Difference between Herbal, Ayurveda, Natural and Organic Medicine

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Often, we are confused as to what is the difference between natural and organic. Also, many of us do not understand if herbal and Ayurvedic medicine are same as natural medicine or are they something else?

We cannot easily differentiate between all these terms and it is even more confusing since their meaning often over laps. Below is a simplified classification of all of these categories of medicine so that you can make an informed choice and know what you are opting for!

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine are made of plant extracts, plant roots, leaves, etc and used as per their properties. The word herbal is derived from the mediaeval Latin liber herbalis (“book ofherbs”) Herbal medicine are free of chemicals. However, pesticides may have been used in their growing.

Ayurveda medicine Ayurveda is medicinal science which includes use of herbs as well as heavy metals like gold, silver, copper, tin, mercury, sulphur, animal extracts, etc. Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit word Āyurveda which means ‘life-knowledge’; Are they completely natural? Ayurveda medicine may contain toxic levels of metals, etc.

Natural Medicine Natural Medicine are made from plants and minerals that occur in nature and have not been produced in a laboratory and are not man made. However, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, etc might have been used to enhance their growth. Generally speaking, a product claiming to be natural is free of common chemicals such as artificial fragrances, colorants, preservatives, and other synthetic additives. To understand if a product is natural, check its detailed ingredient list. There is no regulation on the word ‘natural’. A product being claimed as natural may have as low as 1% natural ingredients.

Organic Medicine Organic medicine are also made from natural ingredients but they are grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program, organic is “a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods. These methods integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.” Generally, organic medicine do not contain any genetically modified ingredients or petrochemicals. Unless required by law, organic medicine do not undergo any animal testing and are minimallly processed. Check for certifications on the product to know if it’s organic. Labelled ‘made with organic ingredients’, it implies the product is made with at least 70% organic ingredients.

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