The Origins of Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a 200 year old holistic form of complementary medicine which aims to treat the whole person rather than just the physical symptoms of that person. Homeopaths believe that mind and body are so strongly connected that physical conditions cannot be treated successfully if the person’s character has not been properly understood. It works on the principle of “like cures like” i.e. “an illness should be treated by a substance capable of producing similar symptoms to those being suffered by the patient are the basis of homeopathy”. Samuel Hahnemann (1755 – 1843), the father of modern homeopathy, based his approach on this principle, but it is one which dates back to the 5th century BC and the Greek physician, Hippocrates (460 BC – 377 BC). He was the first person to think that a disease was the result of natural forces, not divine influences. Hippocrates clearly established this idea and that the patient’s own powers of healing should be encouraged. One of the best examples he provided of “like cures like” was using the root of Veratum Album (white hellebore) in the treatment of cholera. In large doses, this highly poisonous root causes violent dehydration, mirroring the symptoms of cholera.

Is Homeopathy safe?

Homeopathy’s safe, gentle approach complies with one of the most important rules of medical intervention – namely, that it should do no harm.  Many common, everyday ailments may be treated safely and successfully at home using homeopathic remedies.  However, those with serious ailments should, under no circumstances, consider self-treatment but should always consult a homeopathic practitioner or conventional doctor.

Prescribing homeopathic remedies

The normal thing to do, when you are feeling unwell, is to tell your doctor all of the symptoms you have so that they can prescribe you the appropriate medicine. Whereas, in conventional medicine, people diagnosed with the same condition will generally be given the same medicine, in homeopathy the remedy given to a patient depends on a whole host of factors such as temperament, state of mind, and lifestyle.

The key to the practice of homeopathy is the ability to understand and interpret a patient’s symptoms, the outward sign of internal disorder – both before and after the remedy is given.  This continuing relationship helps to make homeopaths particularly successful at discovering the underlying causes of frequently recurring ailments.

Chronic diseases and the concept of miasms

Homeopathic understanding and management of ‘chronic disease’ is based on the concept of ‘miasms’. The theory for the miasms originates from the father of homeopathy, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, in his book ‘Organon of the Medical Art’.  In it, he explains that there are three types of chronic miasms which are responsible for the chronic problems that occur in the human body, which are already in a possession of the whole organism, before any disease appears. He explains these miasms as the itch diathesis in psora, the chancre or inguinal bubo in syphilis, and the fig-wart in psychosis (Hahnemann, 1996, p.190).

In his other book, The Chronic Diseases, he explained in more depth about how he discovered the miasms. He spent twelve years studying different people and their diseases. It took him a long time to record each patient’s symptoms and complaints in detail from start to finish.

He was interested in the medical history of each patient’s parents because he wanted to see if their diseases were connected in any way. After recording symptoms from hundreds of patients, he started to group them together and discovered that the picture of psora appeared in all cases; “when I discovered, even in the beginning, that the obstacle to the cure of many cases which seemed delusively like specific, well-defined diseases, and yet could not be cured in a Homeopathic manner with the then proved medicines, seemed very often to lie in a former eruption of itch” (Hahnemann, 1920, p.6). From there, he went on to develop the theory of psora, the miasm of the suppressed ‘itch’, as the main cause of all chronic diseases.