The "medicine" part of the holistic approach is called "Homeopathy". Homeopathy is based on the principle that "like cures like." Homeopathy demonstrates that a substance that produces a certain set of symptoms in a healthy person can actually cure a sick person having those same symptoms. Since this sounds confusing, here's an example; onions make your eyes water when you cut them, but if you have a cold with a runny nose, the likely remedy would be Allium Cepa, which is made from onions. Homeopathic medicine is intended to stimulate the defense systems, thereby allowing the body to heal itself, and just like most holistic treatments, the effects take time and improvement is usually gradual.
A history of the specific health problem is very important in homeopathy since prescribing medicine is based on the law of similars, as explained above. In holistic medicine all symptoms are considered important to the homeopathic physician, they want to know about changes in feelings and mental status, as well as all of the physical symptoms. This means that there are far more symptoms being considered in the homeopathic approach than in the traditional medical model.
Homeopathic medications are very sensitive, and when making the choice to use a certain remedy, a careful selection process has to be undertaken. This is best done by a professional, someone who has studied the body systems and can predict cause and effect accurately. Going to Aunt Susie's kitchen for a home treatment is NOT the way to go. Homeopathy is not something that you want to self prescribe, unless you really know what you are doing. Some remedies, in low potencies, are safe to be given by a knowledgeable lay person, but most should be prescribed by the professionals.
A homeopathic medicine is greatly diluted from its original form, often in parts per million. The amazing thing about homeopathy is that, the more dilute the medicine becomes, the stronger the potency. They can, however, be easily contaminated so be very careful not to touch them or the dropper. Most homeopathics can be purchased in a liquid form, but they are sensitive to light and heat, and must be properly stored in a cool, dry place. The more potent the remedy, the more sensitive it becomes, unlike Bach Flower remedies and some other holistic treatments.
As I previously stated, this is just a simplistic overview and I highly encourage you to further explore the world of holistic treatments, especially the homeopathic medicine modality.
Coming up next, Acupuncture. What is it, does it work? How does it work?