Wholistic vs. Holistic

Wholistic and holistic are two terms used interchangeably in philosophy, literature, academia, and medical writing. Wholistic and holistic mean the same in most contexts, but we’ll discuss the nuances in this article. The term wholistic is a derivative of holistic, first used by Han Christian Smuts in the mid-1920s. He used the term in his book and an article to describe his organizational philosophy of nature. Approximately ten years after his use of the term, people started adopting wholistic as an alternative spelling in 1941. We will discuss Wholistic vs. Holistic, their meanings, different spellings, and origins, as they relate to medicine, healing, and whole health care.

What Is Wholistic?

Cambridge Online Dictionary defines wholistic as treating the whole of a person or something and not just a part. The term is an adjective derived from holistic and crossed with whole. Smuts came up with holistic combining holos, meaning whole in Greek with the suffix, ism. Online Etymology Dictionary explains holos originated from sol, the Proto-Indo-European root, meaning whole as well.

Whole or the uninjured is the meaning of whole that comes from the kailo root, rather than sol. It was in the early 1500s when whole had the spelling with the letter “h” in old Saxon hal, hol, or hel. Hol and whole are homonyms derived from root words in Proto-Indo-European.

There is a theory that the term wholistic is a misspelled word of holistic. The way an English language and literature educator explains it, both terms have no difference in their meaning. Holistic is the spelling used in academia and the Anglican spelling is wholistic.

Today, wholistic describes health, health care providers, and healing. Each one has a different meaning based on analysis of literature and reviews. Wholistic health care is the assessment, diagnosis, and prevention of illness in human beings to maintain health or enhance healing. It focuses primarily on your whole, including:

  • Development
  • Experiences
  • Assets
  • Communication
  • Emotions
  • Lifestyle
  • Genetics
  • Environment
  • Culture
    Attributes of Wholistic
  • Spiritual Integration
  • Health Promotion
  • Disease Management
  • Coordination, Empowerment, and Assessment of Health Care

A study found that there is a gap present in the definition of wholistic health care relating to spiritual organizations and support. It concluded that there is a lack of transparencies as to the use of the concepts. In theory, wholistic health care supports the concept, model developments, and continuous effectiveness of tests.

What Is Holistic?

Merriam-Webster defines holistic as a medical word relating to holism, an expression Jan Christian Smuts used in 1926 to mean “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” The term opposes the Western theory of the analysis, the breaking down of wholes into parts. This could easily apply to various holistic care theories using the concept to heal the whole body and its interchangeable parts. Our interchangeable parts include the body, mind, soul, and spirit.

Holism is a concept significant in medicine, social science, and sciences. Holistic concentrates more on treating the whole person without the use of much modern medicines. It emphasizes the connection between the body and mind. The practice comes from the traditions in Eastern countries, such as yoga and acupuncture.

Smuts defines holism as the disposition in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts, including the body, mind, soul, and spirit. He used holistic as a term in viewing the universe as wholes, organisms, and systems. People started applying his concept in medicine to development methods of treatments for patients and persons seeking preventive, wellness care.

Origins of Holistic and Wholistic Spellings

The first record of the terms holism and holistic was in the book Holism and Evolution by Jan Smuts. His philosophy became an inspiration in the medicine field to treat patients and people as whole persons. Earlier discussion of wholistic explains how wholistic came from the word holistic or holism. The letter “w” added to the beginning of holistic clearly distinguishes holistic from wholistic in spelling and meaning in modern times.

American Holistic Health Association (AHHA) defines wholistic as approaches that consider the patient and not the illness of a person. These approaches encourage patients to take part in their own health care solutions. More interest in CAM or complementary alternative medicine increased in the 21st century with the conventional medical practice.

Types of CAM Therapies

CAM introduces health care philosophies and methods for promoting whole person care with the need of a caregiver. Three of the most common types of complementary alternative medicine are therapies to enhance health, for self-care, and spiritual awakenings.

1. Enhancement Health Therapies

CAM enhancement health therapies treat specific illnesses, such as arthritis, heart disease, backaches, chronic fatigue, and more.

2. Self-Care CAM Therapy

CAM therapy uses the self-care approach to empower you to assume greater responsibility for your health. It encourages patients and people to use the approach actively in making smarter decisions about their health.

3. CAM Integrative Care Combining Spiritual and Intuitive Awakenings

Wholistic care integrates spiritual awareness and nurtures, awakens intuitive or perception in patients. Care involves the interchangeable parts, the body, mind, and spirit, along with conventional western medicine.

  • Factors CAM Considers in Health and Illness
  • Body
  • Mind
  • Emotions
  • Spirit
  • People, Environmental Relationships
  • Cultural Traditions

Wholistic and integration approaches recognize conventional western medicine and introduce care concepts and practices. Care treatments include the body, mind, and spirit of an illness and health. Wholistic practitioners may recommend lifestyle changes to improve and maintain health, such as a daily balance diet, yoga, and meditation.

The goal of general practitioners in the wholistic healing field is to use approaches and therapies that are helpful to becoming a whole person. This can be accomplished when addressing all interchangeable parts of human beings, the body, mind, spirit, soul, and health. While the holistic term has been around for approximately 80 years, wholistic is gaining more interest today. Spellings of wholistic vs. holistic were questionable in prior years, but both are accurate, deriving from the terms holism, whole, and hol.


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