Medicine is not just an art and a science, but it is also a calling. It requires the ability to empathize and is always based on principles. A fundamental, driving principle of good medical practice is to take what can potentially help the patient, examine it and apply it — even if it appears to fly in the face of currently accepted principles. We may actually learn something new.
Nowhere in medicine does a therapeutic modality appear to defy current medical precepts than homeopathy. This is because homeopathic medicines (homeopathic remedies as they are often referred to by homeopaths) are often so diluted as to not contain any molecule of the original substance. Also, they are based on the principle of similia similibus curentur or “like cures like”, i.e. a substance that can cause symptoms of a disease at a high concentration may cure that disease at a lower concentration.
While these principles appear at first glance to be implausible, one only needs to look at other complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) methods of therapy, such as acupuncture, meditation and prayer.
With acupuncture, needles are regularly inserted into the skin at certain points known as acupoints in order to treat disorders that have no known anatomic connection with the diseased organ, such as the Large Intestine point 4, between the thumb and index finger, which is used to treat headaches, sinusitis, constipation and even to assist in labour. Acupuncture is a widely accepted method of therapy and is even on the latest World Health Organisation WHO ICD classification.
HISTORY OF HOMEOPATHY
Homeopathy is a system of medicine founded about 200 years ago in Germany, by the physician Samuel Friedrich Christian Hahnemann (10 Apr 1755 – 02 Jul 1843).1,2 He studied medicine at Leipzig and Vienna and attained an MD degree at Erlangen in 1779.1,2 In Leipzig in 1790, while translating William Cullen’s treatise of Materia Medica, he came upon the assertion that cinchona cured malaria because it could induce the symptoms of this disorder.
Hahnemann ingested some and developed fever, chills and joint pains, all symptoms of malaria. This led him to believe that a substance that can produce symptoms of a disease in a healthy person, may also do this in a sick person. Due to his disillusionment with the medical practices of his day, such as blood-letting and purging, Hahnemann turned his back on medical practice and chose instead to translate. He was a highly regarded chemist, author and translator;1 he died a successful and wealthy physician in Paris.
The principle of similars was already espoused well before Hahnemann. Hippocrates reportedly used this principle and treated mania by using Mandrake root, because its can induce symptoms of mania.3 Paracelcius is also reported to, like Hippocrates, have espoused the principle similia similibus curentur.3
Hahnemann experimented with many different substances; thus, developing a system of dilution and succussion, which helped to eliminate toxicity of the remedies while increasing their efficacy.
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