History and Future
Homeopathy is a system of medicine developed by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann in the 1800s. Homeopathy treats an illness, disease or chronic condition with minute doses of medicines derived from natural substances. I will begin with the rich history of this healing modality and its deep roots in our nation and in the world.
Dr. Hahnemann (1755-1843) was a German physician who became disillusioned with the practice of medicine in part because, in an era where blood-letting and the use of various medicinal poisons were common, felt that there was more harm being done than good.
“My sense of duty would not easily allow me to treat the unknown pathological state of my suffering brethren with these unknown medicines. The thought of becoming in this way a murderer or malefactor towards the life of my fellow human beings was most terrible to me, so terrible and disturbing that I wholly gave up my practice and occupied myself solely with chemistry and writing.”
He quit practicing medicine, but still had a family to feed, so he went to work as a linguist. One of the translations he was working on stated that malaria was cured by the bitterness of quinine.
Convinced that this theory was wrong, Dr. Hahnemann took several doses of Peruvian bark- the natural source of quinine. And he came down with the symptoms of malaria. This is called “proving” a substance—when it causes the same illness in a healthy person that it heals in a sick person.
This experiment showed that natural substances can change the state of people’s health, just as diseases do: Peruvian bark changed Hahnemann’s state of health in the same way that malaria would.
From this, Hahnemann discovered that Peruvian bark (also known as China or Cinchona) could cure malaria. He tested hundreds of other natural substances (animal, mineral and vegetable) and proved that treating a disease with a substance that produced similar symptoms to that disease in an otherwise healthy person, would cure that disease. “Like will cure like = The Law of Similars”
Dr. Hahnemann was testing the Law of Similars, which was first discovered by the Greek physician Hippocrates, over 2,000 years earlier. He continued his experiments with other substances made from a variety of botanical and mineral sources. He created a pharmacy of remedies, capable of healing many illnesses and diseases.
He called his discovery “Homeopathy,” and promoted Classical Homeopathy, where one single medicine closely mirroring the patient’s state of illness was used to treat their physical, emotional and mental ailments.
Dr. Hahnemann concluded that a person’s illness is nothing more than a change in their overall state of health, rather than a disease afflicting a single part or physiological system. And the homeopathic remedies worked equally well for both viral and bacterial infections.
Homeopathy Around the World
In 1801, homeopathic medicine was used for the wide-scale scarlet fever epidemic. Hahnemann observed that a child treated with homeopathic belladonna resisted scarlet fever even when all of their siblings were affected, and he found homeopathic medicine to be protective, even in the fact of a 90% illness rate among the untreated.
This wasn’t the only epidemic where homeopathy made a difference.
During the 1830 cholera epidemics, homeopathic doctors had a 80% success rate compared to a 50% recovery rate for conventional doctors. Camphor (dissolved in alcohol) was also successfully used to treat cholera epidemics in Naples, 1854-1855.
Today, the use of Homeopathy is widespread in Europe.
In England, the Royal Family has had Homeopathic Physicians since the 1830’s. And 45% of the conventional doctors refer patients to homeopaths. It is covered by their governmental insurance.
In France, where homeopathy is also covered by national health care. It is also widely used in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Mahatma Gandhi’s use of homeopathy helped it to be widely accepted.
30% of the people in France use homeopathy and homeopathy is also covered by governmental insurance.
“Homeopathy cures a greater percentage of cases than any other method of treatment. Homeopathy is… the method of treating patients economically and non-violently.” – M. Gandhi
India has 120 homeopathic medical schools and over 100,000 practitioners.
Homeopathy’s Importance in the US
Homeopathy has been practiced in the United States for over 175 years. In 1850, a homeopathic college was founded in Ohio because of the homeopathic success rates during the cholera epidemics in the United States. Educated doctors abandoned bloodletting and began using homeopathic remedies as a safe and more effective treatment against yellow fever, typhoid, and scarlet fever.
By 1900, 100 homeopathic hospitals existed in the United States and there were 22 homeopathic medical schools with over 1,000 homeopathic pharmacies.
In fact, President McKinley had a monument of Dr. Hahnemann erected in Washington DC in 1900, where it stands today.
In the early 1900s, the American Medical Association (AMA) developed its strong hold in medicine.
In fact, the AMA formed in 1847 specifically to discredit homeopathy.
Because homeopathic medicines are diluted with water until only the energy of the original substance is left. This concept that substances can leave energy behind even when they are no longer present caused much doubt, skepticism, and even anger in medical and scientific fields.
However, all homeopathic medicines have been verified experimentally and clinically. They are prepared to precise standards, which are FDA regulated.
In addition to the AMA, in 1910 the Carnegie Foundation issued a report sanctioning allopathic medical schools while condemning homeopathic schools. With newer medicines and $350 million being poured into allopathic medicine and hospitals by John D. Rockefeller, homeopathic schools began to close due to lack of support.
So there was a steady decline in the US from 1920s into the 1960s. Hahnemann College of Medicine was the last homeopathic medical school to close.
The Future: Where are we headed?
Homeopathy’s popularity in the US is increasing among those eager to take a proactive approach to their own wellness.
More people today than ever have heard of homeopathy.
But there is some confusion because the term homeopathic has been used inaccurately, as somewhat of a catch-all-phrase for describing a natural alternative supplement or process of healing.
But homeopathic medicine is a very specific organized system of medicine whose medicines are under FDA regulation.
While there are many homeopathic schools in the US, the first homeopathic medical school in the US since the 1960s opened in Arizona in 1999–The American Medical College of Homeopathy, in Arizona.
As more people seek safe, natural and affordable tools for truly holistic wellness, interest in homeopathy continues to grow.