Healing arts

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The healing arts include all forms of complementary and alternative medicine, as well as a host of traditional practices aimed to cure disease, heal injury and promote wellness. Each of these disciplines have well-developed associated bodies of knowledge. Their theoretical underpinnings range from biology to magic, and include many elements of both philosophy and religion.

In most cases, the practitioner of one of the recognized healing arts is licensed, certified, or ordained in some manner within his or her community, and publicly commits to a code of behavior that offers dedicated service to the client. There are legal restrictions placed on the practice of the healing arts, depending on the particular type and geographic location of practice.

Scope of the healing arts

Practices that are aimed to heal include non-invasive physical manipulations such as massage, the adjustments of the chiropractor, and the various talk therapies of the Freudian psychiatrist, behavioral psychologist and clergy.

Ingestion of substances, including foods, herbs, and medicines are healing modalities used by many diverse disciplines within the healing arts. In the health sciences, these medicines are the drugs provided by pharmacists, diets advocated by nutritionists and, in such alternative medicine systems as traditional Chinese medicine, these include a large number of herbs as well as preserved portions of animals and other natural substances.

Invasive practices in the healing arts include surgery as practiced by physicians licensed in medicine, but are not limited to these operations. Acupuncture involves minimally invasive techniques of placing needles. Traditional healers in West Africa who follow juju routinely use scarification and injections as part of their practice.

History of the healing arts

The healing arts have existed as long as there are written records to document the activities of people, and there is evidence of manipulation of the body that was likely the result of attempts at healing that dates to periods before writing is known to have existed.


The desert tombs of Egypt have served to protect the cultural artifacts from that ancient civilization. The papyruses of Ancient Egypt include treatises on surgery.

Although equatorial Africa appears to be among the most established, or even the primary homeland of mankind, there are relatively few very ancient artifacts that have been recovered from that area. Considering that the Nile River villages of Egypt have left virtually no archeologic record - unlike the sealed stone tombs in the dry desert air, this may be due to lack of preservation in a jungle climate and to overgrowth of ancient sites by vegetation.

Asia and Middle East


China was where acupunture and moxibustion as well as herbs were used to heal illnesses. One of the common ways to treat illnesses was to "use poison against poison", where a poisonous herb would be used to counteract the effects of an illness or a case of poisoning.


The Arab nations became the repository of Western Medicine after the fall of Rome, and the Moors, among others, re-introduced medical knowledge into Europe. The Arab physicians of 700 AD read Hippocrates and Galen, and continued to advance the art of medicine in their tradition. Astrological medicine was incorporated into practice.


Western Medicine, which became the first of the health sciences, began as a traditional healing art in Ancient Greece. The treatises attributed to Hippocrates outline a theoretical basis for the treatment of disease that rests on the four humours. Western medical practice continued through the centuries of the Roman Empire and was sufficiently established that the traditions of the profession persevered through medieval Europe. When the Enlightenment brought progress in science and modern biology became established, medical practices incorporated the germ theory of disease and applied formal scientific research to the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Even after that time, however, a number of non-scientific disciplines within medicine originated, such as phrenology, and homeopathy.

New World

With the discovery of the new world came new opportunty and a fresh start for the healing arts. Unabated by the strongly entrenched healing establishments in the motherlands of Europe, new remedies were able to take hold, combining those brought over by emmigating communities with those used by the native peoples familiar with the vegetation and resources of the land. It was a fertile ground that allowed for the growth of healing arts such as homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, osteopathy, and medicine. Osteopathic and chiropractic history began with similar drugless methods deep in the heart of the American midwest.


The United States government has defined the term Licensed Practitioner of the Healing Arts (LPHA[1]) as:

  • Physician
  • Licensed Clinical Psychologist (LCP)
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
  • Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC)
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)