East Meets West Wellness: The 2020 Trend We Love

What’s more polarized than politics? Perhaps your health. For centuries, medicine, wellness, and health have been staunchly divided into two schools of thought: Eastern and Western.

In recent decades, if you “believe in” Eastern medicine, you go to yoga, have an acupuncturist, take arnica and turmeric in lieu of ibuprofen, know your Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic constitutions, avoid vaccines like the plague, have a house full of crystals and sage, meditate daily, and swear off prescription drugs at all costs. You might view Western medicine as toxic, and big pharma as evil.

East meets West wellness photo with western doctor utensils and herbs and supplements on a table

If you’re in the Western (also called modern medicine) camp, you have a more science-driven approach. You opt for simple and effective over-the-counter and prescription solutions, you have a specialist for all your different organ systems and trust your primary care physician, you regularly get vaccinated, and prefer workouts that are all about performance, calorie-burning, and optimizing your health. You might think Eastern practices are “woo woo” or “hippy dippy.”

And no matter which side of the fence you fell on, up until recently, there’s been a whole lot of judgment and bad vibes. But. . . What if neither of those schools of thought were wrong? What if we could pick the best of both worlds? What if we didn’t have to oppose, and could just embrace it all?

Just like our culture is craving more purple people in politics — more balance, understanding, two-sided perspective — it’s time for our health to take a more neutral approach versus this staunch polarity.

Back in December we predicted that this would be one of the major wellness trends for 2020, for many reasons. Here are just a few.

High Stress Levels Are Driving People to Explore All Options

Burnout culture is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how stressed and unwell (mentally and physically) many people are today. We’ve chatted with HR professionals who’ve seen an uptick in employees taking leaves of absence for mental health reasons, and the search query “therapists near me” has been on a steady rise on Google since 2015. 

With stress, anxiety, and depression all on the rise — and better public awareness of mental health symptoms — many people are looking for any option to find relief.

Some may visit a primary care provider or physician for a prescription while also practicing breath work, going to Pilates, and downloading a meditation app. Others will go to acupuncture and talk therapy while working with a cardiologist to take steps to reduce blood pressure. Some will change their diet, focus on getting better sleep, and make a career change to better align with their health needs. There’s no one right answer or solution for healing your mind, which means there is room for both ideologies.

Tea in glass cup with aromatic herbs in dish on table

Western/Mainstream Is Starting to Embrace What Was Traditionally “Alternative”

Probiotics and turmeric are now common ingredients in popular packaged brands — they used to be reserved for those who were into alternative, natural health (or practicing Ayurvedic medicine). You can now buy Kellogg’s cereal with probiotics, or a turmeric-infused juice from Coca Cola-owned Suja. Meditation is on the rise, especially thanks to meditation apps (Is there anything more East-meets-West than a Silicon Valley-developed digital platform for an ancient Eastern wellness practice?). Crystals have become a multi-billion-dollar industry. Recovery studios featuring infrared saunas, PEMF tables, and cryotherapy are roaringly popular among the (more Westernized) boutique fitness crowd.

All of these things that were once either mocked, ignored, or avoided have now been adopted and embraced slowly but surely by the Western world’s mainstream market. Thanks to a greater focus on self-care (and the aforementioned drive to explore all available options), the Eastern practices and tools have become more normalized than ever — and people are taking a more 360-degree approach to health.

Proactive Education and Conscious Consumption Is On the Rise

The drive for self-education has never been stronger. The voracious consumption of information — particularly when it comes to health and wellness — has been a cultural juggernaut in the past year or so. Everyone wants to learn more about what they’re putting in their body, which has led to extremely conscious consumption (amazing!). People want to know where their salmon came from, how the CBD in their tincture was extracted, and why exactly GMO is a bad thing.

It’s incredible to see so many people question the information they receive, and then dive deeper into health topics.

This has opened the door for more people to research and explore options that had once been outside their scope. The more open our minds are to receiving new ways of thinking, the more we can explore which modalities of health and wellness work best for our bodies, minds, and lifestyles.

Hemp is the Physical Embodiment of This Concept

With CBD being one of the biggest cultural topics in the world right now (seriously, try going a single day without reading or hearing about CBD), the idea of East-meets-West has come to the forefront. Hemp has been used in ancient medicine for thousands of years, and despite a century-long prohibition in the United States, the cannabis plant is now being used in the major pharmaceutical drug Epidiolex. 

This plant has brought PhDs, MDs, naturopaths, and herbalists to the table; everyone is fascinated by what this plant can do for the world. Hemp has truly become a middle ground for both camps. With studies only beginning to start (en masse, at that), this is definitely just the beginning, and the opening of a door for all of us to find the best parts of Eastern and Western medicine.


Written by Dominique Astorino

Wellness Expert and Svn Space Podcast Host and Contributing Editor Dominique holds bylines at POPSUGAR, Brit+Co, SHAPE, Svn Space and Huffington Post Wellness covering everything from health, fitness, and nutrition to crystals and CBD.

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