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The History of Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a scientifically based system of approaching health and disease that dates back to the late 1700s when Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, a medical school graduate started his own medical practice and began experimenting with alternative remedies because of his disillusionment with the common medical practices of the era (think: bloodletting, leeches, purging, and toxic chemicals).

Hahnemann eventually gave up his practice in order to pursue work as a chemist and a translator of medical texts. It was through this work that he discovered the principle of “similars.” Simply put, this principle states that potential cures and treatments can be found through controlled exposure to something conceptualized as, “similar suffering.” For example, Hahnemann studied the bark of a species of tree in South America that was used to treat malaria-induced fevers. He realized that when this bark was ingested, it caused symptoms that were similar of those caused by malaria. Therefore, Hahnemann concluded –there may be something to the concept of using substances that can cause similar symptoms in healthy person order to treat or prevent the disease in someone who is suffering.

This Law of Similars remains a tenant of homeopathy today as does the foundational belief that the human body has the ability to cure itself from many ailments.

The first Homeopathic Medical School in the United States was founded in the late 1800s. At the time it gained notoriety because of its success in treating rampant diseases of the era ranging from scarlet fever to typhoid, to yellow fever and cholera. By the early 1900s there were 22 homeopathic medical schools and 100 homeopathic practicing hospitals. In fact, Stanford, Boston University, and New York Medical College were among the schools teaching homeopathy. 

In the early 1900s, another great father of homeopathy –Dr. James Tyler Kent began practicing homeopathic medicine as a result of seeing his wife cured from a serious ailment through the use of homeopathic methods. His conventional medicine practice converted completely to homeopathic methods and he introduced a strong belief that homeopaths must treat patients in their entirety – that healing was not just physical but also emotional/mental and even spiritual. Kent’s repertory, titled The Great Repertory, is still, arguably, the most popular choice of homeopathic teaching works.

By the early 1920s, modern drug companies began to release easy-to-administer medications and there was a cultural shift away from natural remedies towards engineered medicines. This closed many of the U.S. schools that were teaching homeopathy. But, globally, homeopathy continued to flourish and grow. But around the world homeopathic remedies and medicines are popular and as easily accessible as other medications. Homeopathic remedies are often all natural with no side effects, drug interactions, or other contraindications of traditional western medicines. Homeopathic products in the United States are regulated by the FDA.

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