History of Homeopathy
Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1853), a German physician, chemist, and researcher is the founder of Homeopathy.
Hahnemann became curious about the healing effects of Peruvian bark, a treatment for malaria, and tested it on himself by taking repeated doses. He developed symptoms like those of malaria and hypothesized that the bark’s ability to cure was related to its ability to produce symptoms similar to the disease (known as the principle of similars). This was the beginning of Hahnemann’s quest to find an alternative to the dangerous and ineffective treatment methods of the late eighteenth century.
Dr. Hahnemann left traditional medicine and began to experiment with the principle of similars. Over the next 20 years, he tested mineral, vegetable, and animal substances on himself and other healthy subjects and meticulously recorded the effects he observed. These drug provings became the foundation for his encyclopedia on drug effects, the Materia Medica, still used by homeopaths today to match remedies with physical and psychological symptoms in patients.
In 1810, Hahnemann published the first text on homeopathy, The Organon, which he updated throughout his life with what he and his colleagues learned from decades of experience.
Homeopathy became very popular and spread quickly because it proved so effective compared to the conventional treatments in use in the mid-1800′s. It was especially superior in treating infectious epidemics. For example, during the London cholera epidemic in 1854, the mortality rate was 50 percent for patients treated in conventional hospitals, compared with 16 percent for those treated in the homeopathic hospital.
Homeopathy in America
Some of Hahnemann’s followers translated his Organon into English and moved to the United States. Homeopathy’s popularity, as well as the criticisms by homeopaths of traditional allopathic philosophy and practices, particularly suppressive drugs, posed a threat to “orthodox” medicine. When the American Medical Association was founded in 1846, it was able to forbid the study or use of homeopathy in all its schools and by all its members. This contributed greatly to homeopathy’s decline in the U.S.
By 1890, there were 60 homeopathic medical colleges in the U.S. and the President of the United States had his own homeopathic doctor on staff.
Over the past few decades, the use of homeopathy has steadily grown around the world as the limitations of conventional medicine have become apparent and people have become more trusting of alternative approaches. Britain, France, Germany, India and Israel all have very strong homeopathic colleges, hospitals and clinics. Homeopathy is used by some 30 million people in Europe alone! In many countries, insurance coverage is routine and many physicians practice both homeopathy and conventional medicine.
Homeopathy is experiencing a revival in the U.S. as people have become dissatisfied with conventional medicine’s lack of individualized treatment and less confident in its safety and effectiveness in treating common illnesses.