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What is holistic health, and how do I offer it?

Health Benefits • May 30, 2024 at 9:00 AM • Written by: Holly Bengfort

Many people associate modern medicine with sterile exam rooms, white lab coats, and scrubs. Holistic medicine paints a different picture by offering an alternative approach to healthcare. It focuses on your mind, body, and soul by using various treatments to improve your overall health and well-being.

In this article, we'll explain the concept of holistic health, the different types of holistic doctors, and how you can offer holistic health benefits to your employees.

Takeaways from this blog post:

  • Holistic health focuses on treating the whole person, including physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of health.
  • Various types of holistic doctors offer treatments such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, Ayurvedic medicine, chiropractic care, naturopathic medicine, massage therapy, and nutrition counseling to improve overall health and wellness.
  • Employers can use health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) to offer qualifying holistic health benefits to their employees.
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What is holistic health?

Holistic health works exactly as it sounds. It treats the whole "you." Unlike conventional medicine, holistic medicine considers a person's physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual facets of health. A holistic health practitioner believes treating these dimensions of health together is the key to reaching higher levels of wellness. This holistic approach to health is sometimes known as eastern medicine. Let's go over what makes eastern and western medicine different.

Eastern medicine vs. western medicine

Western medicine is the term used to describe primary healthcare in the United States. This is a system many of us are familiar with since most medical visits follow the same outline. If you feel sick, you call your medical doctor's office and make an appointment. Then, you briefly meet with your doctor and explain your symptoms. From there, your doctor typically prescribes medicine to alleviate your symptoms or recommends another course of treatment.

Eastern medicine isn't seen as standard care in the U.S. Often, it's added to your ordinary course of medical treatment to further improve your condition. This holistic approach is often called complementary, alternative, or natural medicine. Medical News Today1 explains that eastern medicine encompasses traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda techniques, which have existed far longer than western medicine’s conventional treatments.

Different types of holistic doctors

There are several types of holistic doctors with different areas of expertise. According to Cleveland Clinic2, some holistic doctors have formal degrees obtained from a school of medicine. They pair their conventional training in traditional medicine with holistic approaches to health and treatment. Other holistic providers may not have a standard medical degree. However, they have degrees in various forms of complementary or alternative medicine practices.

Common types of holistic treatments

If you're ready to start offering holistic health benefits to your employees, they'll have a wide range of treatment options to choose from. Each one uses a different method of healing to address physical and spiritual health.

The Pacific College of Health and Science3 offers a few examples of effective treatments common to holistic practice:

  • Acupuncture and acupressure. Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine that's often used to treat pain. It involves inserting thin needles into your skin at specific points on your body. Acupressure is similar to a massage and consists of applying only pressure to those specific points.
  • Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy focuses on your sense of smell. It's the practice of using essential oils for certain benefits. Lavender is the most popular essential oil, although peppermint, lemongrass, and frankincense are also top choices. Breathing in diffused oils is supposed to help you relax, and it can be helpful for people who experience stress, anxiety, or insomnia.
  • Ayurvedic medicine. The Ayurvedic practice relies on herbal medicine to address your physical and mental health.
  • Chiropractic care. Chiropractic doctors use another form of alternative medicine that focuses on adjusting and manipulating your spine and neck to improve your body's function. Many people see chiropractic doctors to treat their physical and muscular pain.
  • Naturopathic medicine. Like the Ayurvedic practice, Naturopathy uses herbal medicine and other natural treatments to help your body heal. A naturopathic doctor may also incorporate exercise and dietary changes into your lifestyle.
  • Massage therapy. Many holistic health practitioners will use massage in their treatments. While it can be incredibly relaxing to loosen tight muscles and tissues, it can also support your overall health and wellness.
  • Nutrition counselors. A nutrition counselor creates a customized meal plan to help heal your body from within using the right foods.
  • Mental health counseling. Since your mental health can directly affect your physical health, holistic practitioners also focus on what goes on inside your mind. Take stress as just one example. According to the American Psychological Association4, knowing how to properly manage your stress can help prevent heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
  • Osteopathy. Osteopathy is similar to chiropractic care. However, it focuses on your whole body rather than the spine itself. This involves your muscles, nerves, and bones. The American Osteopathic Association calls this form of alternative medicine one of the fastest-growing healthcare professions in the country. It reports one out of every four medical students is enrolled in osteopathic medical school.
  • Yoga. Yoga is more than just exercise. This form of stretching can be beneficial to your spiritual health. It goes beyond strengthening your muscles by calming your mind and bringing awareness to the present moment.

Why should you offer holistic health benefits?

When thinking about the benefits you want to offer your employees, consider the different layers of their well-being: mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional health.

Employees want to work for a company that supports their needs. Our 2024 Employee Benefits Survey found that 81% of employees say that the benefits package an employer offers is an important factor in whether or not they accept a job.

How do you offer holistic health benefits?

While traditional group health insurance is a popular option, it's not always affordable for smaller businesses and generally doesn’t cover many facets of holistic health. There are cost-effective alternatives that give their employees more control over their benefits.

Organizations of all sizes can offer personalized wellness benefits tax-free to their employees with health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), health savings accounts (HSAs), and healthcare flexible spending accounts (FSAs).

With these three options, you can reimburse your employees for or provide funds for more than 200 eligible expenses.

A few eligible holistic health benefits include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Alternative dietary supplements
  • Alternative healers
  • Chiropractic care
  • Dietitian/nutrition services
  • Herbal or homeopathic medicines
  • Mental health counseling

Some holistic health services require a doctor’s note to prove they’re medically necessary.

Of these options, an HRA may be your best bet. It allows you to reimburse your employees tax-free for their qualifying medical expenses. Depending on the type of HRA, this can also include individual health insurance premiums. This makes an HRA an excellent comprehensive health benefit.

Furthermore, you can show your employees that their overall wellness is a priority by introducing a holistic wellness program. Through it, you could offer nutrition education classes, weight loss programs, or stress management programs.

Investing in holistic health benefits is worthwhile for your employees and the success of your business. They improve retention, encourage employee engagement, and increase productivity.


There's more to being healthy than physical health alone. A holistic approach to health and wellness focuses on who we are as a whole: our mind, body, and soul. With a combination of western and eastern medicine, you can use alternative treatments to improve every aspect of your condition.

Offering your employees the right benefits package that includes holistic health could be a game changer for attracting and retaining top talent. At PeopleKeep, we take the hassle out of offering your employees the personalized benefits they want. Our personalized benefits administration software for HRAs makes it easy to reimburse your workers for their holistic health expenses.

Schedule a call with a personalized benefits advisor to start offering holistic health benefits to your employees!

This blog article was originally published on March 22, 2023. It was last updated on May 23, 2024.

1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/western-vs-eastern-medicine#western-vs-eastern

2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/24103-holistic-doctor#:~:text=Holistic%20doctors%20focus%20on%20the,always%20practice%20evidence%2Dbased%20medicine

3. https://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2021/05/20/holistic-medicine-guide-for-beginners

4. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/health#:~:text=This%20can%20put%20you%20at,and%20memory%20and%20concentration%20impairmen

Schedule a call with a personalized benefits advisor to start offering holistic health benefits to your employees!

Holly Bengfort

Holly is a content marketing specialist for PeopleKeep. Before joining the team in 2023, Holly worked in television news as a broadcast journalist. As an anchor and reporter, she communicated complex stories to the vast communities she served on a daily basis. Her background has given her a greater understanding of people and the issues that affect our lives. When Holly isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, exercising, and spending time at the beach.