History of Homeopathy
Homeopathy became spectacularly popular in the United States and Europe in the 1800s and its strongest advocates included European royalty, American entrepreneurs, literary giants, and religious leaders. But at the time that it was gaining widespread popularity, it became the object of deep-seated animosity and vigilant opposition from establishment medicine.
The history of homeopathy begins with the discoveries of its founder Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), a German physician. Hahnemann first coined the word “homeopathy” (“homoios” in Greek means similar, “pathos” means suffering) to refer to the pharmacological principle, the law of similars, that is its basis. Actually, the law of similars was previously described by Hippocrates and Paracelsus and was utilized by many cultures, including the Mayans, Chinese, Greeks, Native American Indians, and Asian Indians (1), but it was Hahnemann who codified the law of similars into a systematic medical science. Its origin stems from Hippocrates, (460-370 BC ) who said:
“Through the like, disease is produced, and through the application of the like it is cured.”
Dr. Hahnemann and his Work
Samuel Hahnemann Monument, Washington D.C. “Similia Similibus Curentur” – Like cures Like
Of German descent, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann was a brilliant doctor and chemist who lived at the end of the 18th century. As a doctor trained in the methods of the day, he became frustrated at the barbaric medical practices used on patients at the time. He spent much of his time translating medical texts and it was during this process he noticed that the substance “Peruvian Bark” or “Cinchona,” was listed as causing symptoms such as numbness of extremities, anxiety, intermittent fevers, similar to symptoms of Malaria, which was used at the time to treat malaria.
Upon reading this information, Dr. Hahnemann decided to “test” or “prove” Cinchona bark on himself. With strict instructions given to his wife to follow in the process, he proceeded to take small amounts of the bark to see what the results would be. As he surmised, the symptoms of malaria appeared in himself and he became quite sick. Once the experiment was over, and having stopped taking the bark, his health returned to normal. Upon the results of this “test,” or “proving” he determined that if a healthy person, such as himself took Cinchona bark and produced symptoms of Malaria, then perhaps when a sick person, exhibiting the symptoms of malaria, took Cinchona bark, he would become well.
It wasn’t long before he was able to “prove” his hypothesis and through his careful and deliberate study, he began to test other substances to see what symptoms they produced. At every turn in his work, he kept copious notes recording symptoms, physical, emotional and mental.
Because of his exhaustive work experimenting with different substances he eventually came to this foundational statement which forms the basis of Homeopathy:
“Any substance which produces specific toxic symptoms in a healthy person, when given in its full strength form, will cure a sick person with those same symptoms in a very diluted form.”
– Dr. Samuel Hahnemann
Dr. Constantine Hering (1800-1880)
Constantine Hering was also a major contributor to the furtherance of Homeopathy in the world. Originally setting out to disprove Homeopathy as an illegitimate method of medicine, he became “converted” when he was treated for a wound that had become inflamed and seriously infected. Homeopathy was used to treat the wound and he became an ardent supporter of the new field of medicine.
He went on to become very influential in the study of Homeopathic methods and remedies and eventually, after moving to the United States became known for making significant contributions to the field. Through his work, the foundational principles of Homeopathy were expanded:
• Healing progresses from within toward without; from the deepest level, (mental and emotional) to external (skin and extremities)
• Healing progresses in reverse order of the original appearance
• Healing progresses from above down; from upper parts of the body to lower parts.
The combined work of Drs. Samuel Hahnemann and Constantine Hering together embody the foundational basis of Classical Homeopathy as we know it today.
Together their work represents the classical approach to the ever expanding study of Homeopathy.
“The power of gentleness is magnificent.”
– Constantine Hering