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Homeopathic Medicine

With a first-aid kit of remedies (medicines) and an easy-to-follow guidebook, homeopathy is a medical system that allows you to treat at home most of life’s common ailments and minor injuries. Stomach pains, headaches, colds and flu, bruises, muscle sprains, ailments specific to babies, adolescents, and women, are all cured quickly and easily with homeopathic medicine. Complex or acute ailments require a full assessment by a homeopathic physician (all of whom are also M.D.s).

Homeopathy was recommended to me by a friend when I was suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. After months of diagnosis at considerable cost, doctors diagnosed my mysterious ailment (in 1990) as IBS and advised me to “learn to live with it” with OTC medicines for diarrhea and headache. The initial office visit to my local homeopathic physician was two hours—of discussion! In the interview I discussed the physical symptoms I was experiencing and my personal history, including career and marital issues, wishes (i.e., frustrations) and worries. No testing of blood pressure or body temperature (though diagnostic work-ups often have already been done). The homeopathic doctor treats the patient—not the disease, so getting to know the person’s emotions, thoughts, and family situation is foremost in diagnosis.

My remedy was a mineral compound; I took one dose of high potency and never had another IBS symptom for five years until I inadvertently used camphor for sore muscles. Camphor and coffee (amount varies between individuals) cancel the effectiveness of homeopathic medicines.

After experiencing these results and hearing the reports from other friends, I bought the book “Homeopathic Medicine at Home” by Panos and Heimlich and a kit of remedies at my physicians’ office. This has been my family’s primary medical care for eleven years including five years overseas. My daughters (ages 8, 10, and 11 when Mom discovered this medicine) learned to read the charts themselves over the years and as they leave for college The Book and The Kit travel with them. In her 17 years my youngest has had only three courses of antibiotics; the pediatrician never recognized her due to infrequent visits.

Homeopathy is a system of medicine that uses natural plant, mineral, and animal substances; it is based on the principle that “like is cured by like.” That is, a remedy can cure a disease if it produces in a healthy person symptoms similar to those of the disease. Homeopathic remedies, then, are extremely diluted extracts of plants or minerals that would ordinarily be toxic. The potency of the remedy is no where near enough to directly act on tissues, which means that homeopathic medicine is nontoxic and cannot cause side effects. If you take the wrong remedy it will not improve your condition but neither will it harm you (even if a child should ingest a whole vial, there would be no need to cause poison control).

Homeopathy is used by hundreds of millions of people around the world. In Europe, the origin of homeopathic medicine, it is a prevalent medical system and was transmitted by European colonists throughout the globe. In Germany, homeopathic pharmacies are as common as the corner gas station used to be in the US.

It was a German physician, Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann, who developed this system of medical treatment in the early 1800s. Dr. Hahnemann was disillusioned with the prevailing medical establishment, physicians and chemists, soon after setting up practice. Eighteenth and nineteenth-century physicians believed that sickness was caused by humors or fluids that had to be expelled, and so patients were cauterized, blistered, purged, and bled. After this bloodletting, doctors prescribed medicines with a great number of chemicals in one prescription. Hahnemann’s outspoken criticism of this “degrading commerce in prescription” enraged the chemists, the forerunners of today’s pharmaceutical companies and just as powerful, so much so that he gave up the practice of medicine, turning to medical translating for a livelihood, and he eventually moved to France.

However, Dr. Hahnemann continued to seek a simpler, gentler method of healing. In translating the lectures of a Scottish professor of medicine Hahnemann discovered the route he had sought. Professor William Cullen claimed that cinchona bark, or quinine, cured intermittent fever (malaria) because of its astringent and bitter qualities. Knowing other substances that were equally bitter, Hahnemann did not think Cullen’s explanation was reasonable. And knowing the ancient principle of “like cures like,” Hahnemann reasoned that the quinine cured malaria because it caused the same symptoms. To test his theory the doctor took quinine to test what the effects were on a healthy person; the doctor experienced all the symptoms of malaria for as long as he took the quinine.

This was the first scientific testing of a homeopathic treatment. The testing, or proving as it is called in the field, is only conducted on healthy humans, never animals, because the emotional and psychological effects are attended to as much as physiological. When Dr. Hahnemann died in 1843 at age 88, he had conducted or supervised tests or provings on 99 substances. By the end of the century more than 600 other medicines had been added to the homeopathic pharmacopoeia.

Homeopathy was brought to the US in 1825 by a Danish physician, and the practice spread rapidly in the latter half of the nineteenth century. In 1890, in the US there were 14,000 homeopathic physicians (as compared to 100,000 conventional or allopathic physicians). In some areas—New England, the Middle Atlantic States, and the Midwest—one out of four or five physicians was a homeopath. There were 22 homeopathic medical schools and more than 100 homeopathic hospitals. The effectiveness of this system of medicine was demonstrated in the great flu epidemic of the 1910s when homeopathic physicians lost one percent of their patients and 40 percent of patients of allopaths died.

The US medical establishment was hostile to homeopathy from the start of its arrival upon American shores. In the 1830 and 40s when the public was increasingly dissatisfied with the harsh practices of regular medicine, there were “alternatives” other than homeopathy including herbalists and naturopathy, but only homeopaths were licensed medical doctors. They were regarded by the medical establishment as “defectors” for practicing homeopathy. The American Medical Association (AMA) was formed in 1846 as a direct response to the founding of American Institute of Homeopathy two years earlier.

After the Civil War the rise of the drug industry provided the allopath with proprietary compounds that saved the allopath the time and effort of mixing medicines. Medical historian Harris L. Coulter writes, “The pharmaceutical industry…in the 1890s and early 1900s allied with the American Medical Association in its (the medical association’s) final campaign against homeopathy.” A severe blow was dealt to the practice in 1910 when a report to philanthropic organizations evaluating medical schools, prepared by the AMA, gave a low rating to homeopathic medical schools thus denying them a share in the millions of dollars, principally Rockefeller and _________ grants. One by one the homeopathic medical schools closed, and homeopathic hospitals were converted to standard institutions. Remaining today??