What’s The Difference Between Herbal And Homeopathic Medicine?

Herbal and homeopathic medicine are both natural types of medicine, and both use herbs in some way, but there are significant differences when it comes to the way the herbs are prepared, their safety profile, and the indications for which they’re prescribed. Homeopathy also uses other ingredients, such as animal or mineral products, while herbal medicine only uses herbs.

Perhaps the most important difference between the two is that homeopathic remedies are prescribed according to the principle of “like cures like” or “similars.” This is the belief that the substance known to cause the symptoms of the illness or disease will also create the cure if given to the patient in small enough doses. Herbal medicine does not subscribe to this principle.

What is Herbal Medicine?

Plants and herbs have been used for medicinal purposes for over 60 000 years. In South Africa, the Khoi people are known to have used the Bochu herb, a natural anti-inflammatory, for thousands of years. In more recent times, even the large pharmaceutical companies are starting to appreciate the healing properties of herbs and have begun to incorporate them into many of their modern medicines.

Herbal medicine is simply the use of herbs to treat ailments. It differs to plant-derived medicine in that, with plant-based drugs (such as Aspirin, which comes from Willow bark), it is often just one chemical that is isolated from the plant. With herbal medicine, all the chemical compounds of the herb are used.

Herbs can be taken in many different ways, but the most common are teas, capsules, and tinctures. Although completely natural, herbal remedies can interact with other drugs – or even other herbal supplements – as they are prescribed in their raw form, and, unlike homeopathic remedies, are not diluted. So it’s always advisable to let your healthcare practitioner know if you are taking any other medication, or have any conditions other than the one for which you’re seeking treatment.

The World Health Organisation estimates that up to 80% of poorer populations in African and Asia rely on herbal medication to treat ailments and illnesses, due to the prohibitive expense of certain pharmaceutically-created medicines.

What is Homeopathic Medicine?

Homeopathy is the practice is the processing of herbs and other natural substances using dilution and shaking to eliminate any toxicity, and increase the therapeutic benefits. Homeopathic remedies are available as either combinations (common for cold and flu treatments) or singles, which contain only one ingredient. They are most commonly available as essential oils, extracts, lotions, infusions, syrups, powders, ointments, teas and tinctures.

Unlike herbal medicines, homeopathic remedies are very sensitive and should not be taken at the same time as anything else, as the energy can easily become overwhelmed and lose its efficacy.

When you consult a homeopath, she or she will only prescribe a tonic after a thorough examination, after which they will consider several aspects, including your symptoms, overall physical health and even your personality traits and life history.

Dr Alain Sanua is a qualified medical doctor currently practising integrated medicine that combines Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Nutritional Advice, Mineral and Vitamin supplementation, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Functional Medicine. If you’d like to chat to him about how herbal or homeopathic treatments could help you, contact him today.


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