The Book

holism Book

Holism and Complementary Medicine. History and Principles was published by Allen and Unwin (Australia) in 2006. It found its origins in my M.H.Sc. research thesis, “The Meaning of Natural Medicine. An Interpretive Study” presented at Victoria University in 1998. The thesis was based on depth-interview discussions with a number of educator-practitioners in the complementary medicine disciplines of naturopathy, osteopathy, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, Western herbal medicine and homoeopathy. The thesis was also informed by personal perspectives derived from over two decades of commitment to both the teaching and the practice of complementary medicine within the Australian context.

Holism and Complementary Medicine is therefore built around a comprehensive intellectual, experiential and research framework and offers a unique interpretive view of the history and the significance of the ascendancy of complementary medicine in the Western world during the latter decades of the twentieth century.

The book addresses both the historical antecedents and the contemporary expressions of the practice of complementary and holistic medicine. It consists of two sections. Part I, Origins (Chapters 1 – 3) reviews the historical development of medicine from its early expression in the medicine of ancient Egypt and Greece, through the development of scholastic medicine in pre-Renaissance Europe and its transformation during the European Renaissance, to its present manifestation within technological civilisation. Throughout Part I, attention is given to those historical elements that continue to condition the practice of medicine, both orthodox and complementary.

Part II, Principles (Chapters 4 – 9) is more philosophical and exploratory in nature. Each chapter in Part II is strongly grounded in the observations and reflections of the educator/practitioners interviewed in the earlier thesis. These chapters offer a depth exploration of the nature of holism and reductionism as they find expression in the healing arts, the role of the therapeutic relationship, the differing therapeutic aims that characterise complementary medicine, and the paradigmatic differences between biomedicine and complementary medicine.

Holism and Complementary Medicine therefore offers a unique exploration of the will to healing as expressed historically, and gives particular attention to the differences between complementary medicine and biomedicine as expressed in the present time.

Holism and Complementary Medicine is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the origins and core principles of natural medicine.

Sample Chapters

1. Introduction. The Making of a New Medicine.pdf

2. Chapter 7. Turning the Medicine Wheel. Between paradigms.pdf

3. Chapter 9. Completing the Circle. Voices of renewal.pdf

The full Table of Contents and References can be viewed at Google Books


“The  field of Natural and Complementary Medicine is experiencing an unprecedented resurgence towards the mainstream, and this book is a significant record and critique of the progress of this renaissance.

Di Stefano charts the territory with both academic rigour and sensitive nuance, with language that inspires the reader to follow the wonderful stories of the ideas and individuals who have shaped the holistic styles of medicine over the millennia. He brings the reader to the present with a deepened understanding of the context of, and respect for the history and principles of the professions of natural and complementary medicine, whilst forecasting the challenges ahead.

This is a magnificent read for students of natural and complementary medicine, as well as health professionals and lay public who have often wondered where the movement towards holism in medicine began and is headed.”

Paul Orrock  N.D., D.O., M.App.Sc.
Head of School Natural and Complementary Medicine
Southern Cross University
[September 2005]

“Vincent Di Stefano’s Holism and Complementary Medicine brings together many threads that link the health of body, mind and society, drawing richly from a larger corpus of intellectual inquiry into history, philosophy, and human endeavor, including clinical medicine. This important and timely publication should and will be widely read.”

Bruce Barrett M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Family Medicine
University of Wisconsin – Madison
[October 2005]

“This scholarly exploration of the conceptual evolution of holistic medicine is a fascinating read. Dr Di Stefano is to be congratulated for his articulate insights into healing relationships and how our health paradigms enhance or inhibit our understanding of health and disease. This is a must read for both health consumers and practitioners of all schools.”

Joseph Pizzorno N.D.
President Emeritus Bastyr College
[November 2005]

Useful Links

The Australian Natural Therapists Association has been in existence for over half a century and currently represents some 6,000 practitioners of natural medicine around Australia. It carries a number of useful resources including details of educational programs in accredited colleges and an extensive archive of over 100 articles dealing with such issues as natural therapies legislation, research, the nature of the various modalities, and natural medicine approaches to certain health conditions. The site also carries a Book Reviews section that lists a range of titles reflecting different aspects of the natural therapies.

The Australian Traditional Medicine Society has been in existence since 1984 and currently represents over 10,000 practitioners of natural medicine in Australia. It offers details of accredited colleges throughout Australia. Each of the modality pages carries a Research link that connects to a range of published articles related to that modality. The Regulatory News section of the News page offers an extensive archive of papers dating back to 1998 which address legislative aspects of natural medicine in Australia and New Zealand.