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Caricature comparing homeopathy and allopathy (mainstream medicine), 1800s.

Caricature comparing homeopathy and allopathy (mainstream medicine), 1800s.

Credits:Wellcome Library, London.

The German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) developed homeopathy around 1800 as an alternative to the medical theories taught in Europe at the time. When self-experimenting to analyse the effects of the malaria drug quinine on the healthy body, he found that the substance produced similar effects in the healthy body as the malaria fever it was supposed to cure. From this observation Hahnemann derived the principle that ‘like cures like’ (Latin similia similibus curentur). He called his new system of treatment ‘homeopathy’.

He argued that a substance which caused effects in a healthy patient that looked similar to the disease, when given in very small doses, would prompt the body to reactivate its inner healing mechanisms, and thus combat the disease. In the 1830s ‘homeopathic societies’ were founded by followers of Hahnemann who shared his dissatisfaction with academic medicine. Some of those followers modified Hahnemann's original theory according to further scientific developments. Today, homeopathic treatments are among the range of options open to patients, but the system continues to meet with scepticism from medical scientists.


Related links

Techniques and Technologies:


D H Chand, History of Homeopathy in India in the 19th Century (New Delhi: B. Jain, 2007)

T M Cook, Samuel Hahnemann: The Founder of Homoeopathic Medicine (Wellingborough, Northamptonshire: Thorsons, 1981)

S Hahnemann, Organon of Medicine, 6th edition (Philadelphia: Boericke & Tafel, 1922)

R W Hobhouse, Christian Samuel Hahnemann, Founder of Homeopathy, a Short Biography (Ashington: C.W. Daniel Co, 1961)

N Robins, Copeland's cure: Homeopathy and the War Between Conventional and Alternative Medicine (New York: Knopf, 2005)

W E Thomas, Homeopathy: Historical Origins and the End (Australia: Nemsi Books, 2006)