The medical care of the sick in the early 19th century was a far cry from a caring and gentle treatment. Those who were sick were frequently bled excessively, were treated with leeches and were not seldom given drugs made from toxic substances. These often times could not only alleviate the pathological condition, but at the same time poison the body. Many succumbed not to their disease, but to the applied treatment by the medics of the time. In opposition to such medical care, Christian Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), a doctor of this time, sought to develop a gentler, a more effective method to bring about recovery to health.
In 1790, while translating a book by William Cullen, Hahnemann questioned the former’s claim that the bark of the cinchona tree was used as a tonic for the stomach. Hahnemann, in order to confirm his hypothesis undertook a self-experiment. He ingested the bark and shortly after developed symptoms that were closely similar to those of malaria. This led him to conclude that a medicinally potent substance could cause symptoms that resembled those of a specific disease, in a healthy person. This thesis later became one of the major principles of ‘Homeopathy’, namely, that ‘like cures like’. Accordingly a homeopathic remedy that can cause symptoms similar to a disease in a healthy person can at the same time, if given to a sick person with such symptoms, cure that sick person.
In 1799, during a scarlet fever epidemic, Hahnemann observed in the treatment of his patients that if he administered ‘Belladonna’, a remedy derived from the deadly nightshade, to the sick or as a prophylactic agent to the healthy, patients would recover, and the healthy would not get sick.
However, Hahnemann did not administer a pure tincture or extract to his patients. He steadily diluted the doses of his medicine. He had rationalized that a body weakened by illness was more sensitive to a medicine than a healthy one, therefore he administered only the ‘smallest possible dose’ of the medicine. He complemented the process of ultra-highly diluting a medicine, with shaking of the medicinal substance at different stages of the production process, as such generating a most potent medicine, the homeopathic remedy. This was the birth of the second prime principle of homeopathy, that of using the minimum dose.
As such, a new, gentle and revolutionary medicinal treatment was born!
Up until this day, homeopathy enjoys worldwide popularity and is extensively used. The WHO, the World Health Organization, has declared homeopathy the second most used medical system in the world, next to conventional medicine. 500 million people rely on homeopathy to treat their diseases. In India there are 100 million people who rely solely on homeopathy for their medical care. In Europe approximately 100 million people use homeopathy.
Patients appreciate and use homeopathy because they value its holistic approach, and can relate to the concept of self-healing forces. Many praise it because it is non-toxic and practically devoid of adverse-effects, and many more people rely on it because it has helped them recover from illness.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948), the distinguished leader of the liberation movement in India, said of homeopathy that “it cures a larger percentage of cases than any other method of treatment, and it is beyond all doubt safer and more economical and the most complete medical science…”.