Herbal medicine and Homeopathy – clarifications and comparison
Although herbal medicine as well as homeopathy, are mostly known all around the world, there still are some confusion related to difference between these medical systems. This confusion is significantly caused by the fact that most of homeopathic remedies are made from the plants. For the beginning, the basic differences should be clarified.
Actually, these two medical systems are completely different.
Let's start from history.
The use of plants for the purpose of feeding and treatment is as old as mankind. By using herbs in daily diet, man has gradually noticed some of their medicinal properties. Considering that did not have knowledge about the causes of diseases, nor on what plant and which way could be used for treatment, the use was based on experience. Over time, the reasons of specific use of medicinal plants for certain diseases have been detected, so the use of drugs gradually emerged from the empirical framework and was based on the explanatory facts. Until the advent of yatrochemy in the 16th century, plants were the basis of healing and prophylaxis.
People believed in the healing properties of plants so much, that they have became a trademark of gods and deities of drugs and treatment. In Minoan civilization on Crete the poppy was the trademark of Great Goddess of drugs and treatment and always was presented with poppy seeds on the rim of the hat. Due to medicinal properties and widespread use, some plant species turned into sacred plants.
This was the case with onions and garlic – Egyptian doctors-pharmacists swore in them. Tubers of these plants were put as gifts in the tombs of kings. Actually, without knowing, they used disinfectant and antibiotic properties of sulfur compounds in the plants.
Plants with tropane alkaloids were used in magic rituals and as aphrodisiacs, because of the opioid and hallucinogenic activities and in many cultures they received magical or symbolic meaning. Most often for these purposes were used the plants from the Solanaceae family: mandrake (Mandragora officinarum), nightshade (Atropa belladonna) and black henbane (Hyoscyamus niger).
Mandrake is one of the most known sacred plants, whose magical power is consequence of accidental harmony of two factors: the root in the shape of a human body with distinct male and female genitals and an alkaloid structure that produced hallucinogenic effects. Thus the mandrake became highly valued plant, with the wide range of its powers. It is also mentioned in the Old Testament.
Photo: H.D. Greaves
The nations of Mesopotamia and Egypt have mixed it with other tropane alkaloids plants of Solanaceae family, in various preparations for drinking and anointment the skin. The root in the wine was used as narcotic and anesthetic agent. From it they had made figurines that were worn as talismans for good health and protection against disease, and women – for infertility. Aside from the unusual roots, also were used the fruits known as "Aphrodite's apples", which represented the symbol of love. In Tutankhamun's tomb were found the fruits of mandrake in a floral wreath of pharaoh. Roman encyclopedist Aulus Cornelius Celsus in his work "De re medica" in the 1st century writes that the dream is quieter and deeper when under the pillow put the fruit of mandrake. Dioscorides used it as an anesthetic during surgical interventions, as medication for eyes, as agent for abortion as well as somnifacient. Galen had used root of mandrake cooked in wine as anesthetic, and with the honey he has made suppositories that were used as somnifacient.
The Hebrew tradition knew mandrakes.
In the Middle Ages, mandrake peaked its reputation when it was named as a magical plant. Mere mention of "little planted man" was causing great fear because of the risk at harvest. It was believed that it emits a scream when taken out of the ground. Theophrastus had written that this cry can kill the one who hears it. This belief is mentioned in Shakespeare tragedy "Romeo and Juliet".
Indeed, medicinal and magical properties of the mandrake were large and widespread.