An optimal healing environment (OHE) can include both general and specific physical, medical, behavioral, psychological, social and spiritual components. Type 2 diabetes mellitus, primarily a disease of lifestyle, provides an excellent opportunity to investigate the potential impact of this broader model of care on a chronic illness. This paper proposes a strategy for studying the application of the OHE model to the care of patients with type 2 diabetes. It provides a brief review of the current literature on prevention of type 2 diabetes in patients at high risk, and then discusses the evidence for and against a variety of interventions for established diabetes mellitus including nutritional, herbal, mind-body and exercise strategies. The essential elements of a protocol for an integrative medicine or OHE approach to diabetes are then outlined, followed by a discussion of the research issues that would emerge from an effort to test the effectiveness of such an approach.