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  • History of homeopathy


    Homeopathy has an impressive 200-year-old history. Currently categorized as alternative medicine at best and hocus pocus at worst, homeopathy was brought to the United States in 1885 by medical doctors educated in Europe.

    By the mid-1800s, a medical organization was established that developed into several medical colleges, among them was the New England Female Medical College, the first medical school in the U.S. to admit women.

    By the turn of the century, there were 22 homeopathic medical colleges, and one out of five doctors used homeopathy. The first homeopath in California was Dr. Benjamin Ober who arrived in San Francisco in 1849.

    Homeopath Dr. C.W. Breyfogle was San Jose’s mayor in 1886 and homeopathic physician Dr. Albert Abrams was a professor of pathology and the dean of clinical medicine at Stanford University in the 1800s.

    But with the thrust of the Industrial Revolution, the move toward the mechanical model of the body and of disease resulted in all but eliminating homeopathy in the United States.

    Homeopathy in Europe however maintained its respected place within medicine. In Britain, France and the Netherlands homeopathic education is still a vital part of many medical schools.

    Homeopathy is used worldwide,” explains Dana Ullman, author of the “History of Homeopathy” and one of America’s leading advocates for homeopathy and the author of six books.

    “It is even more popular in Asia, especially India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka,” he said in his book. “Homeopathy spread in India, in part, because of the support it received from Mohandas Gandhi who was reported to have said that it ‘cures a greater number of people than any other method of treatment,’ but also because it has been effective in treating many of the acute infectious conditions and the chronic maladies on the subcontinent.”

    The World Health Organization’s journal World Health Forum noted,Homeopathic treatment seems well suited for use in rural areas where the infrastructure, equipment, and drugs needed for conventional medicine cannot be provided.”

    The father of homeopathy, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, was a German physician. Hahnemann first coined the word “homeopathy” in 1797 (“homoios” which in Greek means similar, “pathos” means suffering) to refer to the pharmacological principle, the law of similars.

    The idea of the law of similar (like cures like) goes back through ancient civilizations. Hippocrates and Paracelsus spoke of it as did many cultures, including the Mayans, Chinese, Greeks, Native Americans and Asian Indians “but it was Hahnemann” Ullman writes, “who codified the law of similars into a systematic medical science.”

    The story goes that when Hahnemann entered medical school, he had a professor who challenged his student to devise an experiment to disprove the current theory of similars. Dr. Hahnemann devised what is now a famous experiment where he ingested the shavings of the bark of the Cinchona tree and developed all the symptoms of a malaria patient.

    He then used a dlitued form of the same substance to reverse his symptoms. Eventually Hahnemann used the same substance as a remedy to treat actual malaria patients.

    In Ullman’s book “Everybody’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicines,” co-authored with Dr. Stephen Cummings, he said that homeopathy is re-experiencing a Renaissance in the United States.

    Serving on advisory boards of alternative medicine institutes at Harvard and Columbia schools of medicine, he observes that “In the early 1970s there were only 50-100 physicians who specialized in homeopathy, and yet by the mid- 1980s, it can be estimated that there are approximately 1,000 physicians who specialize in homeopathy.”

    The FDA Consumer magazine has recently reported a 1000 percent increase in sales of homeopathic medicines from the late 1970s to the early 1980s.

    “Contrary to some critics who think that people try homeopathy only because they are uneducated, research published in the Western Journal of Medicine showed that homeopathic patients tend to be considered even better educated than the average American,” Ullman said.

    Regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, the manufacture and sale of homeopathic medicines is legal. The was written into federal law in 1938 under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

    Most homeopathic remedies are available without a prescription. Although states regulate the practice of homeopathy, the use of homeopathic medicines for self-care of acute ailments is available.

    To learn more about the history and appropriateness of homeopathy, readers can explore Dana Ullman’s book “Discovering Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century” or visit the National Center of Homeopathy’s Web site at www.homeopathic.org.

    Editor’s note: Way of Life offers a free lecture series twice a month on natural remedies to health challenges and alternative approaches to health. Liz Koch is their Education Coordinator. As with any medical condition, please consult a doctor or trained professional for treatment of specific illnesses. This column contains opinion and is not meant as medical advice.

    Liz Koch is the Way of Life Health Educator. You can contact her at svreeken@santacruzsentinel.com

    Article Launched: 04/18/2005 3:00:00 AM PDT reprinted with permission from the Santa Cruz Sentinel