Based on the ideas of the Renaissance physician Paracelsus, it was developed and made into a system of medicine by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, at the end of the 18th century.
Hahnemann observed from his experiments with cinchona bark, used as a treatment for malaria, that the effects he experienced from ingesting the bark were similar to the symptoms of malaria. He therefore decided that cure proceeds through similarity, and that treatments must be able to produce symptoms in healthy individuals similar to those of the disease being treated.
Through further experiments with other substances, Hahnemann conceived of the law of similars, otherwise known as “let like be cured by like” (Latin: similia similibus curentur) as a fundamental healing principle.
He believed that by inducing a disease through use of drugs, the artificial symptoms empowered the vital force to neutralize and expel the original disease and that this artificial disturbance would naturally subside when the dosing ceased. It is based on the belief that a substance that in large doses will produce symptoms of a specific disease will, in extremely small doses, cure it.
From there, Hahnemann developed theories and the science of homeopathy, in which practitioners use highly diluted preparations. Based on the law of similars, preparations which cause certain symptoms in healthy individuals are given in diluted form to patients exhibiting similar symptoms.
Homeopathic remedies are prepared by serial dilution with shaking by forceful striking, which homeopaths term succussion, after each dilution under the assumption that this increases the effect. Homeopaths call this process potentization. Dilution often continues until none of the original substance remains.
Apart from the symptoms, homeopaths use aspects of the patient’s physical and psychological state in recommending remedies. Homeopathic reference books known as repertories are then consulted, and a remedy is selected based on the totality of symptoms.
Depending on the dilution, homeopathic remedies may not contain any pharmacologically active molecules. Modern homeopaths state that one reason homeopathy is effective is that water has a memory that allows homeopathic preparations to work without any of the original substance inherent in it.
Ultimately, the reason homeopathy works is predicated on the what homeopaths call “the vital force.”
Homeopathy interprets diseases and sickness as caused by disturbances in a vital force or life force. It sees these disturbances as manifesting themselves as unique symptoms. Homeopathy maintains that the vital force has the ability to react and adapt to internal and external causes, which homeopaths refer to as the law of susceptibility.
The law of susceptibility implies that a negative state of mind can attract disease entities called miasms to invade the body and produce symptoms of diseases. Hahnemann rejected the notion of a disease as a separate thing or invading entity and insisted that it was always part of the “living whole.”
As time went on, Hahnemann expounded on his original concepts and developed an entire set of principles regarding health and illness.
n 1828, Hahnemann introduced the concept of miasms; underlying causes for many known diseases. A miasm is often defined by homeopaths as an imputed “peculiar morbid derangement of [the] vital force”.
Hahnemann associated each miasm with specific diseases, with each miasm seen as the root cause of several diseases. According to Hahnemann, initial exposure to miasms causes local symptoms, such as skin or venereal diseases, but if these symptoms are suppressed by medication, the cause goes deeper and begins to manifest itself as diseases of the internal organs.
Homeopathy maintains that treating diseases by directly opposing their symptoms, as is sometimes done in conventional medicine, is ineffective because all “disease can generally be traced to some latent, deep-seated, underlying chronic, or inherited tendency”.
The underlying imputed miasm still remains, and deep-seated ailments can only be corrected by removing the deeper disturbance of the vital force.
Originally Hahnemann presented only three miasms, of which the most important was “psora” (Greek for itch), described as being related to any itching diseases of the skin, supposed to be derived from suppressed scabies, and claimed to be the foundation of many further disease conditions.
Hahnemann believed psora to be the cause of such diseases as epilepsy, cancer, jaundice, deafness, and cataracts. Since Hahnemann’s time, other miasms have been proposed, some replacing one or more of psora’s proposed functions, including tubercular miasms and cancer miasms.
To be continued next time, with a more in-depth look at what homeopathic remedies are.