What is integrative health, and how do you know it’s right for you?

A pink daisy and a red stethoscope

Integrative health is a holistic approach to health care backed by evidence and using a full spectrum of health care professionals, disciplines, healing traditions and therapeutic approaches. At The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Center for Integrative Health, we use an interprofessional, team-based approach to foster healing among patients. It means we focus on the whole patient not just on a single health condition.

We work hard to create a supportive community that includes patients, providers and community members. We share a vision that well-being is a state of being that all can achieve, regardless of medical status, gender, race or socio-economic status. We do this through our individual care of seeing patients and through the community classes we offer.

Some examples of integrative medicine include chiropractic care, acupuncture, ayurveda, meditation and mindfulness, yoga, therapeutic massage and tai chi.

Who should consider using integrative medicine?

Integrative medicine is for anyone and everyone. It helps many people with conditions such as chronic pain, headaches/migraines, vaguely defined autoimmune disorders, high blood pressure, anxiety and insomnia. Both the patient and the provider work together to create an environment of healing for the patient. Both patient and provider play a role in helping the patient achieve a healthier state of being.

How does integrative health compare to other types of medicine?

No, these are not interchangeable terms, and it is very confusing!

Complementary medicine complements what is being practiced by what most people consider western medicine, while integrative medicine is intended to be integrated with western medicine.

For example, someone with chronic headaches may see a neurologist but also see an acupuncturist to complement their care.

Alternative medicine refers to a group of diverse medical and health care practices that are not presently considered part of conventional medical care. For example, if someone with irritable bowel syndrome seeks care only from an herbalist for gastrointestinal issues, then they would be electing to use alternative medicine. They are choosing herbal medicine instead of seeing a gastroenterologist. Alternative approaches are used in place of conventional medicine.

In functional medicine, you work with a medical provider to determine how and why illness occurs, then he or she works with the patient to restore health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual. A patient’s genetic, biochemical and lifestyle factors are taken into consideration. That information is then used to tailor a personalized treatment plan that leads to healing and overall health. This medical provider is trained differently than a typical primary care provider in that they obtain a certification from the Functional Medicine Institute.

Naturopathy works to promote healing through nutrition including herbs, natural remedies and other natural products. Care is administered by a naturopathic physician. A practitioner may use blood or urine tests to obtain a baseline to help improve health through herbal treatments. This often used as a form of alternative medicine. Naturopathy is regulated at the state level, and laws vary widely from one state to another. About 20 states license naturopaths to function as primary care providers.

Are there any risks to integrative medicine?

Yes, there are some risks to integrative medicine practices, and our providers consider all these for the individual patient before making any recommendations or administering procedures or treatments.

Should you notify your primary care physician about integrative treatments?

Yes, it is wonderful to inform your physician of the whole range of healing approaches you want to consider.

If someone wants to explore integrative medicine, where do you suggest they start?

To start a journey with integrative medicine, begin with an integrative consult with one of our physicians so they can guide you to the right modality/modalities and progression for you as the individual patient.

How do you find an integrative practitioner who is reputable?

States can vary in how integrative medicine professionals are licensed. To ensure that you’re receiving care from qualified practitioners, you can find an academic center that offers evidenced-based therapies. It is prudent to develop a relationship with a provider that can point you in a direction that can serve the whole YOU.

Integrative medicine heals the whole person

Learn more about our programs and schedule an appointment.

Learn more


Related websites

Subscribe. The latest from Ohio State Health & Discovery delivered right to your inbox.


Get articles and stories about health, wellness, medicine, science and education delivered right to your inbox from the experts at Ohio State.

Required fields

Tell us more about yourself

By clicking "Subscribe" you agree to our Terms of Use.
Learn more about how we use your information by reading our Privacy Policy.