Herbal Vs Ayurvedic Medicine – What’s The Difference?

Herbal and Ayurvedic are terms you may often hear in the same conversation, particularly when discussing natural remedies and natural medicines. So are they different, and what exactly is the difference between them?

The biggest difference is that herbal remedies mainly use plant-based ingredients to focus on specific conditions or symptoms while Ayurvedic remedies provide a more holistic approach including lifestyle changes. 

Herbal Vs Ayurvedic Medicine - What’s The Difference?

In this article, we’ll further explore the differences between these two forms of natural medicine, as well as look at some popular herbal remedies. Let’s get started! 

What Is Herbal Medicine?

Herbal medicines are natural treatments that contain plant-based ingredients to promote health and wellness.

These remedies might include blends of herbs or individual blends, and also supplements and other plant-based ingredients.

What Is Ayurvedic Medicine?

Ayurvedic remedies originated in India more than 5,000 years ago, and are a collection of natural medicines. 

This system of medicines is based on harmony and balance between your body, mind, and spirit, and spirit, and involves using natural ingredients like herbs, metals, and minerals, as well as changes to your lifestyle revolving around exercise, diet, and meditation.

Herbal Vs Ayurvedic: What’s The Difference?

Let’s break down the differences between herbal and Ayurvedic remedies.

While herbal remedies are a wider category of remedies that include any plant-based remedies, Ayurvedic remedies are focused on a traditional medicine (see also: Ayurvedic Medicine – How To Treat Anti-Inflammatory Conditions)system that originated in India. 

Herbal remedies tend to be used to treat particular conditions or symptoms, while Ayurvedic remedies concentrate on overall wellness. 

Herbal remedies also tend to be used in tandem with other treatments, while Ayurvedic remedies are concentrated on holistic, natural healing methods. 

What To Consider Before Using Herbal Medicine

If you would like to use herbal medicine and supplements, you should always speak to a health professional to make sure you are taking a suitable dosage, and are knowledgeable on possible side effects and reactions with other medications. 


Since herbal medicines come from natural sources, it is automatically assumed that they’re safe, but this isn’t always the case. 

Just like conventional drugs, herbal supplements can have side effects or have negative effects alongside other medications prescribed to you. 

For example, raw elderberries can be dangerous, and St. John’s wort can be dangerous when combined with antidepressants, while valerian root can react negatively with sedatives. 

Plus, there hasn’t been substantial research done on a lot of herbal medicines to confirm they are safe for breastfeeding or pregnant people.

So if you’re breastfeeding or pregnant, discuss with your healthcare provider before taking herbal medicines to make sure it’s safe for you and your baby. 


Another crucial factor to bear in mind is that herbal medicines are not as strictly regulated as more ‘traditional’ medicines.

In countries like the US, herbal manufacturers are not required to provide proof of purity or efficacy when marketing their products. Therefore, some supplements may improperly list ingredients or may contain compounds that are not mentioned on the label.

Therefore, you should go for brands that have been quality-tested by a third-party organisation.

What Are The Most Popular Herbal Medicines?


Chamomile is a flowering plant that is also an incredibly popular herbal medicine. The flowers are commonly used in teas, but you can also dry the leaves and use them for making medical extracts and topical compresses. 

Chamomile has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for constipation, diarrhoea, nausea, stomach pains, upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and wounds.

This herb has more than 100 active compounds, and lots of them are believed to have many benefits. 

A few test-tube studies have found that chamomile has antioxidants, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties, although not enough human research has yet been done.

Still, a couple of minor human studies suggest that chamomile is helpful for diarrhoea, inflammation caused by osteoarthritis, and cramping from PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome).

Chamomile is generally considered safe, but can lead to an allergic reaction, particularly if you’re allergic to plants like daisies, marigolds, and ragweed.

Herbal Vs Ayurvedic Medicine - What’s The Difference?


Also known as coneflower, echinacea is a flowering plant that is native to North America and has long been used in Native American practices to treat a range of ailments such as burns, sore throat, toothaches, upset stomach, and wounds. 

Most of the plant – such as the roots, petals, and leaves – can be used for medical purposes, while many consider the roots to have the most powerful effect. It’s usually taken as a supplement or drank as a tea, but can be applied topically too.

Nowadays, it’s mainly used to prevent or treat the common cold, although there is insufficient science backing this up.

One review found that over 4,000 people found a possible 10% to 20% decreased risk of colds when using echinacea, but there is minimal evidence that it treats a cold. 

While there is insufficient data to determine the long-term effects of this herb, it is generally considered safe to use in the short-term. However, nausea, skin rash, and stomach pain have occasionally been reported. 


Elderberry is an ancient herbal medicine that is normally made from the cooked fruit of the Sambucus nigra plant. It has been used to relieve colds, constipation, headaches, nerve pain, and viral infections. 

Nowadays, it’s mainly marketed as a treatment for symptoms of the common cold and the flu.

Elderberry is available as a lozenge or syrup, although there isn’t a recommended dosage. Some people like to make their own tea or syrup by cooking elderberries with ingredients like ginger and honey.

Test-tube studies have found that elderberry compounds have antimicrobial, antioxidant, and antiviral properties, but research on humans is minimal. 

Although a couple of minor human studies suggest that elderberry can help you get over flu infections quicker. But wider studies are needed to confirm if it is more effective than traditional antiviral therapies(see also: 8 Best Holistic Therapies That You Need To Try).

Using elderberry in the short-term is deemed safe, but raw or unripe fruit is dangerous and may lead to symptoms like diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting.


Ginger is an ingredient commonly found in herbal medicine. You can eat it dried or fresh, although in medicine it is consumed as a capsule or tea.

Ginger is a rhizome, i.e. a stem that grows below the ground. It has a range of beneficial compounds and has been used for a long time in folk and traditional practices to treat colds, high blood pressure, migraines, and nausea.

Its widest modern use is for relieving nausea linked to chemotherapy, medical operations, and pregnancy. 

Test-tube research of ginger has shown possible benefits for preventing and treating illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, although the evidence is questionable. 

Some minor human studies suggest that ginger might lower your risk of forming blood clots, although it hasn’t been proven to be more effective than traditional therapies. 

Humans tolerate ginger very well, with negative side effects being rare. However, too much ginger can cause mild diarrhoea or heartburn. 

Final Thoughts

Herbal and Ayurvedic remedies have different purposes and origins, but both provide holistic, natural approaches to wellness and health. 

By learning more about these different types of medicine, we can achieve a better understanding of the efficacy of natural remedies and how important it is to take a holistic approach to your health.

Clare McAfee
Latest posts by Clare McAfee (see all)
Scroll to Top