Words of Wisdom

First, do no harm. Hippocrates





Samuel Hahnemann, M.D. (1755-1843) is considered to be the Father of Homeopathy. As a youth in Meissen, Germany, he was required to do a lot of study on his own because the frequency of wars disrupting his country did not allow for a consistent course of study at a university. This ability to learn on his own served him well in later life. At the age of twenty, he entered medical school in Leipzig, earning money by translating scientific and medical texts; he had knowledge of several languages including Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic.

Even in school, he found the medical procedures of the day such as bloodletting, mercurialization and venesection quite drastic. After being in practice for a few years, he realized that he was probably doing more harm than good for his patients, and decided that they would heal better on their own. Taking the advice in Hippocrates' writings, he stressed good nutrition and hygiene to his patients long before medical science became aware of germs and antiseptics.

By 1790, at the age of 35, Hahnemann was so disgusted with the medical profession, that he gave up his practice. To earn money, he fell back on his ability to translate medical texts and it while pursuing this career that he translated a popular medical text titled the "Treatise on Materia Medica", by a Scottish professor, William Cullen. In this book, Cullen proposed that Cinchona Bark, the source of quinine, which was used even in those day to treat malaria, worked because of its tonic action on the stomach. Hahnemann found this ludicrous and decided to test a statement that Hippocrates had made: cure could be brought about through the action of "similars", prescribing a medicine that creates in healthy people the same symptoms as those experienced by the patient.

He decided to test this theory by ingesting Cinchona bark and noting the symptoms. He noticed that he experienced several of the symptoms of malaria except the actual fever. From then on he began experimenting with other medicinal substances of his day, giving them to healthy subjects to see what symptoms each substance would produce. He compiled his findings over the years and then finally went back into the practice of medicine a the age of 42, using the principle of "like cures like" as his therapeutic model.

Because several of the remedies he employed were quite poisonous, he began to dilute them to a greater and greater extent. Along with diluting the remedies, he would violently shake (succuss) them, which gave the remedies much greater therapeutic value without the negative side effects. He also formulated several other therapeutic principles including the use of a single remedy at a time and the use of the least amount of remedy needed to cure (the minimum dose). All these principles he laid out in his magnum opus on Homeopathy, the Organon, in 1810. He revised this text five times over the next thirty years.

Homeopathy spread throughout Europe and the Americas due initially to its great success in treating epidemic diseases such as cholera. It became so popular in the US that the AMA was actually created in the 1840's to combat this popularity. Even so, by the turn of the 19th Century, one out of every six physicians in the US considered himself a Homeopath. Several current US medical schools, such as Boston University and Hahnemann Medical College began as homeopathic medical schools. They were also the first medical schools to accept women.

Unfortunately, after the Flexner Report on Medical Education in 1910, the homeopathic medical schools were not fully accredited and switched to conventional (allopathic) medicine or were closed down. Today, the Naturopathic medical schools are the only medical schools in the US which have a Homeopathic course of study.

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