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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Holistic (adj.)

The word holistic has been traditionally associated with its origins in the word holism, rooting from the Greek, whole. Holism being the theory that, the parts of a whole are in intimate interconnection, such that they cannot exist or be understood independently of that whole. That being said, the word holistic is, linguistically speaking, a new term, dating back only to 1926, where it was used primarily in the explanation of various scientific systems. It is appropriate then, that its use quickly evolved to describe more specifically, the practice of holistic health and medicine.

The holistic approach to medicine is considered to be an alternative form of treatment, particularly when compared to the western standard of medical practice. It ventures away from the traditional conventions of dealing with an issue as an isolated problem, and stresses the importance of understanding wellbeing and health as the complex sum of numerous different human states. This method of treatment would thus approach a condition from all sides, acknowledging that each is connected to other, and part of a greater whole. Upholding the notion that psychological, physical, and social aspects of the individual lifestyle were all of equal importance and need to be taken into account.

As of late, the word holistic has taken on a new meaning, or rather ideology, as it has become synonymous with a particular philosophy and lifestyle. It is an ideology that has seen substantial growth in popularity amongst the younger generations, as well as those striving to live a healthy and balanced life. One that is conscious of its actions and consequences, and that focuses on the many components of living a content life in the modern world, which benefits from the inclusion of balance. Meaning that balance within, but not limited to, our financial, spiritual, nutritional, and personal relations, will create a more unified and happy individual.

The word holistic has however, in many cases, become nothing more than a marketing tool in our commercial society.  A term used by companies in order to sell their product, whatever it may be, to the individuals who have adopted this new philosophy of living. Honing in on a niche in modern culture, and taking advantage of it. You can now buy holistic make-up, bed sheets, foods, health care, opinions, etc. Thus the term has then been used in a way much the opposite of its original intentions. Now used to evoke images of happiness and an abundance of energy and life, all while selling a product to a consumer, placing misleading expectations on consumer goods. Due to the excessive and often inaccurate nature of its use, the merit of the word holistic has been diluted, such that it no longer holds much meaning that is characteristic of its origins. One might argue that it would seem fitting to replace it, in many cases, with a word like comprehensive, likely conveying a more focused connotation.


1)        Oxford English Dictionary, “holistic”, accessed Nov 19, 2012,
2)        Vocabulary Review, “worst words – holistic”, accessed Nov 19, 2012, http://www.vocabula.com/VRworstwords.asp#H
3)        Wikipedia, “holistic health”, accessed Nov 19, 2012,

Sonja Berg

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