Aligning our physical, mental and emotional realities has been the foundation of healing psychological and physiological illnesses for thousands of years. From Ayurveda to Traditional Chinese Medicine, holistic and mind-body systems of practice have had a widespread methodological and philosophical influence on our approach to medicine all the way up to today.

Mind-body medicine refers to the ways in which emotional, mental, social and spiritual factors together can directly affect one's health. The concept of mind-body medicine has been part of indigenous belief systems for thousands of years. In generations of various Native American tribes, the Medicine Wheel has been an ancient symbol used for health and healing dating back to 5,000 years ago. It divides life into 4 different quadrants/directions and applies specific meaning and significance to each direction. Many tribes believe that each quadrant represents an aspect of our health which can be used for finding direction in life and for aligning physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual realities. If a person is not feeling well, there may be an imbalance in one of these quadrants. So if you're emotionally blocked, your physical, mental and spiritual realities will be impacted by this.

But in the 1600’s, philosopher René Descartes, popularized the concept of mind-body dualism - saying that the mind and body are separate entities. In other words, Descartes proposed "what's happening in the mind has no affect on the body". This concept influenced religious beliefs, but most importantly the practice of Western medicine and pharmacology, ultimately placing the mind-body approach to healing an individual in the shadows for years.

Yet, the influence of "holistic" medicines had such a great influence in pharmacology that many pharmacists started to create new methodologies incorporating plants into its practice. In the early 1800's we saw the first pharmacologically-active compound, morphine, being isolated by the German pharmacist, Friedrich Sertürner, from the opium plant. Later, we saw other countless active compounds being separated from plants, such as aspirin which comes from the willow bark tree and penicillin from mold. Later, the development of synthetic techniques led to a significant reduction in the importance of plant medicines.

But as we moved into the twentieth century, holistic "unorthodox" systems were slowly introduced into the field of medicine as we started to see with the practice of naturopathy and chiropractic. As our ancestors before us, we were once again connected to the integration of holistic medicine once again.

It's important to understand how the concept of the mind and body being separate entities affected the world of medicine and our natural ability to understand why we may be ill. By disconnecting our body from our mind, we inherently disconnected ourselves from understanding that our emotions affect our bodies and vice versa.

Integrative and mind-body approaches can help us to gain this awareness of these connections between the mind, body, brain, and spirit and can also offer us the opportunity to understand ourselves better.

Mind-body medicine means looking beneath the surface of symptoms and finding the root causes for the conditions we treat. But in order to do that, we have to look deep and sometimes the answer is more obvious than we expected.

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