History of Homeopathy

       Homeopathy is a form of natural medicine that was founded by Samuel Hahnemann in the 19th Century. Hahnemann had been trained in the allopathic medicine of his time in Germany and came to be a well regarded and respected physician. He soon, however, became disenchanted with the field of medicine, its arbitrary practices, and what he perceived was its tendency to do harm to its recipients. Fluent in Arabic, Latin, Greek, English, and French, he dropped his lucrative practice and began relying upon his ability to translate medical works as a means to earn his living. While he was translating the Materica Medica written by the English Professor William Cullen, he came upon the therapeutic indications for the use of Peruvian bark or quinine and its use in treating malaria. Hahnemann was dissatisfied with the author’s explanation that its curative power lay in its bitterness. For some odd reason, Hahnemann decided to administer the medicine to himself. To his surprise, within a few days of taking the medicine he began developing all of the commonly known symptoms of malaria itself. Here in Hahnemann’s mind was born the homeopathic law of similars : A substance that produces a set of symptoms in a healthy body can cure the same set of symptoms in a diseased individual.

This concept, accidentally fallen upon by Hahnemann, was not entirely new in the history of medical thought. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician wrote, “Disease is born of like things and by the attack of like things people are healed – vomiting ends through vomiting.” Later day physicians made similar observations. Bouldoc, for example, wrote in 1710 that the purging property of rhubarb was the cause of its ability to halt diarrhea.

Hahnemann took this a step further by introducing the novel idea that the medicinal healing properties of a substance could be discovered by doing provings. – administering substances (in minute doses) to healthy volunteers and then very methodically recording the effects – on the mental, emotional, and physical planes. These observations then serve to point to which groups of symptoms can be healed with a given substance when found in a sick individual. Thus the theory of homeopathic therapeutics was founded.

Students of Hahnemann founded the first homeopathic medical school in the United States in the late 1800’s. It gained recognition because of its success in treating the many disease epidemics rampant at the time — including scarlet fever, typhoid, cholera and yellow fever.

  1. school’s method of treatment became very popular in the early 1900’s. At that time, there were 22 homeopathic medical schools, 100 homeopathic hospitals and over 1,000 homeopathic pharmacies. Boston University, Stanford University and New York Medical College were among those educational institutions that were teaching homeopathy. However, it was not long after this period of time (in the early 1920’s) that many of the schools closed — mostly due to the decline of homeopathy’s popularity which was greatly effected by the American Medical Association. Founded in 1846, the AMA had as one of its goals the elimination of homeopathy. y denied membership and consequently the ability to practice medicine to any doctor who even associated with a homeopath. One of the reasons that homeopathy was such a threat to them was that the homeopathic doctors of the day were trained physicians who were following a consistent philosophy of medicine. Another was because homeopaths were sharply critical of allopathic treatment, which they saw as simply suppressing symptoms and depleting health in general. But the true reason may simply have been financial. In a 1903 meeting of the AMA one respected allopathic physician admitted that they never fought homeopaths because of their principles, they fought them because they moved in and got the business. The AMA continued its onslaught against homeopathy up until the beginning of the twentieth century when most of the homeopathic medical schools were closed down or had deteriorated to the point where it was almost impossible to get an adequate education in homeopathy.

The other major factor which contributed to homeopathy's decline was was the discovery of sulpha drugs, which were the first generation of antibiotics. These were considered to be the "magic bullet". And, indeed, they were extremely effective in a time when most diseases were acute infections that hadn't been exposed to any form of antibiotic treatment. Sulpha drugs quickly became the treatment of choice of both doctors and their patients. They were easy to use and acted quickly. No one considered the possibility of there being any harm in their use. Well, hardly any one. Several decades before this, James Tyler Kent, the great American homeopath, warned his students about this type of treatment. He said that if we insist on treating every superficial symptom without consideration for the whole person, symptoms will move deeper and deeper into the body, causing more chronic diseases until mankind will become so diseased that he will disappear from the face of the earth.


The Homeopathic Resurgence

Although the United States experienced a dwindling interest in homeopathy in the 20th century, other nations, including countries in Europe and Asia, experienced a steady growth of homeopathic teachings and interest.

Today, nearly all French pharmacies sell homeopathic remedies and medicines; and homeopathy has a particularly strong following in Russia, India, Switzerland, Mexico, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, England, and South America.

The British Royal Family has had a very faithful adherence to homeopathy as their preferred form of medical treatment. Monarchs from Queen Adelaide in the 18th century to Queen Elizabeth II today have kept the ranks of many homeopathic physicians in their presence.

Homeopathy is also rising again in the United States. This resurgence has been documented by the National Center for Homeopathy in Virginia, which stated that Americans spent 230 million dollars on homeopathic remedies in 1996. It has also been said that sales are rising rapidly at about 12 – 15% each year.


Whole Health Now

Jane Tara Cicchetti, CCH

Dana Ullman, the Huffington Post