Philosophy of Practice
There is an ancient Chinese saying,
"You can treat the leaves or you can treat the roots".
Holistic medicine focuses on the origin of the problem rather than the result (i.e. symptoms or ‘effects’). It is a philosophy of practice. ‘Alternative medicine’ refers to technique (i.e., anything that is not conventional). An example of this is the following case:
Patient: "I’ve been suffering with headaches for years. I went to my family doctor and he gave me pain medicine. I do get relief but the problem is still present and I have side effects from the drugs. I decided to try an alternative and received acupuncture, manipulation, and herbs to treat the pain. They give me relief but the problem persists."
Holistic doctor: "...after reviewing your medical history (with you) and completing my exam, it seems to me that you may be drinking too little water. Please increase your water intake from one to eight glasses daily."
Patient one year later: "I haven’t had that headache problem since I started the water...thank you."
The above example is the summary of a real patient I treated for persistent headaches. Any practitioner (MD, DO, chiropractor, acupuncturist, herbalist, etc.) can practice holistically or non-holistically. The technique is just a means of implementing an approach to problem solving.