Homeopathy was developed by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) in the late 1700’s to provide an alternative to the injurious medicines of the time. More than that – to provide a principle and method for using medicines that would cure the sick.
An important question to ask yourself as you read on, which relates to the relevance of homoeopathy today is: are the medicines of our time injurious? Is it essential that we look for better ways to cure the sick and improve health? How much do the conditions of our time mirror those facing Dr. Hahnemann in the late 1700’s?
Dr. Hahnemann was a talented, experienced medical practitioner, and a gifted scientist and chemist. He gave up fame and fortune as a physician because he felt he could no longer give treatments that he believed were based on trial and error, on speculative theories and pompous pronouncements, and in many cases harmed the patients he wanted to cure.
His diatribes against the self-important, self-serving popular physicians of the time are knowledgeable, scathing, and demonstrate a sharp, black humour that makes for interesting and enlightening reading.
Here are two examples from Dr. Hahnemann’s Organon of Medicine, in which he first presented homoeopathy to the medical community in 1810:
Regarding the physicians of his time, and the physician’s mission to cure the sick:
“his mission is not… to construct so-called systems, by interweaving empty speculations and hypotheses… wrapped in unintelligible words …which should sound very learned in order to astonish the ignorant – whilst sick humanity sighs in vain for aid…”
Regarding the way in which doctors sent those they couldn’t cure to mineral baths:
“…out of a thousand sent to the most celebrated of these baths by ignorant physicians… perhaps one or two are cured by chance…hundreds, meanwhile, sneak quietly away, more or less worse and the rest remain to prepare themselves for their eternal resting place, a fact that is verified by the presence of numerous well-filled graveyards surrounding the most celebrated of these spas.”
It is important to understand that homoeopathy was developed as a medical therapeutic for physicians to heal the sick. It was used as such by medical doctors till the early 1900s. The patient would go through the regular diagnostic process – but treatment was carried out based on homoeopathic principles, and using remedies that were homoeopathic to the case. Homoeopathy was the medicine of choice for many in the US and Europe, was (and still is) used by the British royal family, and spread to India where it is currently part of the national health system, alongside Ayurveda and conventional medicine.
So what are homoeopathic principles? What makes a medicine homoeopathic to the disease?
Through research, observation of the disease process, and in-depth experimentation on himself and others, Dr. Hahnemann learned the natural law that governs the practice of homoeopathy: the Law of Similars.
He observed many instances similar to the following examples, and chronicled some of them in his “Organon of Medicine”. His first conclusion was that in nature, a similar stronger disease will eradicate the prior weaker disease. A disease that is stronger, but not similar to the original sickness, will merely suspend it.
See if you can relate to the following scenarios:
1. You have chronic arthritis in your knees. During a bad bout of stomach flu, you notice that your knees don’t seem to hurt that much. Sometimes you get excited about that, and feel your arthritis is on the mend. But after the stomach flu is over – the arthritis comes back. This is an example of a dissimilar stronger disease, which suspends the original illness but doesn’t erase it.
2. You have been having chronic diarrhea. You then get food poisoning from some spoiled food. Once the symptoms of the food poisoning, which include diarrhea, subside, the chronic diarrhea has either disappeared or is much less troublesome. This is an example of a similar stronger disease, which can eradicate the original illness.
A word on natural laws. Newton’s discovery of “what goes up must come down” constitutes a law of nature. It is not necessary to understand the Law of Gravity before jumping from a tall building, to know the default result will be messy. A law of nature means that the default result of an action will follow the rule, unless something intercepts it. There are many theories about why the Law of Gravity operates, but there are as yet no absolute conclusions. The first important element is to be aware of how to work it, how to avoid messy conclusions and how to harness it for beneficial purposes.
The same applies to the Law of Similars. Unless something intercepts cure, a similar stronger illness will eradicate a weaker illness. The default result is curative response or cure.
Dr. Hahnemann’s focus was first and foremost practical. Just as it’s more important for most drivers to learn how to drive, rather than to understand the complexities of the modern combustion engine, Dr. Hahnemann was more interested in how to harness the principle in order to cure the sick, rather than to theorize on why the Law of Similars works.
How could the Law of Similars be harnessed for the benefit of mankind? Nature was not always kind – a similar, stronger disease, while eradicating the original weaker disease, could prove fatal. How could the same conditions be set up for cure, creating an illusion of a similar stronger disease that could be tailored, fine-tuned, to effect curative response with a minimum of discomfort?
The use of the Law of Similars had been explored by the ancient Greeks, especially by Hippocrates (c. 460-375 BC), and by other physicians in medieval times. They saw, as Dr. Hahnemann saw, that if nature could be imitated through using substances that can mimic disease symptoms in order to create the illusion of a similar stronger disease, the Law of Similars could be set in motion.
How can such substances be discovered and their qualities ascertained? Through giving them to healthy volunteers, and carefully examining and noting the resulting symptoms. There was just one small problem: many of the substances that were known to cause symptoms in healthy people were extremely poisonous. Which is why, until Dr. Hahnemann’s time, no-one really explored methods for using the Law of Similars to achieve cure.
Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, indomitable scientist and chemist, set out to see what could be done. He experimented with dose, reducing the doses of substances to levels that would not be harmful. As he experimented on himself and other volunteers, he discovered that very small doses could cause milder transient symptoms in healthy people. This process of discovering the illusory disease picture caused by substances through experimentation is called “proving” in homoeopathy.
How could the size of the dose be reduced still further? On observation that friction results in a tremendous release of energy, noted initially through the tiny molten metal balls produced when steel is struck against flint, and noting that it takes a heat of over 3000 Fahrenheit to melt steel, (Hahnemann’s Lesser Writings, 1852 edition, pp. 730-731), Dr. Hahnemann came to conclusions regarding use of friction in preparation of remedies, as a way to further decrease the size of the dose and strengthen its action. This is called potentisation through trituration and succussion. Through this process Dr. Hahnemann succeeded in reducing dose beyond the point where traces of the original substance can be discerned by conventional laboratory testing, while enhancing the active qualities of the substance.
It’s important here to make the distinction between symptoms from a substance, and symptoms from an illness. When you chop an onion you will get symptoms. The symptoms may differ slightly from person to person, but they usually include a runny nose and streaming eyes, and sometimes the eyes will burn. Very similar to symptoms of a cold. But chopping an onion does not cause a cold, and the symptoms will disappear.
Through giving the patient substance-symptoms from a carefully reduced, potentized dose, that are similar to those of the illness and slightly stronger, the second scenario above is imitated, and the body is given the illusion of a stronger similar disease. Because of the “stronger” requirement, patients may feel a slight temporary aggravation of symptoms at the onset of homoeopathic treatment – but these are really the substance-symptoms, and not an aggravation of the symptoms of the illness.
This is the meaning of the concept “homoeopathic to the case”. A remedy that will cause a curative reaction must be one, that if given to a healthy person, will cause substance-symptoms that are similar to those of the natural disease, as seen clearly in the patient.
This is why there is actually no such thing as a homoeopathic remedy. Dilution, succussion, trituration, tiny little sugar pills – none of this makes a remedy homoeopathic. A remedy only becomes homoeopathic when it is prescribed in a way that is homoeopathic to the illness – i.e. capable of producing similar, stronger symptoms in a healthy person, and therefore capable of harnessing the Law of Similars to achieve the default curative response.
Although “homeopathic practice” as encountered and experienced today, sadly, often seems more of a spiritual, new age practice, the objective of this article has been to highlight Dr. Hahnemann’s homoeopathy, a highly thought out, scientifically developed system of medicine.