Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann (10th April 1755- 2nd July 1843) was born in Saxony in the town of Meissen, which was famous for porcelains. Like others in the town Hahnemann and his family made their living from designing and painting porcelain.
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While still young, Hahnemann had mastered a number of languages, both European and non-European. He knew English, Italian, French, Latin and Greek. Deviating from the profession of his father, Hahnemann became a teacher and a translator of languages. This helped him to learn some new languages like Syriac, Arabic, Chaldaic and Hebrew.
Hahnemann next opted to study medicine. He first went to Leipzig, where he studied for two years, then moved to Vienna as he found that Leipzig was lacking in clinical facilities. He studied in Vienna for only ten months and then moved on to the University of Erlangen, as being without means; he found it easier to pay the fees here. He finally graduated with honors from the University of Erlangen on 10th August 1779, as an MD.
However, Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann is known best for his path breaking work in the field of homeopathy, which became an alternative form of medicine. As the Father of Experimental Pharmacology, he is known for specialized preparation of medication after experimenting on healthy human beings, to determine how a particular medicine acted to cure a disease. Before Hahnemann took to experimenting, medicines were given purely on speculation, without verification through experiments and merely on the basis of authority.
The German physician first took to practicing medicine in Mansfeld, a copper mining town, in Saxony. He did not practice for long and gave up his practice of medicine in 1784 and instead took up work as translator of medical and scientific textbooks. Hahnemann now made his living writing translations and also made up his mind to investigate some errors that were allegedly assigned to medicine. During his translation of "A Treatise on the Materia Medica" a book by William Cullen, Hahnemann came across a very interesting claim. It was alleged that the bark of a Peruvian tree cinchona was effective in treating malaria because of its astringent quality. Hahnemann began to experiment with cinchona on himself. The question upper most on his mind was as to why cinchona could be effective against malaria, when other astringent substances were not as effective. After consuming the drug he realized that it could induce malaria like symptoms. He deduced that any other healthy body could also be induced to have malarial symptoms.
The hypothesis he drew from this experiment, on the principles of healing, was "that which can produce a set of symptoms in a healthy individual, can treat a sick individual who is manifesting a similar set of symptoms." This principle of "like cures like" became the basis for treatment in homeopathy, a term he first used in an essay he wrote, "Indications of the Homeopathic Employment of Medicine In Ordinary Practice". The essay was published in 1807, in Hufeland's Journal.
In 1811, Hahnemann took his family, his wife Henriette Kuchler and his eleven children, to Leipzig where he intended to teach this new approach to medicine at the University of Leipzig. It was the requirement of the University that in order to become a faculty member, he would have to write a thesis. He could choose any medical topic for his submission but he would have to defend it.
Hahnemann presented his thesis in Latin on 26th June 1812 entitled "A Medical Historical Dissertation on the Helleborism of the Ancients". In his thesis he examined all available historical literature because he wanted to prove the differences between the ancient use of 'Helleborous Niger' (black hellebore) and the medicinal uses of White Hellebore known as 'Veratrum Album' botanically. Both these are poisonous plants that belong to the Buttercup and Magnolia family.
Between 1791 and 1835, Doctor Hahnemann and his family moved to various towns and villages in Saxony keeping the Elbe River in view. They stayed in Dresden, Leipzig, Torgau and Köthen, till they finally moved to Paris in 1835.
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As mentioned Dr. Hahnemann first made a study of the effects of substances on a healthy body by producing noticeable changes. After studying the effects of the administered substance, he would derive from the results, what illnesses it could cure. In the beginning he concluded that these substances had a toxic effect on the body. He then attempted to remove this toxic effect by diluting the compounds he was testing through potentization and succussion (This is a technique that mixes through a vigorous shaking). These dilutions he claimed were effective in mitigating the same symptoms in a sick person.
Once Hahnemann began to practice this new technique in 1792, many other doctors were attracted to it. In 1796 he published an article in the German language about the homeopathic approach in a medical journal. He wrote some other essays on the subject among them 'Organon of the Rational Art of Healing' in 1810. Along with four further editions of these essays, the 'Organon' series became the first truly systematic and detailed treatise on this subject, replete with instructions.
The sixth Organon edition was under preparation from February 1842 but was published only much after his death. The sixth 'Organon' had in it a fifth 'Organon' which mainly consisted of numerous handwritten notations. Each edition demonstrates how extensive the revisions were and the additions made were experience based. The "Organon" is regarded by many as a revision and extension of his earlier essay, published in the Hufeland Journal and titled "The Medicine of Experience".
Hahnemann used his theory of potentization to determine the remedial powers of drugs and also of inert substances like gold, silver, silica, lycopodium, vegetable charcoal etc. Once these substances became soluble by mixing them in alcohol or water, they reflected certain remedial properties.
"Similia Similibus Curentur" is a cure propounded by Hahnemann which basically means that those symptoms produced by a substance will also cure similar symptoms in a person suffering from a similar disease. "Like Cures Like" which forms the basis of homeopathy has been authenticated by practicing homeopaths the world over, since Hahnemann first advocated this cure.
Taking his theory further, he discovered that remedies result in two kinds of actions - one is a primary action and the other the secondary one. The primary action, as the name implies, results from the first interaction between the vital force and the external agent. The secondary action results from the action of the vital force to the symptoms of the primary interaction. This discovery took Hahnemann to the logical conclusion that even poisonous substances have medicinal powers.
Hahnemann classified diseases as being either 'acute' or 'chronic'. Acute diseases are transient, with a distinct beginning and an end. Chronic diseases on the other hand co-exist with life in either the latent or active form. The findings lead him to work on chronic miasms of diseases like Psora, Syphilis and Sycosis. Dr. Hahnemann advocated the humane treatment of patients suffering from insanity as opposed to the cruel and sometimes harmful treatment insane patients were subjected to. He achieved fame by curing such patients with homeopathic medicines. He was a pioneer in this field too.
Dr. Hahnemann recognized poor hygiene as a major factor in the spread of disease as a result of which he succeeded in treating cholera and typhoid. Nursing, diet, bed rest and isolation of patients during epidemics were other areas he emphasized as aiding in the treatment of disease. He also believed in 'Noxious' principles as heralding certain diseases.
Dr Hahnemann was 88 when he died in 1843 in Paris. Besides writing and lecturing he continued to research and practice homeopathy till the end. He treated even those patients who could not be cured even by the best allopathic doctors in Europe. Physicians, both in America and Europe came to learn this new art of healing from him as his fame spread wide. Dr. Hahnemann lies buried in a mausoleum at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris but the cure he advocated continues to do wonders for the ill, even today.
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