by Dr Woodson Merrell: What is Integrative Medicine?


Integrative Medicine is the synthesis of the best of conventional Western bio-scientific medical practice with indigenous traditions–such as Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, and Ayurveda--and newer complementary practices including functional nutrition, Western botanical and nutraceutical approaches, mind-body techniques, and body work. The relationship between care-giver and patient is a partnership–looking for the safest, gentlest and most effective remedies from all traditions that will allow the patient to achieve optimal health. The process necessitates having time for the patient’s story to unfold, and for the patient to enhance their ability to self-heal.

How did you get interested in Integrative Medicine? 

I was fortunate–I was raised very healthy in Northern California: outdoors, eating clean balanced food with lots of Love. My three brothers and I were given homeopathy as first line treatments as children by our parents. In high school and college I studied (and later taught) yoga and meditation. I went to medical school to see if there could be a synthesis between Western biological and biochemical science, with (what the time was felt mainly to be ) Asian metaphysical practices. My practice has become a synthesis of all of these.

What do you think is the common thread for all of the things you do?

Compassion, love and respect for the other person. I feel deeply that the world’s spiritual teachings and practices are our best guides. Having said that, there are many practical things we need to do to enhance our well-being: for most people these come from optimizing lifestyle practices.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

# 1 will always be being blessed to have a wonderful loving family. Professionally I am very proud that I have been able to help usher in the new era of more compassionate, more comprehensive, integrative healthcare. I feel fortunate that I have been in the right place at the right time to help create a model integrative medicine facility within a conventional healthcare system at the Center for Health and Healing (  

How do you spend your free time?

Being with family. Reading. Spending time outdoors.  Listening to music (jazz, blues, soul, world and classical). Traveling and exploring the world. Always learning–always the student.

Best anti-aging advice?

Lifestyle! Not pills or hormones. Incorporate the best practices of what I call the 6 fundamentals: stress management, proper diet/nutrition, exercise, rest, detoxing, and being connected. No pill or potion–natural or prescription–can approach the effectiveness of optimizing these.

Best diet advice?

Eat a plant-based rainbow diet. Minimize consumption of land animals and refined carbohydrates. Eat regularly and moderately to maintain normal body weight. Eat organic as much as possible. Eat food lovingly prepared and delicious that you enjoy–and savor. Eat mindfully.

What do you like most about practicing medicine?

Every day I feel blessed to be able to practice medicine. Having a deep knowledge base and being given license to work with others to help effect change in their lives is priceless.  I love that there are so many different approaches that can be used synergistically with conventional medicine to facilitate healing. I love helping empower the patient to take more charge of changing their own health and lives.