Homeopathic Vs. Herbal

Homeopathy and herbal medicine are both forms of natural medicine, and both use herbal extracts, but the mode of preparation, safety profile and indications are different. In addition, homeopathy uses other natural sources, such as mineral or animal products, although the majority of the remedies are based on herbs and plants.

Herbs hanging from a string. (Image: foodandstyle/iStock/Getty Images)

Principles

The most important difference between homeopathy and herbal medicine is that, unlike herbs, homeopathic remedies are prescribed according to the principle of "similars," or "like cures like." This means that a remedy that treats a certain symptom is the medicine that is able to produce, in a healthy individual, the same symptom to that from which the person suffers. The prescription of herbs does not follow the principle of similars.

Preparation

In homeopathy, herbs and other natural substances are processed via serial dilution and vigorous shaking between each dilution. During this process, the toxicity of the herb is eliminated and the therapeutic benefits are increased. Most of the herbs used for medicinal purposes are dry extracts of different parts of the herb or oils distilled from plants or herbs.

Available Forms

Pellets, tablets, creams or alcohol-based remedies are the most common forms of homeopathic medicines. Herbal remedies are available in a variety of forms, including extracts, essential oils, ointments, lotions, infusions, powders, syrups, tinctures and teas. Both homeopathic remedies and herbal products are available over the counter in North America.

Example

Chamomile has mild sedative and relaxant effects, may reduce muscle spasms, helps regulate blood sugar levels and boosts the immune system. Chamomile used in herbal form should be taken daily, but Homeopathic Chamomila 1M may be prescribed only once or twice a month. Homeopathically diluted chamomile has deeper action and may help with a variety of symptoms. The homeopathic remedy is a common medicine used in children for colic and teething, irritability, diarrhea or symptoms of anxiety. Other conditions where this remedy might be indicated include skin rash and ulcers, sensitivity to light, inflammation of the eyes, colds, inflammation of the throat, asthma, abdominal cramps, eructations and flatulence, inflammation of the urinary tract, symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome, abnormal vaginal bleeding and sleeping problems. Arthritis sufferers may also benefit from this remedy.

Considerations

According to the National Health Service of the United Kingdom, there are no known interactions between standard drugs and homeopathic medicines, although more research should be done to evaluate the safety of the remedies. On the other hand, many herbs may interact with conventional drugs because they are prescribed in the raw form, and unlike homeopathics, are not diluted. Neither herbs nor homeopathic remedies are as well researched as conventional drugs and do not replace standard treatments. They should be prescribed by a qualified practitioner who can also explain drug interactions, possible side effects and optimal dosage.

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