"To transform the world, we must begin with ourselves."
HOMEOPATHY: HOW DID IT BEGIN AND WHERE IS IT NOW?
The history of homeopathy begins over 200 years ago with a man called Samuel Hahnemann, a German doctor and chemist who lived from 1755 until 1843. Hahnemann was a brilliant academic and an extraordinarily determined person. Having qualified as a doctor in 1779, he practiced for a few years, but became increasingly disillusioned with the harmful and ineffective treatments of the day.
It was in 1790, whilst translating a book by William Cullen, one of the leading doctors and medical authors of the time, that Hahnemann first wrote about the Law of Similars, one of the main pillars of homeopathy. This came about because Hahnemann disputed Cullen’s explanation for the efficacy of Peruvian Bark, or Cinchona officinalis (from which quinine is derived) in malaria, which Cullen attributed to its bitter and astringent properties. Hahnemann asserted that this could not be the reason for its effect since there were many other equally bitter substances that had no value in the treatment of malaria.
He then described how he had himself taken repeated doses of Peruvian Bark until his body responded to the toxicity of the herb by producing fevers, chills and other symptoms similar to malaria. This was the first “proving” or single “blind trial”. Hahnemann concluded that the reason this herb was beneficial was because it caused symptoms similar to those of malaria.
The notion of “like curing like” was not original. In the fifth century BC, Hippocrates, who is known as the father of medicine, wrote that there were two methods of healing: by contraries and by similars. Although ignored as a theory by mainstream western medicine, this principle has been utilized for healing in many cultures, by the American Indians, Mayans, Chinese and Asians, and has even surfaced in orthodox western medicine with the use of radiation, which can cause cancer, for treating and curing cancer. Using digitalis for heart conditions and amphetamine-like substances for hyperactivity, are all existing examples of the use of similars.
Following his experience with Peruvian Bark, Hahnemann conducted many such “provings” (dosing with substances until the symptoms start showing themselves) on himself and his followers. It was the studies of the effects and symptoms of the substances on the provers that were the basis for the Materia Medica, a work that lists homeopathic remedies and their properties. Now Hahnemann was able to look for the “simillimum” in his patients, or the remedy whose symptom picture, based on these provings, most closely matched that of his patient.
He had astonishing results, but in using the material doses of substances he saw that the side effects were considerable, so he experimented with using smaller and smaller doses of the remedies, in order to minimize the discomfort to his patients. Finally he introduced the concept of dilution, which also involved shaking vigorously at each stage of diluting, otherwise known as “succussion”, resulting in a “potentised” remedy. By potentising remedies, Hahnemannn found that he could avoid the unpleasant side effects and that the more a substance was diluted, the more effective it became.
In 1831, cholera swept through Europe. Hahnemann suggested the use of the remedy Camphor for the early stage of the disease, and Cuprum, Veratrum Album, Bryonia and Rhus Toxicodendron for the later stages. Throughout Europe the epidemic was more successfully treated by homeopathy where mortality rates varied from 2.4%-21%, as compared to 50% or more with conventional orthodox medicine.
Today homeopathy is widely used and accepted as a system of healthcare in Europe and India. Mahatma Gandhi was once quoted as saying, “homeopathy, cures a larger percentage of cases than any other treatment and it is beyond doubt safer and more economical”. In England, homeopathy is offered as part of the National Health Service and there are homeopathic hospitals in London, Liverpool, Bristol and Glasgow. Generations of the British Royal family have used homeopathy — perhaps one of the reasons that the Queen mother lived to such a ripe old age! King George VI was himself a keen amateur homeopath and even cured seasick sailors on the royal yacht. Former American presidents James Garfield, William McKinley and Abraham Lincoln all used homeopathy. Presently, here in America, homeopathy is enjoying a resurgence as peoples’ awareness and collective desire for a better quality of healthcare grows.
A detrimental attitude towards the earth has led to a devastation of our planetary resources. An unhealthy attitude towards our bodies has led us to undermine the natural harmony of homeostasis, or dynamic balance, which has contributed to a plague-like array of modern day ailments. We are seeing a rise in the rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue, AIDS, allergies and a host of autoimmune diseases, together with iatrogenic (drug induced) illnesses. Ever increasing numbers are suffering from mental disturbances including autism, ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder), schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. It would almost seem as if our “fix-me quick” society has become dependant on a vast array of drugs just to get through life.
It is clear that to ensure our survival as a species, we have to be able to make necessary social, economic and political changes. Taking tiny steps towards understanding ourselves, and what needs to be adjusted, can lead to vast changes in our functioning on all levels and impact the lives around us. If there is not a vast raising of consciousness very soon, nature and thus the human race are in danger of being destroyed. Homeopathy’s body of knowledge and philosophy can help contribute to global change and awareness, and the well-being of our future as inhabitants of our planet in the 21st century.