A German medical practitioner Samuel Hahnemman developed the stream of medicine known as homeopathy during the end of the 18th century and since then homeopathic remedies have been effective in treating innumerable people suffering from various conditions for over 200 years now. Homeopathic remedies have proved to be effective for acute (severe and sudden) as well as chronic (enduring or persistent) ailments. Nevertheless, till today, homeopathy is considered to be an ‘alternative’ system of medicine and is, occasionally, seen with some amount of mistrust. This is in spite of the fact that a number of theories concerned with homeopathy have an exceptionally extensive as well as esteemed history.
When homeopathy was introduced, it was definitely a major secession from the manner in which people in Europe have been practicing medicine for several centuries. The way medicine was practiced in Europe was actually the culmination of the belief that promoted the use of leeches, regular blood-letting for nearly all ailments, cupping (making use of cups to pull blood to the surface) in combination with potent emetics (medication used to induce vomiting), cathartics (laxative medications) as well as different potent medicine prepared from vegetables and minerals. These so-called medications were frequently administered in exceptionally elevated doses as well as in difficult mixtures. Treatment with these medications might possibly take the life of the patients and also eliminate the disease.
Such questionable methods employed by his profession disgusted Dr. Hahnemann so much that he finally quit his job as a physician. He, nevertheless, remained profoundly interested in medical conjecture and discovered the homeopathic principle in 1790. The homeopathic principle founded by Hahnemann was based on the hypothesis that ‘like could be (and should be) cured by like’.
Till the fifth century B.C., when the world saw the beginning of rationalism (reason being the base of truth or action), people believed that ailments happened to human beings as a result of outside and mystic reasons. It is unfortunate that members of some primitive societies still extensively hold this belief. The general view was that people suffering from any type of ailment had actually upset the Gods, or were the prey to the curse of others, or the efforts of a wicked evil spirit. Moreover, they were of the belief that the patients could be cured only when the gods were appeased or the curse was taken away. According to them, practicing medicine to cure these patients was simply a supernatural art that could only be performed by any priest or a witch doctor.
The ancient Greek philosophers were first to realize that no mystical causes were essential to elucidate the disposition of human beings as well as the presence of diseases. Hippocrates, an early Greek medical practitioner who is regarded as the ‘father of medicine’, was responsible for developing this conjecture, practice as well as learning medicine into an art as well as a science. In fact, Hippocrates as well as other members belonging to his school of thought authored numerous texts on this subject. In their endeavor to enlighten people regarding wellbeing and illnesses, they espoused the theory of the four elements founded by the philosopher. These four elements existed in all things - the earth, water, air and fire. Conforming to this theory, they hypothesized that there existed four corporal humors - blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. According to them, any imbalance between these humors was apparent in the form of diseases. Moreover, the ability to re-establish the balance wrested with the physician.
While the entire world soon started following the way of medicine introduced by Hippocrates, the attitude towards medicine started undergoing a change following the development of Christianity. During the first century A.D., Erotian brought together a glossary for the terms introduced by Hippocrates and those belonging to his school of thought. He also compiled a glossary of the terms used by Galen, the renowned physician as well as a famous philosopher of the second century, whose work is regarded as valuable even today. However, Galen's work was different from those of Hippocrates in a number of ways. Hippocrates was of the view that the physician was also responsible for facilitating the body to heal itself; while Galen believed that it was important to use contrary medications to drive out a disease. Galen also believed in using many medicines to cure diseases. During the entire medieval period, Galen prevailed over the whole world and his domination was so great that if anyone dared to defy his teachings, it would simply mean sacrilege. Since then, medicine in its normal self turned out to be more and more subjugated by belief and false notions.
On the other hand, religion advocated that the human body was contemptible as well as insignificant when compared to the spirit and such preaching resulted in religion being despised from the medical standpoint too. Once more, people started believing that disease was something that visited the human beings from outside and was a result of mystic reasons. Diseases were thought to be an indication of gods being offended or an encumbrance meant to be suffered. For the physician the body, forget about the patient, was of no significance and in place of the humans, the physicians examined the physical excretions to perceive the type of the ailment. The ancient Greek concept of the four bodily humours had actually caused a growing method of blood-letting, with a view to re-establish the equilibrium of these humours. At the same time, producing pus was considered to be an essential part of the curative process. Amazingly, the pus was produced by means of opening as well as infecting the wounds time and again. Although the Latin origin of the word ‘curing’ denoted ‘caring’, now its meaning was changed to forcing out a disease by means of brutal treatment.
Following the termination of a prolonged medieval period, it was Renaissance that actually promoted scientific study, in addition to renewing awareness about classical learning. During the Renaissance, there was also a renewed enthusiasm in classical learning. However, regardless of small numbers of dissenting voices, like those of Paracelsus, the dominance of superstition as well as damaging practices continued in medicine. The spread of the will to undertake investigations, the concepts of Rene Descartes (1596-1650), the French philosopher, as well as more nonconformist intellectuals helped in removing the medieval beliefs slowly but surely. They also proved to be helpful in advancing the medical theory, but also led to the introduction of some amount of fresh system of belief. Even during this period the scope for studying the human body was quite restricted, as Christianity did not permit the dissection of the body and, therefore, at times the investigations by physicians resulted in confusing results. In fact, the Cartesian concept that the mind was a separate form that was accommodated by the body led to a theory called ‘dualism’ and it had an influence on medicine, which, then, was focused on only treating the body, dissuading the physicians from taking care of a patient as a person. Moreover, in those times, people were yet to comprehend the importance of hygiene.
When Hahnemann qualified as a medical practitioner in 1779, he inherited a tradition. In fact, he was quick to see that treatments like blood-letting made the body’s ability to recover very weak, which had a credible hypothetical base and it was that using potent medicines repeatedly mostly without any theoretical or practical validation harmed the body physically. Therefore, according to Hahnemann, he quit medical practice fearing that it might cause injury to his patients and took up the job of a translator.
A contemporary of Hahnemann, John Brown (1735-1788) advocated a fresh hypothetical methodology to treatment stated that diseases continued owing to absence of any support and it was only possible to encourage the body to return to its normal health by administering medications in ‘heroic’ doses. However, the ideas conceived by Hahnemann were completely contrary to Brown’s theoretical approach to treatment. Hahnemann was of the belief that remedies or medications ought to be used soothingly with a view to invigorate nature’s curative forces and it should be ensured that the detrimental side-effects of the medications are avoided, for they ultimately result in harm to the patients. He also believed that the minimum possible dosage of the remedies should be given to the patient and these doses should be given at the maximum possible intervals. In addition, only one medicine should be given to the patient at one time to avoid the patient being overpowered by the complications caused by the medications.
Hahnemann invented the term ‘homeopathy’ with a view to explain his method of medicine. The word ‘homeopathy’ has its origin in the Greek term ‘homois pathos’, which denotes ‘similar suffering’. Homeopathy is based on the theory that the substances that are responsible for bringing about the symptoms of any disease in a robust individual will cure the same disease showing signs of the same in any other individual. This theory came about as one substance called Peruvian bark (scientific name Cinchona officinalis), which forms the basis for quinine, was employed for treating malaria (at that time called intermittent fever). According to William Cullen, a Scottish medical doctor and chemist, Peruvian bark was effective as it was ‘bitter’. However, Hahnemann was not satisfied with this explanation and decided to experiment with the bark on him. As he has expected, the use of the bark gave rise to the symptoms of malarial fever. Therefore, it is said that homeopathy is founded on the principle that ‘like may possibly cure like’, which formed a part of the teachings of Hippocrates and developed from the concept the symptoms may possibly be a sign of the fact that the body has been fighting back to oust an ailment and this could be facilitated if something was done to encourage the appearance of the symptoms. The Latin translation of Hippocrates’ writings says ‘Similia similibus curantur’, or ‘Likes cure likes’ in English. It is interesting to note that Hahnemann, who was a very talented linguist, recomposed this to some extent to state ‘Similia similibus curentur’, which when translated into English means ‘Let likes be cured by likes’.
Therefore, Hahnemann had made the theoretical foundation of a known treatment available. Hence, when he had found out that a particular substance possessed the aptitude to bring about similar symptoms in a healthy individual, hypothetically it became possible to find the treatment for several symptoms. Working in the proper scientific outlook, Hahnemann was courageous to gear himself up to undertake several experiments by examining the outcomes of a variety of substances on him. His enthusiasm was so intense that he also found several eager volunteers, not only people from his family, but also other like-minded young medical practitioners who were concerned about finding new, safer as well as more logical remedies.
The experiments undertaken by Hahnemann were called ‘provings’, in simple terms denoting tests, and first series of provings were performed for about more than six years. The provers self-administered several substances in miniscule amounts and the symptoms stimulated by these substances were noted down carefully to the minutest detail. They also recorded even the slightest changes in the health as well as the body’s functioning, counting the mental changes, the situations that led to the appearance of the symptoms, and also the point in time of the day. Simultaneously, the provers made an all-embracing of the recorded instances of poisoning, which were collected from the medical sources made available from different countries and some of them even dating back to several hundred years. When the information that was accumulated was incorporated, it gave rise to comprehensible prototypes, and finally it became possible to experiment with substances that were remedial on patients. Amazingly, the results were extremely successful.
Afterward, the theory that a diseases were a result of external forces (however, not by demons or supernatural powers) was corroborated following the discovery of bacteria in the 18th century and this once again set in motion the concept of curing diseases by forcing out the causes responsible for their occurrence. At the same time, the notion that an individual needs to be treated in his/ her entirety as well as promoting the healing powers of the body itself gained credence. On the whole, this particular methodology not only prevailed over medicine in general, but also homeopathy, in particular. While several people continued to follow this theory, gradually it became less significant to most. Nevertheless, presently it has become obvious that microorganisms have the ability to turn out to be antibody resistant and that traditional therapy frequently produces grave adverse effects. As a result, a new interest has developed in homeopathy, which is being considered as a mild and effectual means of curing several types of diseases.
The homeopathic system of medicine is definitely appealing. It evolved from a period of unyielding and primordial medical practices, wherein heroic treatments like blood-letting and use of potent dosages of mercury were extensively prevalent. Homeopathy has attracted people across the globe to undergo a milder, safer as well as more effectual remedy. Currently, the popularity as well as efficiency of homeopathy is increasingly spreading throughout the world.
Common homeopathic remedies