Homeopathy is the system of medicine developed by German physician, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann. It is the second most practiced system of medicine in the world. The name ‘Homeopathy” comes from two Greek words that define its mode of action- ‘homeos’, which means similar, and ‘pathos’, which means suffering. Homeopathy treats ailments with substances that produce effects in healthy people similar to the ailment they are trying to cure. Homeopathics work on the Law of Similars, which is commonly referred to as “like cures like.” In layman’s terms, to correct undesirable symptoms requires prescribing substances that in a healthy person would cause those same symptoms.
At first, it may seem absolutely crazy to prescribe substances that cause the symptoms they are trying to cure; but consider that in the 200-plus years since homeopathy was born, millions of people have had positive results from homeopathy doing just that.
It also helps to understand that homeopathy was created during a dark time in the practice of medicine. In the late 1700’s mainstream medicine was unregulated, and some of its practices were more harmful than helpful. For instance, you might be treated with toxic concoctions of lead, mercury or arsenic. Bloodletting, purging and blistering were common place. For many, the cure ended up being worse than the illness, and many people died from the treatment rather than the disease.
Dr. Samuel Hahnemann began his study of medicine during this dark period. After establishing his first practice, his writings show he was becoming steadily disillusioned with the current medical practices of the day. He became concerned because he was unable to alleviate the suffering of his patients, and in some cases worried he might be harming them further. Because of this, he gave up his practice in 1790.
After giving up his practice he supported himself by doing translations of medical and scientific texts into German. This activity proved fateful when he read about using Chinchona Bark to treat malaria (Quinine is derived from Chinchona Bark). He was curious why Chinchona specifically was effective, and out of that natural curiosity he decided to conduct an experiment. He took Chinchona Bark and discovered that it produced malaria-like symptoms in himself. Every time he repeated the dose, the symptoms would return. Hahnemann then began to ponder if in fact Chinchona Bark worked on malaria sufferers because it produced malaria like symptoms in healthy persons.
Over the next many years, Hahnemann experimented with various substances on himself, and others and in each case they produced the symptoms in a healthy person that they could treat in a sick person. This was nothing short of a revolution in thinking! After he had a large enough body of evidence, he released his findings to the scientific community. This was the birth of homeopathy.
Jana Taylor is a staff writer for Liddell Laboratories.