Usually, when one spells ‘Homeopathy’, everyone thinks it is a German native medicine. Actually, it is not i.e., even though a German gave birth to Homeopathy, it is not traditionally practised over there (i.e., not like Ayurveda in India or Siddha in Tamil Nadu or acupuncture in China). It had evolved with scientific principles as a medical advancement in the hands of an allopath who abandoned medical practice because of his inability to heal his patients wholly or permanently by the methods of his era.
‘Homeopathy’ as a medical science was discovered by Dr Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, in 1790. Homeopathy, because of its safe, effective, permanent cure and non-violent approach in treatment, has spread all over the world. Even though many things played a role in the evolution and progress of Homeopathy, mainly two diseases helped Homeopathy to become popular in a big way:
Malaria – which helped for its birth and to postulate law of cures
Cholera – which showed the world the effectiveness of Homeopathy and thus helped its growth and spread.
(I hope this is not out of place to inform everyone that recently chikungunya had created a lot of awareness about Homeopathy for its effective and safe treatment. Many patients, who came to Homeopathy suffering from chikungunya complaints, now love to avail of homeopathic treatment for their other ailments too. Further, after their experience with smooth homeopathic approach and its nil side-effects, they recommend Homeopathy to their family also.)
Discovery of Homeopathy
The first inspiration for Homeopathy came to Dr Hahnemann in 1790, while he indulged in the translation of ‘A Treatise on the Materia Medica’, written by Scottish physician William Cullen. Here Cullen commented about the action of cinchona bark (quinine) in curing malaria/intermittent fevers as a remedy for agues and fevers because of its astringency. As a falling apple ignited Newton’s mind, Cullen’s comment on cinchona bark for malaria ignited Dr Hahnemann’s to discover Homeopathy.
Dr Hahnemann presumed that cinchona bark would have special characteristics against malaria since other astringent substances, which even have more astringency than cinchona bark, are in no way effective against malaria. He came up with the idea of ascertaining the action of the drugs which were claimed to be specific for that. He began to research on cinchona bark by self-administration.
He consumed 4 drahms of cinchona bark extract and analysed the development of toxic symptoms in his own body. He developed drowsiness, palpitations, fever, headache, skin rashes, extreme prostration, thirst with cold extremities and tremors. He suspects he developed symptoms similar to that of malaria. He finally concluded that cinchona bark is effective against malaria because of its capability of producing the same set of symptoms. Then, he slowly diluted the substances to reduce the toxicity, adjust the dose and combat the side-effects. He tried and confirmed the same with other medicinal substances and diseases.
With this fundamental, he postulates the law of cure, i.e., Similia Similibus Curentur – which means that ‘Let likes be treated by likes’. As a sufferer happened to have ‘similar sufferings’ during treatment, he coined the name ‘Homeopathy’ to describe the approach to healing. In Greek – homos means similar + pathos means suffering.
In 1831, during the outbreak of cholera epidemic, Hahnemann experienced one great triumph as a homeopathic practitioner. His way of approach and treatment helped in countless number of cases with simple medications. Effectiveness of Homeopathy in treating and controlling cholera created a lot of awareness about Homeopathy all over the world. By then, Dr Hahnemann had published several papers on the ‘Cure of the Asian Cholera’.
Further, one can recognise well the development of Homeopathy when they study the life history of Dr Hahnemann.
Life history of Dr Hahnemann
Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of Homeopathy, was born in Meissen, Saxony, in Germany, on April 10, 1755. He was born in a poor family and his father was a painter and designer of porcelain.
Hahnemann had done his schooling in the public school at Meissen. Then he got admitted to the University of Leipsic for higher studies. Financial hardship forced him to stop his studies thrice, but it could not stop him from coming out with flying colours as he was learning languages all the time. His unquenchable interest to learn languages and science led him to become popular. He became proficient in many languages like English, French, Italian, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Syriac, Chaldaic, Hebrew, etc. He came to Vienna for his medical graduation. Finally, he got his M.D in Erlanger in 1779 by submitting a thesis on ‘A consideration of the etiology and therapeutics of spasmodic affections’. Then he started his first medical practice at Hettstadt.
In 1781, Hahnemann started medical practice in the copper mining area of Mansfeld, Saxony. From there he moved to Dessau where he married Johanna Henriette Kuchler and eventually had 11 children. In spite of practising the world’s noblest profession, he was felt dejected because of his inability to heal his patients wholly or permanently. Medical treatment during his time also remained as torments with everlasting laxatives, leeches, cupping and strange treatments which continuously varied like fashion. Every imagination had been used and applied in the case of the deceased. Further, he claimed that the medicine of his time did as much harm as good. So, he abandoned his practice by 1784 and took the position of writer and translator of scientific and medical textbooks. Now, he was able to learn a wide variety of subjects from different authors. While translating books, he used to interpret the idea of the author with his thoughts and thus became a bigger genius and then a great revolution happened in the world of medicine.
In ancient days, Hippocrates’ (460 BC) contributions revolutionised the practice of medicine. Even though Hippocrates was born in a family of priest-physicians that inherits all traditions and prejudices, he was the first to dissociate medicine from priest craft, and to set the base for practise of medicine on the principles of inductive philosophy. Hence, he is called the ‘Father of Medicine’. Hippocratic medicine was humble and passive. Even now his oath (Hippocratic Oath) serves as the foundation for good medical practice and morals. His therapeutic approach was based on “the healing power of nature” (vis medicatrix naturae in Latin). According to his doctrine, the body contains within itself the power to re-balance the four humours and heal itself. The four humours he mentioned are blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm. His treatise ‘Air, Water and Place’ are the first enunciation of the principles of public health. He also placed great dependence on diet and regimen. He made people realise that diseases are not a punishment inflicted by the gods but rather the product of environmental factors, diet and living habits. Finally, after observing Nature, Hippocrates concluded that there are two possible ways of curing, i.e., by the contraries and similars. After his death, the advancement stalled. Hahnemann acknowledged his debt to Hippocrates for his principles and made another great revolution in medicine to lead it on the right path with principles to advance further.
Homeopathy – a healing art – came as a great gift of god from the hands of Dr Hahnemann. Being smart with this art, Dr Hahnemann resumed his medical practice with great healing touch to obtain cure in most cases. He not only discovered Homeopathy, but also regularised all the systems of medicines with basic principles (by way of their actions). Further, he is not only remembered as the founder of Homeopathy but also remembered by all modern/Western physicians, too, since he was the one named their system as ‘Allopathy’ which means ‘other sufferings’ (in Greek, ‘allos’ means for ‘other’ and ‘pathy’ means ‘sufferings’).
Histories of many men who have risen to eminence in science teach us that they had experienced most unfavourable circumstances in life and in spite of the obstacles thrown in their way by fortune and by their own natural guardians, they emerged with flying colours because of their hard work. Dr Hahnemann belonged to this class of great men.
As he abandoned his medical practice in 1784, he devoted himself to chemistry, literature and translation. In 1790, he happened to translate Cullen’s Materia Medica ‘A Treatise on the Materia Medica’.
Here author William Cullen commented about the action of cinchona bark (quinine) in curing malaria/intermittent fevers as a remedy for agues and fevers because of its astringency. Dr Hahnemann presumed that cinchona bark should have special characteristics against malaria since other astringent substances which even have more astringency are in no way effective against malaria. He began to research on cinchona bark by self administration and discovered the fever producing property of the cinchona bark. As falling apple ignited Newton, Cullen’s comment on cinchona bark for malaria ignited Dr Hahnemann’s to discover Homeopathy.
With his research, he found that medicinal substances have more peculiar and striking effects with their symptom presentations. He then contented himself for years with making a collection of morbid effects of various poisonous and medicinal substances. He recorded everything carefully and published everything in Hufeland’s journal as ‘Essay on a new principle for ascertaining the remedial powers of medicinal substances’, in 1796. In that, he modestly explained that at the least for curing chronic complaints, medicines should have the power of producing similar affections in a healthy body. Further, he attempted to explore dilutions of the compounds by succussion (systematic mixing through vigorous shaking) and potentisation and proved that they still have the effectiveness in alleviating the same symptoms in the sick even after being highly diluted.
In 1806, he layed foundation for his system of medicine, i.e., he published the first sketch of a Pure Materia Medica in Latin. Following Lord Bacon’s (1571-1626 AD) ‘Novum Organum’ inductive methods and philosophy for reconstructing and advancement of science, he recognised “science persists in the method and not in the thing”. Further, he learnt more about science and philosophy as follows: “Every science begins as philosophy and ends as art, i.e., it arises in hypothesis and flows into achievements. Science describes and philosophy interprets. Science in the widest sense includes science proper and philosophy. Science proper includes exact knowledge of facts, laws and proximate causes whereas philosophy provides rational explanation and interpretation with facts. Science aims at precision and exactitude of knowledge and philosophy aims at comprehensiveness and wholeness”.
Understanding all the facts, Dr Hahnemann constructed Homeopathy as a rational science with rational philosophy as foundation and published the first edition of his immortal ‘Organon’ in aphoristic style as an amplification and extension of his medicine of experience in 1810. In later years, he published further editions, each with great additions and careful revisions. He then wrote a number of books and essays on the homeopathic method, chemistry and general medicine.
All the time, he faced a lot of criticism but as he was very clear with his philosophy and science with experiments. He resumed his practice confidently with his new art of healing – Homeopathy. Even after that, he had only little opportunity to test his ideas by practice in Leipzic because of his poverty and necessity to provide for daily wants of his children. Every time he leaned upon translation work for winning his bread.
Then he moved to Konigslutter. By that time, there was an epidemic of scarlet fever. As he had already tested belladonna and knew its power to produce a state similar to the first stage of scarlet fever, he believed that it would not only be a curative but should also be a preventive.
On that occasion, accidently, he found in a family of four children, three was sickened with disease whereas the fourth escaped because of taking belladonna for finger joint affections. To confirm this prophylactic power, he made a test in a family of eight children, three were affected with the epidemic and he immediately gave belladonna in small doses to the remaining five children and as they escaped the disease in spite of their constant exposure to the disease. On proving the prophylactic power of belladonna, he announced it as ‘Genus Epidemicus’. This discovery of the genius saved many lives and he received a lot of blessings. Soon, Homeopathy started attracted many followers among physicians of his day and it started to spread throughout Europe and abroad.
Further, in 1831, during the outbreak of a cholera epidemic, Hahnemann experienced one great triumph as a homeopathic practitioner. His approach and treatment helped in countless cases with simple medications. The effectiveness of Homeopathy in treating and controlling cholera created a lot of awareness about the system of medicine all over the world. By that time, Dr Hahnemann had published several papers on the ‘Cure of the Asian cholera’.
Dr Hahnemann then travelled around Saxony for many years, settling in Dresden, Torgau, Leipzig and Coethen at different times. While he was in Coethen, in 1830, he lost his wife. His habits of study, contemplation and observation of nature halted there which was again motivated by Mille Melanie in 1835. Her influence ended in the second marriage of Dr Hahnemann in his 80th year. He finally moved to Paris in 1835 with his new, elegant wife. He survived there for eight years with lot of honours.
After having a long career as a true medical practitioner, Dr Hahnemann, at the age of 88, fell ill with bronchitis and died on July 2, 1843 in Paris. His embalmed body was buried in the cemetery of Montmartre. In 1898, his body was moved to the “Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise” among ‘The immortals of France’, where a monument was raised on his grave in 1900.