Integrative Medicine: Smart, Data-Driven Care & The Next Big Idea In Holistic Health

17 August 2015
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What types of medicines are out there and are being used today?

There are a variety of terms used today to describe different types of medicine practiced in 2015. Despite these terms often being used interchangeably, there are, however, notable differences between each school of health and how they produce patient outcomes. From diagnosis, to treatment, to how patients are cared for, the differences in these terms (though they may appear tedious) actually relay important information about how diseases, disorders, and health risks are managed.

Let’s begin by identifying 5 major types of medicine practiced today in the United States:

Conventional Medicine, or Traditional Medicine is what we’re most familiar with. You go to a doctor (an MD or a DO) for your medical needs, and you are treated based on your symptoms. The most common forms of treatment for traditional medicine are drugs and pharmaceuticals, along with radiation or surgery. Conventional medicine also serves as a “knowledge base” for most types of medicine practiced today (or at least in the Western sense).

Alternative Medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. Examples include hypnosis, meditation, diet therapy, medicinal cannabis, and so on. Generally alternative therapies are closer to nature, cheaper and less invasive than conventional therapies, but the term itself is used as a catch all for any procedure or treatment outside of conventional practice. As one might imagine, since alternative medicine is so inclusive to a wide array of treatments, not all treatments are scientifically validated or effective, while others, such as medical marijuana most certainly provide medical benefits.

Complementary Medicine is a modern approach to health, using both traditional and alternative forms of medical practice to diagnose and treat symptoms. The advantage to this form of medicine is it aims to treat your body, mind, emotions, and “energy” together. In fact, you may not even know you’re partaking in a complementary / alternative practice, however a recent study of about 20,000 adults and 10,000 children found that about 40 percent of adults and 12 percent of children use some form of complementary and alternative medicine.


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Integrative Medicine is used together with conventional medicine in a deliberate manner that is personalized, evidence-based and safe. It combines the proof of scientific method, but on a small patient-focused scale, utilizing data-driven strategies to treat illness. Dr. Weil sums up the advantages of integrative medicine (below), emphasizing that evidence and data is the driving force in coming to medical conclusions. In Dr. Weil’s own words, “integrative medicine “cherry picks” the very best, scientifically validated therapies from both conventional and CAM systems

More on this topic: The Healing Clinic Is Now Offering Integrative Primary Care!

Functional Medicine: from Dr. Mark Hyman’s blog:

“…the next step in the evolution of medicine requires us to deeply question the foundations of conventional reductionistic medicine, which focuses on naming diseases…Functional medicine treats the person who has the disease, not the disease that the person has!”

In this way functional medicine is more personalized for patient-care and deals with primary prevention and underlying causes instead of symptoms for serious chronic disease. It emphasizes “patient care” rather than “disease care.”


Like integrative medicine, functional medicine is heavily science based, and relies on conclusions within an emerging field of study called systems biology. Read here from Dr. Leroy Hood at the Institute for Systems Biology:

“Studying the interaction and interplay of many levels of biological information, systems biology will enable us to not only cure complex disease but to predict an individual’s health and extend the human body’s natural lifespan by preventing diseases.  The new era of predictive, preventive and personalized medicine – made possible by application of systems biology – represents a profound shift in the practice of medicine and will reach into many corners of our lives.”

Remember the iceberg metaphor from psychology (id, ego, superego)? Here’s a similar example, except when applied to functional medicine we see a methodology aimed towards the underlying causes of disease.


5 Schools of Medicine – What’s the breakdown?

In layman’s terms:

Conventional, Alternative, and Complementary Medicine are focused on symptoms. Conventional and alternative medicines came first chronologically, and for the most part, it was one or the other when visiting a doctor. Complementary medicine became the first modern approach that integrated the two.

Integrative Medicine and Functional Medicine are focused on patients, and are heavily driven by data. Taking from the strengths of the hybrid complementary medicine, integrative and functional medicine target the patient and the underlying cause of symptoms (not the symptoms or diseases themselves).

Here’s an infograph explaining the basic differences in the types of medicine we have gone over so far.


So how does this relate to medical marijuana?

With these schools of medicine in mind, 2015 trends suggest that optimized care for patientcomes in the form of “integrated holistic medicine“. By combining alternative practices into a patient-centered and data-driven approach, doctors can better care and treat their patients in mind, body, and spirit with safe, data-driven decisions. No longer will doctors just treat your symptoms or your disease, they will treat you based on your individual health needs.

This is extraordinary news for medical marijuana patients and advocates. This year alone, we’ve learned that cannabis oil helps reduce epileptic seizures, and that medical marijuana not only treats cancer symptoms, it actually kills the diseased cells. As cannabis treatment continues to grow state by state, the stigma is slowly changing since the ancient remedy is progressively being backed by science. With overwhelming public support for legalization, cannabis is now finding its way into modern treatment plans, taking the place of harmful pharmaceuticals in place for safer, natural methods in healing and overall health.

Integrative and functional medicine approaches make cannabis a natural ally in helping patients. In searching for root causes of disease, as systematic problems and not solely based on individual symptoms, cannabis offers a variety of healing benefits to address the mind and body as a whole, especially when combined with other forms of alternative therapy like yoga, acupuncture, and nutrient therapy. Many benefits we know of already, including: pain alleviation, increased brain function, mood stabilization, as well as acting as an anti-inflammatory, however new advances we have learned include, but are not limited to, anti-carcinogenic qualities and reversing the effects of specific diseases.

It looks like nature got this one right

We recommend patients explore medical professionals who have embraced modern approaches in holistic care. These new approaches, by definition, won’t treat just your symptoms alone, but instead will provide you with a blue print on living a healthier life.

Check out our Integrative Primary Care Services!

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About THC

The Healing Clinic is a full service Medical Marijuana Patient Advocacy center. We are a group of doctors and medical marijuana Patient Advocates here to serve Chicago and the surrounding areas. Our goal is to be one of the best cannabis clinics in Chicago, and to faithfully serve the growing patient population in Illinois.

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332 Skokie Valley Rd #104, Highland Park, IL 60035
3235 Vollmer Rd #139, Flossmoor, IL 60422
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