What Is Integrative Medicine?

Uploaded by drweil on 12.02.2010

Dr. Weil: I did not invent the term integrative medicine, but I think I am certainly the person
who has mainly popularized it and I am not sure where I first heard it. I think wherever
I did it seemed to me that was the right term because in those days everyone was talking
about alternative medicine, complimentary medicine, holistic medicine - none of those
felt right to me. They all either pushed people's buttons or had a narrow focus or a wrong connotation.
Integrative medicine seemed neutral and inclusive and it is what I began to call the system
that I practiced and taught.
Off-screen: And when people say to you, and this is a very important point, what is integrative
medicine? What do you say?
Dr. Weil: The short answer is it is the intelligent combination of conventional and alternative
medicine, but that doesn't capture this movement. I think integrative medicine is a real movement
and in essence it is trying to restore the focus of medicine on health and healing away
from disease symptom management. It emphasizes whole person medicine meaning that we are
more than just physical bodies - we are minds, spirits, and community members. It looks at
all aspects of lifestyle; it emphasizes the importance of the practitioner-patient relationship
to the healing practice. And then it is willing to look at all methods from whatever tradition
they come from that may be of value in treating disease - that is the alternative piece.
Off-screen: Right, and that is the common misconception, is that it is alternative medicine
and you are the alternative medicine doctor. There is a big distinction between alternative
medicine and integrative medicine.
Dr. Weil: Yeah, alternative medicine is all those ideas and practices not taught in conventional
schools of medicine and to me they range from ones that are sensible and worth incorporating
into mainstream medicine to others that are foolish and a few that are dangerous. The
challenge is to sort through all that and see what is useful and what is not. I am in
no way an uncritical proponent of alternative medicine and I in no way reject conventional
medicine; I think the goal is to take the best of both worlds.