Holism is about the big picture; it relates to the theory that nothing happens in a vacuum. Holism emphasizes the “whole” rather than the parts in seeking answers to a problem.
The English Oxford Dictionaries define holism:
The theory is that parts of a whole are closely related so that they cannot exist independently of the whole or be understood without reference to the full, which is thus considered greater than the sum of the parts.
And when holism is about health:
The treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.
Another way to think about holism is to use the analogy of both natural and artificial (i.e., an ecosystem, a health system, a family system, a solar system, etc.).
A system is a complex ‘whole’ with a clear boundary; one outside and one inside. The content within a system (example: weather, animals, and plants) comprises interconnected, interdependent parts that directly reflect the overall context within which they exist (model: an ecosystem).
Whenever the whole of something produces a result greater than any of its parts could achieve individually, we call it synergy (for example, a thunderstorm, the music of an orchestra).
The opposite of holism, reductionism, analyzes something by its parts.
Holistic Health: Treating the Whole Person
The traditional approach to the medical system has taught us to recognize health from a reductionist perspective. We go to the doctor to have a specific part of our body repaired because it no longer functions properly and may hurt us.
Millions of people are achieving positive results using the medical model. The only problem is that this model considers the health of the body almost exclusively. And when it comes to mental health, the typical solution is to prescribe antidepressants.
Why is this a problem? We, humans, are complex beings. We have spirits, emotions, and souls, the personal, intangible relationship with a macro-reality outside ourselves. What’s more, who we are is constantly influenced within the context of family, community, country, and world.
A holistic approach to health and wellness focuses on the realities of these multiple interconnected and interdependent parts that make us who we are. The malaise of one of them can directly (and negatively) affect the health of other aspects of our lives.
For this reason alone, the primary focus of holistic care is on the person and not on the problem or disease. For example, stress, anxiety, and depression often translate into physical symptoms. It’s all connected.
According to a national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Psychiatric Association reported in September 2017 that antidepressant use had increased from 1 in 50 people 30 years ago to 1 in 9 between 2011 and 2014 now in 2018.
This is clear evidence of the rise in mood disorders for Americans.
Why the increased use? As mentioned, nothing happens in a vacuum, so assessing one’s lifestyle regarding the home, relationships, finances, work, etc., becomes a crucial task to determine their impact. It comes down to finding the root cause(s) and creating a recovery plan.
Cannabis and holistic health
The medicinal use of cannabis is a world apart from recreational use. In many cases, the lower the amount of THC used in a therapeutic formulation, the greater the desired effect. The saying is: Start low; go slow. Treatment is never one-size-fits-all because the current interplay of one’s body, mind, and spirit is areisramount.
Historically, the very ancient cannabis plant has been used for beneficial effects on a person’s overall general condition, well beyond just symptom control. This makes it a perfect match with the holistic approach to health.
Not unlike the complexity of humans in the context of our different lifestyles, cannabis is a complex plant of the plant kingdom. Its effectiveness as an overall tonic has to do with the fact that cannabis contains about 100 molecular compounds, of which THC and CBD are the most researched and understood.
When the whole cannabis plant is used as a medicine, it provides a synergistic or ‘entourage’ effect, which explains why the therapeutic use of cannabis provides relief for a wide variety of ailments.
In this way, therapeutic cannabis use stands in stark contrast to traditional medicine, which typically isolates plant compounds and produces them in pharmaceuticals to target a single symptom or body system.
I believe that more and more people are seeing the difference between the medical and holistic models of health. Each has its time and place. When we discover the many benefits of medical cannabis, our overall well-being, lifestyle, and wider culture can change for the better.
Susan graduated from the Holistic Cannabis Academy in 2018 with over 45 years of personal involvement across the spectrum of wellness modalities. Today, her mission is to intervene in the noise of modern life and help people identify and remove stressors that cause their illness while providing strategies for a living experience of inner peace, contentment, and inspiration.
Susan’s path to becoming a lifestyle wellness and cannabis coach became apparent from an early age as one who always asked “why” and questioned social conventions. Her curiosity about life, particularly health, fueled her determination to learn all she could and help others. Susan’s private practice (personal and on Zoom) is based on the paradigm of twhole person’s well-beingson, body, mind, and spirit, including one’s lifestyle. As a non-physician coach, she enjoys the added flexibility of providing in-depth care plans for her clients.