Alternative Medicine: Homeopathic Medicine (Homeopathy)

Alternative Medicine


Homeopathic Medicine

Homeopathy (homœopathy) is the most recently evolved system of alternative medicine. It was developed by Samuel Hahnemann, a German phycisian of orthodox medicine, who in 1810 published his treatise called the "Organon of rational therapeutics". The sixth edition, published in 1921, is still used today as homeopathy's basic text.

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Homeopathic Medicine (Homeopathy)

The History of Homeopathy

Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843)
Samuel Hahnemann was a German physician who earned his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1779 and over the course of a 60 year medical career, became known as the Father of Homoeopathy.

Medicine in the 18th and 19th Centuries
At the time of his graduation, science was still in its infancy, although advances were seen in the fields of chemistry, physics, physiology and anatomy.

However, the clinical practice of medicine at the time was based upon the philosophy of the 'Heroic Approach', was rife with superstition and lack of scientific rigor. According to the principles of the Heroic Approach, the treatments of the day often lacked a rational basis and included purging and emesis, bleeding, application of blistering plasters and use of poisons such as Arsenic. These clinical approaches were more harmful than helpful. Hahnemann recognized this and wrote several papers that were highly critical of the practices of the time.

Testing the way in which medicines worked in those days was limited by the technology available and explanations of how medicines worked were most often difficult to justify scientifically.

Hahnemann the Scientist
Hahnemann was struck by one particular explanation of the mechanism of action of a herbal remedy used to treat malaria: Cinchona bark (also known as Peruvian bark) was said to strengthen the stomach and in this way overcome malaria. Being a scientist, Hahnemann decided to test this hypothesis.

After taking "four good drams of Peruvian bark, twice a day for several days" to attempt to characterize the action of the quinine-containing bark, Hahnemann reported that he began to develop symptoms identical to those of malaria.

He concluded from this experience that effective drugs will produce sypmtoms in healthy people, similar to the disease they are used to treat. Thus, the principle known as the "Law of Similars" (like cures like) was developed and the term Homeopathy, which means "similar suffering", was coined.

Hahnemann and like-minded colleagues began to test various substances to determine the types of symptoms they produced and thus the diseases that the drugs would be useful to treat.

The Magic of the Minimum Dose

Hahnemann reasoned that if therapeutic doses of particular drugs produced obvious symptoms, then those drugs would be inappropriate to treatment diseases with the same symptoms. To overcome such reactions, Hahnemann recommended reduction of the therapeutic dose to infinitely small doses. This was done by reducing the concentration of the therapeutic substances by ten or hundred fold by diluting them in alcohol or in lactose (milk sugar).

The results of Hahnemann's experimentation was compiled into a book called "The Organon of Rational Therapeutics", first published in 1810 and it is still used today as a basic text in homeopathic practice.

The Popularity of Homoeopathic Medicine

The outcomes of Homeopathic treatment were often far better than those experiencd by patients under going allopathic treatment, probably as a result of the non-toxic nature of homeopathic remedies. This resulted in a demand that originated from the general public and medical practitioners alike, for improved medical treatment and led to the establishment of Homoeopathic Hospitals and Medical Schools all over Europe.

In response to the success of Homoeopathy and scientific advances in medicine, improvement in allopathic medical treatments increased and by the early part of the twentieth century, use of Homeopathy began to decline. The last pure Homeopathic Medical Cchool in the U.S. closed in 1920, although the Hahnemann Medical School in Philadelphia continued to offer homeopathic electives until the 1940's.

Homeopathy enjoyed a resurgence in the US in the 1960's and 1970's as the public took a greater interest in holistic and natural approaches to medicine and remains a viable option for treatment of many diseases.

Samuel Hahnemann practiced Homeopathic Medicine for almost 50 years until his death in 1843.

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