Homeopathic and herbal products comparison table

                                             Homeopathic products                                        Herbal products                           
What are they
made from?
  

Often plants but may be from mineral,
animal or even synthetic material.

  Naturally occurring plants, parts of plants or extracts of plants
Do they contain
active ingredients?
 

Generally the starting material is diluted so that few or no molecules of the starting material remain in the product. Some products are administered orally and topically that do contain measurable amounts of the starting material.

 

Often contain mixtures of many chemical compounds obtained from the plant although precise compositions can be variable due to the natural source.

How is the product
made?
  Homeopaths believe that serial dilution and succussion (shaking) steps are critical in ensuring the efficacy of the product. They believe that the more succussion that takes place through the dilution steps, the more energy is imparted and the more efficacious the product.   Herbal products are prepared using either extracts of the herbal material or through use of the crude drug itself.
How are products
selected?
  Homeopaths believe in the three principles of homeopathy, one of which is that like should be treated with like. For example, they believe that a substance that causes vomiting in high doses may be used to treat vomiting using a very dilute product.   In a manner similar to other medicines, herbal products are selected according to the range of symptoms they are known to treat. They are often used to restore, correct or modify a physiological function. 
How is a particular
product selected?
  Homeopathic practitioners adopt a holistic approach where a detailed patient consultation takes place prior to a suitable product being recommended. The self selection of homeopathic products may be based on their traditional use in homeopathy.   Based on the symptoms presented, a product is selected taking account of the known pharmacological activity of the herbal product. 
How does the dose
affect the efficacy of
the product?
  Due to extensive dilution, homeopathy usually involves the administration of no, or an incredibly small amount, of the starting material. Homeopaths believe that the greater the dilution of a product the more potent and efficacious it becomes.   Increasing the dose will increase the effect and/or increase the risk of adverse effects.
Are the products
safe?
  Generally considered by homeopaths to be non-toxic and safe for administration to adults and children, particularly at high dilution. It is important to note that some homeopathic products are not ultradilute and may contain discernable amounts of the starting material. (*see footnote)  

Although they are obtained from natural sources, they are not without unwanted effects and cannot be regarded as “safe”. The active substance in many prescription medicines is obtained or derived from plant sources. 

Are there any side
effects?

 

Side effects have not been reported in the scientific literature for high dilution products. Homeopaths believe homeopathic products can cause aggravations (exacerbations or worsening of symptoms). May cause reactions in lactose intolerant patients.
(*see footnote)

 

May produce side effects.

Will they interact
with  prescription
or other medicines?

 

No evidence of interactions between high dilution products and conventional medicines. (*see footnote)

 

Can interact with prescription and other conventional medicines.

Are they safe in
pregnancy and
when breast
-feeding?

 

Considered by homeopaths to be suitable for use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, but ideally under the guidance of a suitably qualified homeopath. However it is important that patients inform healthcare professionals if they are taking a homeopathic product during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, even if it is a highly diluted product. (*see footnote)

 

Certain herbal ingredients should be avoided or used with caution in pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Should I inform
other healthcare
professionals if
I am taking
these products?

 

Although homeopaths believe this is not necessary, it is important that patients inform healthcare professionals if they are taking a homeopathic product, even if it is highly diluted. (*see footnote)

 

Patients should inform healthcare professionals if they are taking herbal products.

Labelling

 

Will include the words “homeopathic medicinal product” on the label.

 

The label or packaging will indicate it is a “herbal medicinal product”.

Is it known how
they work?

 

There is no sound scientific basis to explain the activity of homeopathic products claimed by homeopaths.

 

The effects of the active ingredients in a herbal product can be shown to have pharmacological actions.

What is the
evidence to
support the
efficacy of
these products?

 

There is no scientific or clinical evidence to support the efficacy of homeopathic products, although anecdotal reports of their effectiveness have been published, particularly when used as part of individualised homeopathic treatment by a homeopathic practitioner.

 

There is scientific evidence to support the efficacy of a limited number of herbal products in specific conditions; however, for many herbal products, efficacy has not been formally evaluated.

* Mother tinctures or homeopathic products of low dilution will contain measurable amounts of active materials. For those homeopathic products, it is more appropriate to use the guidance given for herbal products.


Definitions of some terms used

Dilution – homeopathic dilutions are usually centesimal, where 1 drop is added to 99 drops of diluent, or decimal where 1 drop is added to 9 drops of diluent. Diluents are generally ethanol and water mixtures.

Potentisation (also called dynamisation or attenuation) – homeopaths believe that this process increases the power of homeopathic products by successive dilutions and succussions of a mother tincture. Potentisation cannot occur without both dilution and succussion.

Succussion – the forceful agitation between each dilution step during the product of the homeopathic product. The number of times a product is succussed after each dilution step of potentisation is not well defined and can range from 20 to 100.

Mother Tincture – liquid products obtained following the maceration, incubation, and extraction of plant material, usually with an ethanol/water mixture. Mother tinctures can be given undiluted by the oral or topical routes, but are usually subject to potentisation.

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