Could you please explain the difference for me ... I always use the two terms interchangeably and have really never known what the difference is.
Sure! And don't feel bad because I used to do the exact same thing. I'll make a quick note of another term here too which I also used to use interchangeably. There is some overlap between the three things I mention but they are still distinct.
And a word of warning, homeopathy is something I feel strong enough about that I can't really phrase it neutrally and feel honest about myself. This board doesn't have spoiler tabs so I guess I'll just visually separate it from the rest.
medicine is fairly broad, but generally you're looking at anything which uses natural forms of treatment (yes, bad me, I used the word in the definition! If Webster can do it so can I! :P). A purely natural form of treatment philosophy would eschew chemical compounds for treatments in favor of substances in a more elemental form. For instance, you'd be more likely to be prescribed medicinal marijuana rather than Codiene.
, as it relates to health, refers to a philosophy of medicinal practice which considers the entire body (holos
- Greek for "whole") for purposes of treatment, or at least recognizes that you can't always reduce an ailment down to a single isolated area of a single body system. In this sense, modern western medicine is "holistic" in some regards, though not to the same degree as other treatment methodologies. In modern medicine, for example, we realize that an upset in the endocrine system can radiate outwards and affect other bodily symptoms, such as the immune system. We don't consider body systems to be isolated, and we'll even treat according to that. In dogs, for instance, problems related to prostate enlargement are often treated by castration - we're using the endocrine system to affect something in the urogenital system.
It's hard to put in words, I guess, but you could consider "holistic" to be "whole body" medicine. That can mean a lot
of things. Eastern medicine is more "traditionally" holistic, I guess (and things like acupuncture are what people more commonly think of when they hear holistic), but I'd even consider modern medicine holistic on a literal interpretation of the words.
~~~Semi-Rant stuff Follows~~~
refers to treatments related to an...and here, I guess I'll show my own bias, because frankly, I guess I'm of strong enough opinion about it that I can't phrase it neutrally.
But, to move on - treatments related to an outdated and disproven system of medicine based on an also
outdated and disproven theory of disease transmission. It was developed by a German in the...I think, early 1800s? Maybe really late 1700s? At the time, bloodletting was the commonly accepted treatment for most ailments - something so harmful doing nothing at all
would give you better results.
The tenets of homeopathy claim things which frankly fly in the face of proven laws in hard, evidence-based sciences. Although the OP phrased it in an extremely combative manner, he is right - studies have shown no different success rates with homeopathic treatment than what placebos offer. Placebos have a remarkably high success rate in pain treatment (what homeopaths often are consulted to treat). There have been multiple reviews and scientific trials which fail to show any efficacy whatsoever, and to be honest, I'm not sure why you need them - for homeopathy to work, as written by its founder, you'd have to throw away the foundations of at least mathematics, biology, physics, and I'm sure several other hard sciences.
The way to know if you're being treated by a homeopathic practitioner, rather than a holistic practitioner - is if you're getting "tinctures" - which are basically a "remedy" that has been diluted so far down that no molecules of the substance originally intended to treat remains. It's literally just a vial of water. A holistic practitioner (in practice, rather than theory, since natural is not synonymous with holistic) is more likely to give you natural remedies for ailments.
Well if it did not work, why is it being practiced all over the world?
Annie, that's not necessarily proof of anything. As I mentioned above, bloodletting used to be a very commonly accepted medicinal practice, as was trepanning (drilling holes into the skull). We now know these are extremely
harmful and more likely to kill you than not, but at the time, they were practiced over much of the world. To determine whether something "works," you want rigorous, well-developed trials proving that they either do or don't. The simple fact that people do something, no matter how many, is not proof or disproof of anything. To phrase it in a manner your mother probably often told you - if all your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you?
In large enough numbers it probably indicates that maybe it's at least something to take a look at, but it's hardly proof/disproof.
Look, in the end, what I will say is this - some people are a lot more willing to take things on faith. I'm a fairly rigorous guy. I need hard, scientific evidence. Definitive proof that would hold up under a court of law. I can't look at the foundational tenets of homeopathy and take them seriously, as they fly in the face of everything we've known about the world around us for centuries (yes, some of it even predating the development of homeopathy). Some people will say, "I've seen it work, with my own eyes," and while I know how I'd explain that, some people will not be dissuaded and I guess that is their prerogative. Homeopathy requires a lot
of faith, to put it nicely. I'm reasonably open minded, in that some cases I'm willing to accept the potential
of things (as distinct from believing in it) based on little proof, but I just honestly cannot see any room for homeopathy in the modern world.