Integrative Medicine: An Introduction


I was nine, the age when a kiss on a boo-boo didn’t help too much anymore, but a squirt of Neosporin and a Band-Aid was an instant cure. I had burned my hand and the tube of burn ointment was empty.

That’s when--before my very eyes--my mother turned from suburban mom to tribal shaman. I remember my shock when she snatched the plant off the windowsill, tore off a leaf, and squirted a cool, clear goo on my hand.

I was even more shocked that the aloe vera remedy provided instant relief.

The experience left its mark. Now, I burn lavender aromatherapy candles at my bedside when I can’t sleep, and I pop my share of Echinacea and Vitamin C chew-ables during the cold and flu season.

I am not alone. Seven years ago, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that one-third of Americans use a form of non-traditional medicine (including, among other therapies, acupuncture, herbs, and chiropractic care). 

Holistic health therapies, which focus on the integration of mind, body, and spirit, include everything from aromatherapy to acupressure to therapeutic massage to yoga. The holistic approach is gaining ground as doctors begin to use these alternative remedies to complement existing treatments.

According to articles on the WebMD site, this integrative medicine has a successful track record in the treatment of such formidable opponents as cancer, heart disease, and AIDS. These successes have prompted HMOs and insurance companies to consider coverage for alternative therapies.

In the midst of these changes, our relationships with doctors are evolving. Moms today seem far less intimidated by the white lab coat than generations past. If we don’t agree with a particular diagnosis, or even a prescription, we ask the expert on our favorite website, we check the information against on- and off-line references, or we simply seek a second opinion. 

According to a recent study, people who seek alternative, holistic care are often well educated. We use the information, which, today, is so readily available, to make informed choices about our health. 

The following websites are comprehensive resources for alternative and integrative medicine. Of course, the material presented in this article (and through the links below) is for informational purposes only. Discuss these health matters with your doctor, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking medication. 

Earthmed features an online magazine with articles from highly respected natural health specialists. The site includes information on holistic health remedies for a variety of conditions. Earthmed also boasts a directory of more than 100,000 practitioners to help you find the perfect match.

WholehealthMD.com is a well-designed site complete with a “healing kitchen,” a reference library, an Ask our Experts forum, and an online store featuring self-care products.

MotherNature.com is well-known for the sale of herbal remedies and natural health-care products, but the site also features an extensive library, which includes reference articles, as well as news on the hottest health care topics. The site’s consumer guides are also a valuable feature.

WebMD is set to launch a partnership with Your Health, Inc. to provide information to consumers on Integrative Medicine. The site will also serve as a forum for doctors to describe the validity of various forms of alternative medicine. The site’s Living Better channel now features opportunities for chat on specific diagnoses, as well as comprehensive resources on alternative remedies.

SelfCare.com features interactive tools, such as a Women’s Health Assessment, a Healthy Pregnancy Guide, and a Vitamin & Herb Supplement Finder. Search or browse articles, as well as a variety of related health products.