What Is The Oldest Holistic Medicine?

Holistic medicine has a fascinating history that stretches back several centuries.

What Is The Oldest Holistic Medicine

Since they were first introduced, holistic treatments have evolved and adapted to meet the needs of people in modern times, but the core of these treatments and how they work has largely remained the same, even after so much time has passed. 

With holistic medicine still being as popular as it is today, it’s never a bad idea to uncover where exactly these specific healing methods came from, especially since it can give you a much deeper understanding of their actual purpose and how they work to treat people. 

Today, we’re going to take a look at the oldest holistic method that has been recorded to see if it still exists today, and how relevant it is in the world of modern medicine and healthcare. 

The Origins Of Holistic Treatment

The word holistic comes from the Greek term “holos” which means whole and refers to the idea that healing can be received through a mixture of emotion, environment, and lifestyle. 

It was here in Ancient Greece around the time of the 4th century B.C. that the idea of holistic treatment began to emerge, thanks to the father of medicine himself, Hippocrates. 

As the philosopher began to notice the lacking variety of medicine in Greece, he quickly realised that scientific treatments and medicine were not the saving grace for all illnesses. 

Thus, Hippocrates began emphasising to his colleagues the importance of a person finding harmony between themselves and their social and natural environment, something which can be clearly seen in the Hippocrates Oath. 

However, while we know that the origins of holistic medicine date back to Ancient Greece, it was only a concept or an idea at this point in time. There wasn’t yet a system or specific treatment that was being utilised, this came slightly later. 

When Did The First Holistic Medicine Appear?

The first form of treatment that incorporated the holistic ideas set out by Hippocrates came in the 6th century B.C. in India, and it was called Ayurveda. 

This was the first time that holistic medicine (see also: Is Holistic Medicine Good? (The Benefits Of Holistic Medicine Explained))started to become pseudo-scientific rather than just an idea, as Ayurveda focused on balancing the three life forces (dosha) of the body through the use of herbs. 

These three life forces are:

  • Vata dosha (space and air)
  • Pitta dosha (fire) 
  • Kapha dosha (water and earth)

Within Indian culture, it is believed that everyone possesses these three doshas, and each of them controls different bodily functions and emotions.

When a particular dosha begins to overtake the others, it causes a physical and emotional imbalance which can lead to sadness and despair. 

Doctors would prescribe their patient’s specific herbs depending on which of their doshas were being affected in the hopes that they would provide some stability and balance to allow the individual to heal. 

A few of the most popular herbs used in Ayurveda holistic treatment include:

  • Moringa (tree of life) 
  • Manjistha (skin purge) 
  • Tulsi (respiration) 
  • Triphala (elimination) 
  • Shatavari (female vitality) 

Is Ayurveda Still Practised Today?

What Is The Oldest Holistic Medicine

While it may be the oldest form of holistic medicine, Ayurveda is actually still incredibly popular today and has remained one of India’s advocated traditional healthcare systems ever since it was first utilised centuries ago. 

In fact, Ayurveda has been such a celebrated holistic practice that its popularity has escaped India and reached all corners of the globe, with reports showing that approximately 240,000 adult Americans have admitted to using it

One reason Ayurveda has been able to enjoy such immense popularity since its inception is because of how easy it is to apply to so many different aspects of life, thanks to the concept of the three doshas. 

Whether it’s for weight loss, mental health, or even just self-confidence, Ayurveda is a medicine that is relevant to all of these problems, and so many more. 

Another major reason why Ayurveda can remain so widely used is because of how many more medical herbs have been discovered over the course of time.

There are now more than 120 distinct phytochemicals from different plants that have been proven to have lifesaving properties, most of which have been integrated into the practice of Ayurveda, (see also: How To Start Practicing Ayurveda)ensuring that it doesn’t fall behind in the wake of new medical discoveries. 

Has Ayurveda Been Proven To Work?

There have been several scientific studies which have proven that in some way or another, Ayurveda has been shown to provide relief or completely successful treatment for the patients who have used it. 

One study collected data from a group of young patients who all used Ayurveda medicine as their treatment of choice. Out of this pool, 85% of the patients had a health issue related to the 6 organs, and 82% had chronic diseases. 

When the results were finally received, and the patients were asked about how the treatment had affected them, 76% admitted that they either felt either complete or partial relief, while only 0.9% said that the treatment aggravated the pains. 

Of course, in-depth studies like this can be hard to come by. Still, there are some who have argued that considering just how many Ayurveda practitioners there actually are in India (700,000), this is evidence enough that the treatment is at least showing some promising results.

On top of this, 57 traditional Ayurvedic books have been recognised as authoritative texts in the First Schedule to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of India, so you can see how widely used this form of treatment is within the country. 

When Did Holistic Medicine Become Popular In The West?

While holistic medicine has been used in parts of Asia for thousands of years by this point, it only started really taking off in the Western world in the late 1960s when people started becoming more cautious of modern drugs and medical technology. 

This is when holistic practitioners started to arise, having the same degrees as traditional doctors, but who were also trained in herbal and environmental therapies too. 

It wasn’t until 1975 that the Western Holistic Medical Association was formed which essentially legitimised the use of holistic medicine (see also: Holistic Medicine – The Pros & Cons Explained!)as an effective form of modern medicine. 

Many Eastern countries have managed to successfully incorporate holistic treatment with modern scientific medicine, but this has been a much more challenging task in the Western world. 

Western medicine vs holistic medicine has been a raging debate for several decades as those involved try to prove their case for why one may work better than the other. 

This is in direct contrast with many countries in Asia where holistic medicine came before, or around the same time as scientific medicine.

In Europe and America, scientific medicine is often seen as the more ‘traditional’ form of treatment, while holistic treatment is a much newer and more modern practice. 


While the concept of holistic medicine may have first started being discussed in Ancient Greece, it wasn’t until practitioners in India began using these ideas on their patients that the astonishing results of this form of treatment began to show. 

Therefore, many would consider the ancient practice of Ayurveda to be the oldest form of holistic medicine which is arguably now at the peak of its popularity.

Clare McAfee
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