Homeopathic medicines are almost exclusively made from the animal, mineral,
and vegetable kingdoms. Those from the vegetable kingdom can also be called
herbs, though in homeopathy they are used in diluted and potentized form,
as opposed to the higher, “material” doses used in herbal medicine.

While the “homeopathic” and “herbal” use of plants may coincide, the
homeopathic uses tend to be much more specific and detailed, because their
use is defined by provings,
and determined from the symptoms of the sick person, rather than
determined from the “disease” that a person has. The distinction
between “medicinal” and “nutritional” use of plants is often a subtle
one. There are many herbal medicines which are not part of a normal
diet, but whose medicinal use depends upon the presence of substances
which are also present in normal foods. Although many homeopathic
vegetable medicines are also used as foods, most are not.

Clearly, the benefits of homeopathic medicine does not depend on supplying
a needed nutrient, but rather on stimulating the healing mechanisms of
the body through the “similarity“ principle.
Treating a person with homeopathic medicines and with “herbal medicines”
at the same time is possible, though it may be difficult to ascribe the
results to one or the other treatment, thereby making the follow-up treatment
more difficult.

Once homeopathic treatment is instituted and known to be effective, should
there be reason to use herbal medicines, the problem of the follow-up
is less relevant. In my own practice, for example, I have often used Echinacea
to help people get over acute infections while on constitutional treatment.
I have also found, however, that as constitutional
becomes increasingly effective (meaning that the person’s
health is more and more improved) the use of Echinacea seems less necessary.
A repeat of the constitutional remedy is often more effective.

Another possibility for the use of herbs in conjunction with homeopathic
treatment is in the treatment of cancer. A traditional native American
herbal mixture, is unfortunately now marketed under several names, because
there is dispute about whose formula is correct. Flor-Essence is composed
of eight herbs, whose nutritional and medicinal value is increasingly
well understood by medical science. Essiac tea (backwards spelling of
the original non-Indian proponent of the herbal blend, Renee Caisse) is,
perhaps, the original blend.  One of my patients, who has used Essiac tea successfully, has used a product obtained from NOW Foods.

Herbs are medicinal by virtue of containing chemicals which have the
ability to interact with the chemistry of the body. Like conventional
drugs, most herbal medicines WILL act when they are taken. Homeopathic
medicines, in contrast, only act in the body to the degree that the body
is “sensitive” to the medicine.

Some herbs are “adaptogenic,” meaning that the body uses them to correct
imbalances, in either direction. Compounds contained in soybeans are in
this category. If hormone levels are too high, genistein brings it down,
and if hormone levels are low, genistein promotes their elevation. As
such, it seems to make sense that the use of herbal medicines be time-limited.

There are some vitamin supplements on the market which contain herbs
like ginseng, etc. I am not an herbalist and do not know the long-term
effects of these preparations, so I question their regular use, as it
would seem to be analogous to taking drugs for extended periods of time.