Homeopathy is a system of medicine that seeks to cure in accordance with natural laws of healing and uses medicines made from natural substances; animal, vegetable and mineral.
Homeopathy was “discovered” in the early 1800′s by a German physician, Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann. Disillusioned with medicine (which then included such nice things as blood letting, poisoning and barbaric surgery) Hahnemann gave up his medical practice and made his living doing medical translations.
It was while translating Lectures on the Materia Medica by William Cullen, a Scottish professor of medicine, that Hahnemann stumbled on the key to curing sick people. Dr. Cullen claimed that Cinchona Bark or Quinine, cured Malaria because of its astringent and bitter qualities. This explanation did not sound plausible to Hahnemann, who knew of other substances equally bitter, so he did a daring thing: he tested the medicine on himself.
“I took by way of experiment, twice a day, four drachms of good China (quinine). My feet, finger ends, etc. at first became cold: I grew languid and drowsy: then my heart began to palpitate, and my pulse grew hard and small; intolerable anxiety, trembling, prostration throughout all my limbs; then pulsation in the head, redness of my cheeks, thirst, and, in short, all these symptoms which are ordinarily characteristic of intermittent fever, made their appearance, one after the other, yet without the peculiar chilly, shivering rigor. Briefly, even those symptoms which are of regular occurrence and especially characteristic – as the stupidity of mind, the kind of rigidity in all the limbs, but above all the numb, disagreeable sensation, which seems to have its seat in the periostreum, over every bone in the body- all these made their appearance. This paroxysm lasted two or three hours each time, and reoccurred if I repeated this dose, not otherwise: I discontinued it, and was in good health.”
This was the first “proving,” a testing of medicine on a healthy person. The symptoms Hahnemann developed corresponded exactly to the symptoms of malaria. Thus Hahnemann reasoned that malaria was cured by quinine, not because of its bitter taste but owing to the fact that the drug produces the symptoms of malaria in a healthy person.
After experimenting on himself, Hahnemann enlisted the help of friends and followers and embarked on an extensive program of drug testing. When he died at age eighty-eight in 1843, he had conducted or supervised provings on ninety-nine substances. More than 600 other medicines were added to the homeopathic pharmacopeia by the end of the century.
The term homeopathy comes from the Greek homoios (“similar”) and pathos (“suffering” or “sickness”). The fundamental law upon which homeopathy is based is the Law of Similars, or “like is cured by like”. The Law of Similars states that a remedy can cure a disease if it produces in a healthy person symptoms similar to those of the disease.
Hahnemann did not claim to have discovered the concept. In the tenth century B.C. , Hindu sages described the law, as had Hippocrates, who wrote in 400 B.C. “Through the like, disease is produced and through the application of the like, it is cured.” Paracelsus, a sixteenth-century German physician, reiterated the law. Hahnemann, as a sophisticated researcher, was undoubtedly familiar with these writings, but he was the first to test the principle and establish it as a cornerstone of a system of medicine.