This is a question that I am often asked and the answer is nicely explained in this link that begins with …Imagine a time when science as we know it did not exist. Religious men, women and natural philosophers sought their answers to questions about heaven and earth according to the precepts of what their Creator revealed to them through nature….

In those days, the shape and color of a plant was associated with healing an organ of similar shape or color. For example, a plant with yellow flowers or sap, like Chelidonium majus, or celandine, was attributed the power to heal the liver and gallbladder. Heart-shaped plants such as Digitalis purpurea, commonly known as foxglove, were used for heart conditions.

This method referred to as the Doctrine of Signatures, was formulated by Paracelsus and often had mixed results. A number of plants were in fact proven efficacious for certain ailments and have even been incorporated in modern prescription drugs. A larger set of substances had a less beneficial effect.

The Difference between Herbal and Homeopathic medicines


Much of herbal medicine was left to trial and error. Still, today’s health food store aisles are packed with tinctures, supplements, herbal preparations, and essential oils. This demonstrates a demand for a natural approach to healing and a trust in the wisdom of herbal tradition.

[tea] We use teas and syrups, essential oils and bath supplements to recover from coughs and colds as well as a variety of aches and pains. We long for the calming effect of a chamomile tea after a hard day at the office, or the tummy soothing goodness of a cup of peppermint tea. When a child has erroneously ingested something poisonous, we are grateful for the bottle of ipecac syrup to induce vomiting.

Since the 18th century homeopaths have collected information about the effects of plants, minerals and animal substances and compiled it in the homeopathic Materia Medica. Historical poisoning reports going back to the time of Socrates, who was poisoned with hemlock (Conium maculatum) were added to this vast body of information. European royalty known for their use of lethal substances, like arsenic, to rid themselves of their adversaries contributed greatly to the knowledge about poisonous materials. From the 17th century until 1910 highly toxic mercury was used to treat syphilis and severe poisoning symptoms became evident. When mercury was later replaced by Salvarsan, a synthesized arsenical compound, its side effects added to the knowledge about the effects of arsenic.

Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, aware of the toxic effects of medicines of his time, was looking for harmless medicines. In 1779, he started testing a number of substances in a diluted non-toxic form. When he realized that a substance causing a set of symptoms could also cure the same symptoms, the system of homeopathy was born.

In keeping with the homeopathic concept that “like cures like,” homeopaths were first in conducting drug tests. Homeopathic drug tests are called provings and continue into our time. Provings are controlled trials of homeopathic remedies that allow homeopaths to observe and copiously record the symptoms each remedy can cause in a healthy individual. The symptoms of a sick person will then be matched to the symptoms known to be caused by a remedy in a healthy individual during a proving.

Let’s take that syrup of ipecac: we know it produces vomiting, and indeed, in its homeopathic form, it can be a great relief for the vomiting and nausea that happens with food poisoning, stomach flus, or pregnancy. There are numerous homeopathic remedies, which can alleviate nausea and vomiting. In order to “cure like with like” (using the most effective remedy), homeopaths must make sure to match as many symptoms of the ill person to a remedy as possible. In the proper application of homeopathic Ipecacuanha, the ailing individual’s symptoms should include persistent nausea that is made better by nothing and experiences general sensitivity to everything from light and noise to cold and heat, accompanied by irritability. Interestingly, an important symptom of Ipecacuanha is that, in spite of the constant vomiting, the tongue looks remarkably clean.

[The central idea of homeopathy is curing the person experiencing dis-ease, not curing the disease isolated from the person.-2] The central idea of homeopathy is curing the person experiencing dis-ease, not curing the disease isolated from the person. Homeopathy aims to bring balance to all of levels of human experience: mental, emotional and physical.

Let’s get back to that chamomile tea (Matricaria recutita). The plant contains volatile oils such as bisabolol, bisabolol oxides A and B, and matricin, as well as flavonoids, particularly a compound called apinegin. In its herbal form, chamomile aids muscle relaxation, digestive issues, allergies, inflammatory responses, skin issues and more. Homeopathic Chamomilla has a similar spectrum of application. Additionally, it is known as one of the key remedies for children’s ear infections and pain with irritability during teething.

Yet once again, symptoms presented by the suffering individual must match the symptoms of this remedy completely. Instead of just approaching random disease symptoms, homeopathic treatment has to be discerning of the individual’s specific symptoms. If Chamomilla is indicated, aside from having an earache or colic, the child will have one red and hot cheek and one that is pale and cool. The child needing this remedy will also be angry, violent and dissatisfied, demanding to be carried around, from which it feels better. With cold applications the child feels better, and hot applications will make things worse; and most of all, the child is super sensitive to pain.

When the well-indicated remedy is given, the speed and efficacy of homeopathic treatment is remarkable. In acute cases, such as vomiting or earache, you can see results within the first fifteen to thirty minutes including improvement on all levels of wellbeing: mental, emotional and physical. The best part of homeopathy is that it does not have any toxic side effects. In herbal application, we work with plant materials as substance. Homeopathic remedies are produced from the crude substance of plants, minerals and animals, but through a process of a systemized dilution they are made into a medicine that has a purely energetic effect, resulting in strengthening the immune system as a whole.

By Eva Lipton-Ormand, CHom, CCSP, LMT