Natural Life Magazine

The Once And Future Medicine

by Charles W. Moore

Photo Szasz-Fabian Ilka Erika/Shutterstock

Since shortly after Francis Bacon defined his scientific method in 1620, “conventional” allopathic physicians have attempted to monopolize clinical judgment. The Western medical establishment has sought to discredit, harass and if possible eliminate, other healing methodologies which they almost universally regard as illegitimate competition. During most of this century orthodox medicine's dominance has been nearly complete, but during 100 years or so spanning the l9th century, another healing discipline gave the allopaths a hard run for their money.

Homeopathy is a medical theory and treatment system that purports to promote natural healing by means of extremely diluted and potentized substances that stimulate the body's own healing mechanisms gently, rapidly and reliably.

Originally developed in Germany about 200 years ago by Samuel Hahnemann, a medical doctor who gave up conventional practice because he found medical therapies of the time too ineffective and dangerous, homeopathy spread throughout Europe and to North America. By 1900, some 20 to 30 percent of all physicians used homeopathy. There were 22 homeopathic medical schools, over 100 homeopathic hospitals, and over 1,000 homeopathic pharmacies in the U.S. in the late 19th century. Many homeopathic practitioners were graduates of elite medical schools at Harvard University, Dartmouth College, Boston University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Iowa, etc. Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital was originally a homeopathic institution.

Records indicate that death rates in homeopathic hospitals during 19th century epidemics were often one-third to as little as one-eighth the rate in hospitals practicing orthodox medicine. During an 1849 cholera epidemic in Cincinnati, Ohio, only three percent of 1,116 homeopathic patients died, while the mortality rate at conventional hospitals was between 48 and 60 percent.

Homeopathy never ceased being a significant force in European medicine. Members of the British Royal Family have long been enthusiastic homeopathic patrons, and a recent British Medical Journal survey found that 42 percent of U.K. physicians have referred patients to homeopathic therapists. Eleven thousand French MDs use homeopathy, and in Belgium, 84. 5 percent of all homeopathic treatments are prescribed by conventional practitioners.

Indeed, a few aspects of orthodox medical treatment – immunization with vaccines for example – are essentially homeopathic in principle. The use of nitroglycerine under the tongue to relieve angina has been a standard medical treatment prescribed by establishment physicians since the early 1900s, and is essentially homeopathic in nature as well. Large amounts of ingested nitroglycerin (designated Gleonine in homeopathy) can cause chest pain, palpitations, and shortness of breath – the very symptoms that tiny amounts of nitro under the tongue will relieve. This is Samuel Hahnemann's like cures like theory at work.

Homeopathy is a medical theory and treatment system that promotes natural healing by means of extremely diluted and potentized substances that stimulate the body's own healing mechanisms gently, rapidly and reliably.

So what happened to homeopathy in North America? From the very first, homeopaths were considered a philosophical, clinical and economic threat to conventional medicine. The American Medical Association was established in 1846 partly to counter the growth of homeopathy, and soon all physicians who practiced homeopathy were expelled from the new organization. In 1855, the AMA added a consultation clause to its code of ethics, asserting that any member who even consulted with a homeopath or other non-regular practitioner would be booted out. (This clause was dropped in 1901, when more effective methods of combating homeopathy were implemented.)

In 1910, Abraham Flexner was commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation to evaluate American medical schools, under AMA auspices. Predictably, homeopathic schools received low ratings in the Flexner Report, and the U.S. government was persuaded to decree that only graduates of highly-rated schools would be permitted to take medical licensing exams. The fix was in. By 1923, only two homeopathic colleges remained, and by 1950 – one. Conventional medicine's triumph seemed absolute. However, homeopathy proved harder to kill off than anyone expected.

Homeopathy survived on the fringes of medical practice, until a mid-century resurgence of interest in holistic medicine resulted in its North American rediscovery. Now homeopathic products are one of the fastest-growing sectors in Canada's health food market, enjoying 30 percent annual sales growth as we entered the 90s.

Michayl James Ross of Shanah Azee Distributors in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who markets homeopathic medicines throughout the U.S. and Canada by mail order, says that business has doubled every year for the past five years. Supplements Plus of Toronto also sells a large selection of homeopathic products by mail order. Many health food stores and some pharmacies now stock homeopathics.

Homeopathic medicines are used extensively and effectively in veterinary applications, discrediting the medical establishment's frequent assertion that any apparent positive results homeopathic treatment might achieve are due to the power of suggestion or the placebo effect. Homeopathy's effectiveness in treating infants also contradicts the placebo rationalization.

Today, more and more health care consumers are becoming dissatisfied with conventional scientific medicine's philosophy and approach, as well as its reliance on drugs and surgical intervention. Homeopathic methods provide an attractive alternative.

Homeopathic theory assumes that each living organism is in an ongoing dynamic process of adjusting to the surrounding environment. Humans constantly come into contact with substances that influence this adaptive flow. Homeopathy seeks to stimulate the body's innate healing powers by activating and optimizing its defense systems.

A homeopathic practitioner evaluates each patient's health holistically, rather than concentrating on individual symptoms. Homeopathic practitioners interview patients extensively to determine in great detail the condition that caused them to seek treatment. Additionally, the physician will need to learn about emotions and mental attitudes, the patient's sense of well-being, likes and dislikes, etc. This information allows the homeopath to determine the appropriate treatment.

Homeopathic medicines are prepared by repeatedly diluting and succussing (vigorously shaking) various plant, animal and mineral materials. For example, one drop of a tincture is diluted with ten drops of water and succussed to make a 1X potency. A higher, 12X potency would have gone through this process 12 times – serial dilution followed by succussion.

Such small doses seem nonsensical in terms of conventional pharmaceutical theory, however the Arndt-Schutz law states that small doses of medicine stimulate; medium doses paralyze, and large doses kill or suppress. Hormones and other physiologically active substances are present in the body in amounts so small as to have only recently been measurable – concentrations similar to those of low-potency homeopathic medicines.

One of the great advantages of homeopathic treatment is that lay people can experiment with various homeopathic medicines without danger of harm. There are no known side-effects, even with long-term use, and dosages are not critical. For example, the standard dose for most BHI homeopathic medicines is three to four tablets per day, but the directions state that taking a tablet every five to 15 minutes is appropriate for severe symptoms.

Charles W. Moore is a freelance writer who lives in rural Nova Scotia. This article was published in 1996.


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