healthy people if administered to them in large amounts. (source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. April 2003. National Institutes of Health. July 12, 2006. <>)

ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: practices used in place of conventional medical treatments. (source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. May 25, 2006. National Institutes of Health. July 12, 2006. <>)

COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE (CAM): a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. (source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. May 25, 2006. National Institutes of Health. July 12, 2006. <>)

FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE: is a science-based, health care approach that assesses and treats underlying causes of illness through individually tailored therapies to restore health and improve function. (Bland, PhD, Jeffrey S. (October 2001) The Principles of Functional Medicine, Presentation.)

HEALING ARTS: we consider the healing arts to be complementary practices with long cultural and historical traditions. More and more of these practices are being taught in medical schools (e.g., acupuncture) as integrative medicine becomes the norm.

HOLISTIC: Holistic Medicine, according to the American Holistic Medical Association, is the art and science of healing that addresses care of the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. The practice of holistic medicine integrates conventional and complementary therapies to promote optimal health and to prevent and treat disease by addressing contributing factors. (source: American Holistic Medical Association. 2004. American Holistic Medical Association. July 12, 2006. (

INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE: At True North, we define integrative medicine as a health care practice where the needs of the patient take supremacy and the practitioners integrate their expertise and training to create customized care plans that are tailored to the individual.

The US’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCAAM) defines integrative medicine as medicine that “combines conventional medical treatments and alternative treatments for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of their safety and effectiveness.” (source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. May 25, 2006. National Institutes of Health. July 12, 2006.


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