Commonly Misused Alternative Health Terms

Source: Wisconson Department of Natural Resources

I spend a lot of time reading alternative health blogs and Facebook pages. Something that I notice quite often is the misuse of a few key health terms. It seems that, over time, the words have taken on colloquial meanings, while the true definitions have been muddled to the point where they are almost unrecognizable. I rounded up a quick list of these terms so you can be sure that you know the true meanings. After all, terminology is important! Okay, ready for your vocabulary lesson?



What you think it is: A blanket term for natural health strategies.

What it actually is: Homeopathy is a system of medicine that subsists on the principal of ‘like for like.’ For example, taking Apis Mel (bee venom then diluted at various potencies) to treat a bee sting or something that has a similar feeling to a bee sting. is a homeopathic treatment. The idea is that something that is harmful in large doses can actually be healing in small doses.


Holistic Medicine

What you think it is: Another term for homeopathic.

What it actually is: The concept of ‘holism’ refers to ones perspective. Holistic medicine seeks not only to fix symptoms, but resolve underlying causes. For example, peppermint can sooth an upset stomach, but if one is mismanaging stress or partaking in a poor diet, the stomach will eventually become upset again because the root cause isn’t being addressed.



What you think it is: Healthy and wholesome.

What it actually is: Just because something is natural doesn’t mean that it is good for you. Arsenic, for example, is a natural substance. That doesn’t mean it is something you should put inside of your body! Don’t fall for clever marketing. Always read labels and make sure you are buying something that is right and good for your body.



What you think it is: Something that is nourishing and beneficial

What it actually is: Something that is nourishing and beneficial to YOU. When you are told something is healthy, stop and think: ‘Well, to whose standard?’ The US government food pyramid, the dentist who recommended I give my child artificial sweeteners, or the latest food craze? If the food causes you inflammation, it isn’t healthy even if it’s kale! ¬†Healthy is what heals your body in this wonky world. Know what your body needs.


Responsible (as in, buying responsibly)

What you think it is: You have done your duty to consume or avoid certain goods. This gives you a sense of goodness.

What it actually is: The idea of responsibility is subjective and depends on many factors. For a local community, whose livelihood is based on cattle ranching, you may show love or appreciation to your neighbor by buying their cow. Or, it may be beneficial for your community to not buy cows, or to buy only cows raised with certain lifestyles. Responsibility is a vague term that can give a false sense of pride in our compliance. You don’t have any obligation to comply to any one ideal.