What is the difference between homeopathy and herbalism?

There is often confusion about herbalism and homeopathy, and many people think they are the same thing. In this article I will try to clarify the differences between the two Natural forms of medicine. Herbal medicine is the easier of the two to understand, so let’s start here.

Herbalism is the use of plants, lichens, algae and fungi to affect the body, in other words the use of plants to treat a problem. It evolved from the earliest human times all over the world, including in Asia, Europe and the Americas.
In each location, herbalism developed into distinct styles and beliefs across cultures and times, such as Traditional Chinese Herbalism, Ayurveda, Native American Herbalism and Traditional Western Herbalism.
Herbalism uses the herbs in various forms such as tinctures, teas, powders, essential oils, mels (herb-infused honeys), herbal vinegars, elixirs and numerous topical forms. The main characteristic shared by all of these, is that they contain physiologically active amounts of the herbs used to make them.
Important to note is that the use of herbs differs from using plant derived drugs such as Aspirin (which is derived from Willow bark) because in the case of plant derived drugs, the one active chemical is isolated and often synthesized in the lab, and that is all that is used.
When using herbs not only you are dealing with all the chemical compounds of the plant, but also with its energetic characteristics and this is why science can’t always explain why or how a medicinal herb works.

It is also very important to remember that herbs and supplements can interact with other conventional drugs or even other herbs and supplements, so it is important that you don’t self-prescribe and in case you do always inform your healthcare practitioner or family doctor.

Homeopathy is a Natural System of Medicine that was developed in the late 1700s in Germany by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann. Is based on Natural Laws and Principles which are immutable like the Law of Similars. This principle has been originally stated by Hippocrates in the fourth century B.C. This is actually forms the root of the word homeopathy, with “homeo” meaning “similar” and “pathos” meaning “disease.” Homeopathic remedies
usually consist of minute doses of natural substances that, if taken in a physiological dose, would create the same symptoms as the disease to be treated.

One of the crucial points in Homeopathy that distinguishes it from all other forms of medicine, is the concept of man or creature as a whole as opposed to the view of the patient as a fragmented diagnostic entity (separated into parts, each carrying a specific ailment or diagnostic category). Patients cannot be viewed in fragments without violating fundamental and universal laws of nature. Each person is a unique individual, whole and complete, functioning as a totality in relation to the surrounding universe. Laws governing nature and the universe are not separate to those governing the functions of living organisms. There are dynamic balances through which both individuals and the environment benefit from.

Hence Homeopathy is a reliable medicinal practice through which a patient’s individual “system” can be set to a balanced order or homeostasis and thus on the road to recovery.
Patients are seen as complete units encompassing mental, emotional and physical dimensions all of which must form one well balanced whole. Furthermore, the holistic approach of Homeopathy, in its essence, addresses crucially the heavy burden of hereditary tendencies.

Homeopathy uses Homeopathic Remedies as a form of treatment.
Homeopathic remedies can be made from just about any substance known to man. The majority include plants, minerals, animal products, and energy fields. Currently more than 5,000 substances have been prepared and made into a homeopathic remedy. Examples are, in the Plant kingdom Mistletoe, Calendula, Bryonia, Belladonna, in the Mineral kingdom Mercury, Calcium carbonate, Argentum, Aurum, Ferrum (basically any element of the
Periodic table and their salts). In the Animal kingdom we snake venoms like Lachesis, bee venom like Apis, milks like Lac Del (dolphin milk), and in the energy field realm Sol (sun rays) or Light spectrum (a rainbow). They are all FDA approved.
In order to make any homeopathic medicine, you must first know which substance from nature has healing properties for certain illnesses. To find out which are the curative powers of the natural substance a Proving need to be done.

So, what is proving?

A proving is a procedure which determines the curative properties of the natural substance by observing and cataloguing its effects. The proving process involves giving the natural substances to healthy individuals through a period of time and observing and recording symptoms that are produced, unusual sensations, and alterations from normal health, including what makes each of these better or worse.
Once a substance is proven, it is used to treat people who have the same symptoms as those produced by the substance in healthy individuals.

And how are remedies made?

The chosen natural substances become remedies through a very specific process called “potentization” which involves sequential dilution and succussion, which is a hard pounding or shaking. In the old times these were made by hand, by banging the flask containing solution in a hard resilient surface, but nowadays this pounding action is made by specialised lab equipment.

How are remedies labelled?

Remedies are labelled by the ratio of dilution and the number of times diluted.
In this process, a substance may be repetitively diluted 1:10 (X scale) or 1:100 (C scale) or 1:1,000 (M scale) or 1:1000000 (CM scale) or 1:50,000 (LM scale). Then the number of times it is diluted and succussed is noted, e.g. 12X, 30C, 10M, CM, LM3.

The fascinating and scientifically confusing thing about homeopathic remedies is that the more diluted they are, the stronger they become-that is, potentized and the deeper they will act in the organism.

In chemistry, there is a concept of how many molecules of a substance are present in a defined solution (it is called one gram mole). This is called Avogadro’s number, and it is 6.023 x 10 24 . Therefore, if you dilute a solution 1 to 10, twenty-four times, or 1 to 100, twelve times, there cannot be any molecules of the original substance left!

Nevertheless, we know now, that this is not true and nanotechnology along with other advanced laboratorial technologies have countless times proven that there are nano particles present above the Avogadro’s number as well as a change in structure of the solution caused by potentization.

Therefore, with homeopathic remedies, the higher the dilution, the less “material” doses in the remedy and the stronger the energy appears to be.
Lower dilutions may still have some material in them and work more on the physical plane, while higher dilutions seem to work more on the mental and emotional planes, and are often observed to result in deeper and longer lasting effects.


The main difference between the two systems apart from the holistic concept in Homeopathy is that in herbalism, the preparations rely on a physiological response to the material doses of phytochemicals that the herbs contain. These phytochemicals are present at physiological levels and are thus detectable in herbal preparations. In homeopathic preparations, the materials are diluted many times, so much so, that only a minute amount of the original substance remains, if any.
In regulatory terms, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration deems herbs to be dietary supplements, whereas homeopathic remedies are regarded as drug products.

About the Author



• BSc – Food Engineering, 1989 – Porto University, Portugal (High Class Honors) 

• MSc – Food Microbiology, 1991 – University of Reading in the UK 

• PhD – Applied Microbiology, 1997 – King’s College, London 

• DIHom(Pract) – Diploma in Homeopathic Medicine, Practitioner Level British Institute of Homeopathy 

• FBIH – Fellowship for life, British Institute of Homeopathy

• RSHom – Member of The Society of Homeopaths 

As a homeopath, my ultimate goal is to help you live to your fullest capacity, where the entire spiritual, mental, emotional, social and physical being is restored to the natural state it was created in. Do get in touch when ready to begin your healing journey.

Website: www.alexcmelo.com

Email: alex_homeopathy@yahoo.com

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