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Introduction to Homeopathy

by Ronald Steriti, ND, PhD

Homeopathy is a system of medicine that was developed by Sammuel Hahnemann in the 1800's. He was a German physician and researcher that became so frustrated with the medical treatments of his time that he closed his medical practice. While translating a book on herbal medicine he disagreed with the author who stated that the effectiveness of Cinchona bark (used to make Quinine) in treating malaria was due to it's extremely bitter taste. Hahnemann knew that there were many other bitter substances that were not effective against malaria. He then decided to take Cinchona bark as an experiment to prove his point. He then experienced alternating chills and fever which are the chracteristic symptoms of malaria. He reasoned that the effectiveness of Cinchona was because it caused the same symptoms in a healthy person that were characteristic of the disease. This is the first principle of homeopathy: "Like cures Like".

The other important principle is called a proving where a healthy people take the same homeopathy medicine and observe the effects. The provers record their experiences over several days which are then compiled and compared. In this way the homeopathic materia medica is built with characteristic symptoms of each remedy.

Hahnemann spent the next ten years developing a complete philosophy based upon his experiments. One of the main problems with medicinal substances used in his day (and with many modern drugs) is that most of them are poisonous. Hahnemann then began experiments in which he diluted the substances. He noticed that the effects became stronger and clearer than the crude substance. He also found that vigorous shaking between dilutions resulted in a stronger effect.

Homeopathy came to America in 1825 where it rapidly became the predominant system of medicine. The American Institute of Homeopathy, the oldest medical society in the United States, was formed in 1844. The first women's medical college in the world, the homeopathic Boston Female Medical College, was founded in 1848. In 1862 homeopaths controlled 110 homeopathy hospitals, 145 dispensaries, over 30 nursing homes, 62 orphan asylums and retirement homes, and 16 insane asylums in the United States.

Homeopathy proved to be a very effective medicine. In 1831 after a cholera epidemic in Austria statistics show that those with cholera who tried homeopathy had a mortality rate between 2.4 to 21.1%; whereas over 50% of those with cholera under conventional medical care died. In 1849 after a cholera epidemic in Cincinnati, two German homeopaths report that only 35 of 1,116 cases (3%) died compared with a 35-50% death rate with standard medical care. In 1879 after a yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans, the homeopaths report a death rate of 5.6% with 1,195 cases compared with a 16% death rate with standard medical care. In 1921 at the 77th Annual Convention of the AIH in Washington, DC Dr. T. A. McCann, from Dayton, Ohio reports that 24,000 cases of flu treated allopathically had a mortality rate of 28.2% while 26,000 cases of flu treated homeopathically had a mortality rate of 1.05%

The American Medical Society was formed in 1844 with the explicit goal of stopping the development of homeopathy. In 1855 the AMA establishes a code of ethics which asserted that orthodox physicians would lose their membership in the AMA if they even consulted with a homeopath or any other "non-regular" practitioner. Perhaps the most important reason that conventional physicians disliked homeopathy and homeopaths was well expressed at an AMA meeting by one of the more respected orthodox physicians who said, "We must admit that we never fought the homeopath on matters of principles; we fought him because he came into the community and got the business."

In 1910 the Carnegie Foundation published The Flexnor Report, an evaluation of American medical schools chaired by Abraham Flexner, in cooperation with leading members of the AMA. While pretending to be objective, the Report actually established guidelines meant to sanction orthodox medical schools and condemn homeopathic ones. The Report placed the highest value on those medical schools that had a full-time teaching faculty and those that taught a pathological and physiochemical analysis of the human body. Homeopathic colleges were faulted because of their preference for employing professors who were not simply teachers or researchers but also in clinical practice. Although homeopathic schools included many basic science courses, they also had courses in pharmacology which the Flexner Report did not consider worthwhile. As a result of the report, only graduates of those schools which received a high rating were allowed to take medical licensing exams. By 1918 only one homeopathic school remained open in the United States.

Homeopathy did however survive and flourish in other countries. Today here are over 120 four- or five-year homeopathic medical schools in India. Homeopathy is particularly popular in Great Britain where the Royal Family has been under homeopathic care since the 1830s.




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