Samuel Hahneman is the Founder of Homeopathy and his story is also the story of how homeopathy was born. I hope you will agree that it is an account of a brilliant mind that resulted in a system of medicine that has the potential to heal all living beings. Homeopathy’s natural Laws and Principles are revealed as Hahnemann discovered them and the story is a wonderful way of understanding how homeopathy works.
Samuel Hahnneman was a German physician who lived at the end of the 18th century (1755 -1843). He was an intelligent, curious child, very gifted at learning languages and always wanted to be a doctor. He could speak at least seven languages and was able to earn money by translating texts during his University years.
He had studied for many years to become a doctor but when he started practising he became increasingly disturbed by the methods used to treat people. This was at a time when treatments included giving the sick highly toxic doses of mercury to purge the disease, combined with blood letting. Hahnemann saw that far from curing patients, these treatments were poisoning their systems, weakening and even killing them. He felt he couldn’t be part of it and returned to translating medical texts in order to earn money.
In 1790, while translating William Cullen’s ‘A Treatise on the Materia Medica’ into German, he was dissatisfied with the book’s explanation of why the Peruvian bark (Cinchona) is useful in treating malaria. It stated that Cinchona is effective because of its bitter action on the stomach. He decided to conduct his own experiments and took a series of doses of quinine to see what happened.
On taking it, he became unwell, developing a fever, intermittent chills and other symptoms that were like malaria. The symptoms abated when he stopped the dose, returning if he repeated it. The experiments led him to the observation that “similia similibus curantur” (“Likes are cured by Likes”). He thus postulated that diseases are cured by those drugs that produce in healthy persons symptoms similar to the diseases. This is the first principle of homeopathy: The Law of Similars.
Paracelsus, in the 15th century had used similars and Hahnemann was aware of this, but he found for himself what the true potential was. The word “homeopathy” derives from the Greek, meaning “similar suffering”.
Hahnemann gathered interested colleagues and started to experiment with different substances to record their effects, eventually creating the remedies Silica, Calcarea carbonica, Sulphur, Nitricum Acidum, Aurum, Cuprum, Argentum and Kali bichromicum. These substances were generally regarded as medicinally inert before his provings. We still use these remedies because their information and curative properties remain constant and reliable.
Testing a new substance on a group of people to elicit its medicinal properties is called a Proving. All physical, emotional and mental symptoms experienced by the group are recorded in order to collate a remedy picture so that it can be matched to those people who have similar symptoms. This is another essential principle of homeopathy and provings are still used in order to discover new remedies.
Hahnemann realised that substances taken have an effect on the whole body and all its systems. He postulated that the mechanism by which this happened was via the Vital Force, the invisible energy of the body that maintains homeostasis and keeps the organism alive.
Hahneman appreciated that if the natural substances he had proved were to cure people then a detailed picture of their own symptoms, their inner nature and history of illness must be taken. This is the next principle: that every person is an Individual and needs an individual prescription, including the potency of the medicine: ten people needing treatment for toothache for example will most probably each receive a different remedy.
The next stage in the story shows the genius of Hahnemann. The medicines that were being used by the new homeopaths were getting wonderful results, but even so, there were unwanted side-effects. The substances were being used in extremely low doses but, in wanting to experiment with even lower doses, Hahnemann experimented further: he not only diluted his medicines to infinitesimal amounts, he succussed them – meaning that he banged his vials against a hard surface, agitating the liquids as he did so. He found that when medicines had been through this process of dilution and succussion, side-effects were eliminated and cures were much more profound.
This principle is that of the Minimum Dose – the least amount of stimulus given that is needed by the person to start a healing reaction. This naturally abides by Hippocrates’ oath of doing Least Harm.
Hahnemann gained a huge following of physicians wanting to learn about and practise homeopathy as well as people wanting to be treated. In 1810 he published The Organon of the Healing Art which remains the most important text for homeopaths in giving clear teaching and deep understanding of every aspect of homeopathy.
- The Law of Similars
- Treating the whole person, not the symptoms
- The action is via the Vital force
- An individual prescription