How and where was Homoeopathy discovered?

The medical scenario in 18th century Europe comprised of a plethora of theories and hypothesis as early doctors were busy finding the nature, cause of disease, etc. None of these theories were exact, and there was no fixed principle of cure  known.

The discovery of Homeopathy dates back to the year 1790 and its credit goes to Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician and scholar. Cullen, a professor of medicine at London University had written 20 pages of materia medica describing the medicinal effects of a certain Peruvian bark (cinchona) in his paper.

 Dr. Hahnemann was translating Cullen’s materia medica from English to German. He came across a statement that cinchona cures intermittent fever because of its bitter and astringent properties and was dissatisfied with this explanation because there are many bitter substances which do not produce intermittent fever like cinchona. As a young doctor, he was curious to know the action of cinchona.

So, Dr. Hahnemann decided to take cinchona in the form of medicine everyday and consumed four drams of cinchona twice a day. To his astonishment, he experienced the same medicinal effects of cinchona as described by Cullen. Thus, a medicinal substance was being taken, or drug proving on humans was done – for the first time in medicine.

From 1790 to 1796, for six long years, Dr. Hahnemann repeated such experiments on himself, healthy individuals and fellow doctors. In every experiment, he found the same result and that, ‘medicines cure diseases because they produce similar diseases in healthy individuals’ or ‘like cures like’.

So in 1796, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann put forward these findings in a popular journal during that time, ‘An Essay on New Principle for ascertaining the Curative Powers of Drugs and Some Examinations of Previous Principles’.  He published this newly found doctrine of cure i.e. Similia Similibus Curentur or ‘like cures like’. These findings were published in Hufeland’s Journal vol. II, parts 3 and 4. 

 Dr. Hahnemann wasn’t the first to state the law of similars or like cures like. In fact, the founder of modern medicine, Hippocrates was the first person to mention this law. But Dr. Hahnemann was the first to apply this law to therapeutics & medicine and develop a new science of medical treatment – ‘Homoeopathy’, as we know today.

Thus, cinchona bark was to Dr. Hahnemann just as the pendulum was to Galileo and the falling apple was to Sir Isaac Newton.

Interestingly, Dr. Hahnemann also coined the term ‘allopathy’, a very popular system of treatment, which means ‘treatment by opposites’. 

  • Mention the cardinal principles of Homoeopathy.
  • Homoeopathy is a well established science and every science has certain fundamental and guiding principles, these fundamental principles are known as Cardinal Principles of Homoeopathy.
  • Dr. Hahnemann made his first attempt to formulate these principles in his article in 1805 titled ‘Medicine of Experience’. Then, later on for a few years upto 1810 he worked in perfecting these guidelines and published them in his manual ‘Organon of Medicine’.
  • The cardinal principles are 7 in number; they give Homeopathic system of medicine its scientific footing and establishment.
  • Similia Similibus curentur or like cures like: Homeopathy (Gr. homoeos = similar, pathos = suffering) is a scientific system of medicine based on the law of similars, ie similia similibus curentur or ‘symptom-similarity’.
  • Dr. Hahnemann derived this law after proving drugs on him and concluded that disease curing powers of a drug are the same as disease producing powers.
  • This law states that, medicine should have the potential to produce most similar symptoms of the disease to be cured in a healthy person. Dr. Hahnemann, by scientific thinking and keen sense of observation applied it to medicine and discovered Homoeopathy.
  • Law of simplex or single remedies: The law of simplex or single remedies is the 2nd cardinal principal of Homoeopathy. Dr. Hahnemann during his time proved crude substances known as ‘drugs’ on himself and he insists only one, single, medicine is to be prescribed to the patient at a time.
  • This is because only one medicine is the most similar, homoeopathic medicines are proved singly and materia medica comprises of single remedy provings; if multiple remedies are given at a single time, synergistic action is observed in patient making it difficult for further prescribing.
  • Law of minimum dose: This law states that the single remedy to be given should be given in the least potency and repetition. Minimum dose is that dose which is just required to evoke a reaction in the patient. It is that quantity which is just sufficient to produce a gentle remedial effect and medicinal relief.
  • The law of minimum dose has its own advantages, like it avoids undue medicinal aggravation, there’s no risk of unwanted side-effects, symptom-similarity is maintained and toxic effect on the patient is minimal. Recently, this concept of minimum dose has been proven and verified by Arndt-Schultz law.
  • Doctrine of Drug Proving: Dr. Hahnemann proved 99 drugs and recorded their provings in Materia Medica Pura (volumes 6). The first volume was published in 1811 and last expanded was published in 1827. It consists of provings or ‘symptoms’ written by Dr. Hahnemann in his own words, and they have been documented as they appeared during the day.
  • Drug proving is the systemic investigation of pathogenetic powers of a drug/medicine on healthy human beings of different ages, both sexes, under all climatic conditions, at all times in all medicinal potencies. The 6 volumes of Pura contain more than 3000 symptoms.
  • Dr. Hahnemann recommended drug proving on healthy human beings. This is because subjective or mental symptoms are known in the language of the patient, and symptoms of drug and disease are different. Thus, the materia medica of Homeopathy contains pure effects of medicine on the human beings.
  • Doctrine of Chronic Diseases: Dr. Hahnemann after practicing Homoeopathy for 12 years, observed that in spite of prescribing correct medicines to his patients; the patient complained of partial relief, no relief, mixed pattern of relief and recurrence of symptoms.
  • He further studied the trend of symptoms, diseases and established the Doctrine of Chronic Diseases and further postulated that ‘miasms’ or certain ‘polluting factors’ were responsible for causing them.
  • The three single miasms are Psora (the itch, real cause of all type of chronic diseases), Sycosis (the gonorrhoeal, venereal fig-wart disease characterised by warts) and Syphilis (venereal chancre disease, characterised by ulceration).
  • Doctrine of Vital Force: Homoeopathy advocates the presence of an invisible power ie vital force present in all human beings and when this force becomes disturbed or deranged due to various causative factors, man becomes sick or diseased. Thus, homoeopathy states the importance of mind + body + spirit (vital force) in medicine.
  • Vital force is unique to Homoeopathy and it has the following qualities, spiritual, autocratic, automatic, dynamic and unintelligent and it animates the human body in health and disease.
  • In healthy conditions, the vital force maintains and sustains all normal functioning in human being and medicines are said to act upon this vital force, thus deranging it from healthy to sick (disease) and from sick to healthy while on homoeopathic medicine.
  • Doctrine of Drug Dynamization: This theory is also known as doctrine of drug potentization. The potentization process is found only in homoeopathy and remedial properties which are latent, hidden in drug substances become awakened and are developed into activity. It is by this process that inert crude medicinal powers exert their cure on the deranged vital force.
  • Crude substances (drugs) are potentized by using 2 methods, namely trituration (for insoluble substances) and succussion (for soluble substances). The benefits of potentization are numerous:
  • Potentization ensures deeper, broadened medicinal action
  • Latent powers of medicine are translated into beneficial curative powers
  • By potentization, medicines acquire dynamic power and restore the deranged vital force to normalcy
  • Inert, dull substances are rendered effective and converted into effective medicines
  • Poisonous substances lose their toxicity
  • There are 3 scales of potentization namely, decimal scale, centesimal scale and 50 millesimal scale.