Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dr.Samuel Hahnemann, founder of Homoeopathy

This is a painting of Dr.Hahnemann painted by his wife Melanie when he was 83 years old. The original painting hangs in the Bosch Institute at Stuttgart, Germany


In recent times, the growing awareness of adverse side-effects of western system of medicine is creating an increasing interest in alternative systems, esp. Homoeopathy (also spelt homeopathy). It is a unique system of rational healing having no known harmful effects, based on natural laws and even considered as a link between orthodox medicine and holistic approach. It was discovered by a German allopathic physician Dr. Christian Freidrich Samuel Hahnemann, whose 255th birthday the entire fraternity remembers him this day.

Early life

Hahnemann was born on April 10, 1755 in Meissen, Germany. His father was a porcelain painter. Hahnemann had to be taken out of school frequently due to poverty. When he was 12, he helped himself pay his fees by tutoring his fellow students in Latin and Greek. Later on, since the boy was a brilliant student, his kind Professors allowed him to study for free.


After his schooling, in 1775, with very little money, he left to study medicine at Leipzig. He supported himself by giving private lessons in French and German as well as translating treatises on medicine, botany and chemistry. He received his degree in MD in 1779 and started practicing medicine. Within five years, he got frustrated with the ineffective and 'barbarous' methods of treatment, prevalent in those days. Use of leeches, blood-letting, sweating and salivation, purging and emetics, use of combined decoctions of over 50 different drugs, burning and searing with hot iron and the use of irritants to evoke suppuration and discharges never impressed Hahnemann. He gave away his medical practice candidly admitting that his patients would do better without his help and denouncing himself as a 'murderer'. In the meantime, he married Kuchler (they eventually had 11 children before she died in 1830) in 1782. He made a living by translating scientific works into German and other languages since he was a fantastic polyglot having a fluency in 14 languages. He had a desire to device a system that 'cured' patients painlessly.

The discovery

Discoveries are often accidental. Hahnemann's homoeopathy was no exception. In 1790, while translating the Scottish physician, Dr .William Cullen's treatise on the materia medica, a standard work of that age, he came across a passage which stated that Cinchona/Peruvian (quinine) bark possessed specific febrifugal action, because it was both the most aromatic and bitter substance known. He knew that there were more plants even more bitter than this bark and yet were not effective in treating malaria. He decided to search for something deeper and beyond. Original thinking was Hahnemann's forte even from a young age. His father would often shut the young boy up in a room giving him a knotty question to ponder, before going to work. Trained that way, his mind was never idle, always looking for answers to every doubt that arose in him. He had grown up on his father's maxims "Prove all things… hold fast to what is good… dare to be wise… never be a passive listener or learner… be honest in behaviour".

The experiment

So he prepared a decoction of cinchona bark and took it for the first time in medical history 2000 years after the law of similars was touched upon, in passing, by Hippocrates in 400 BC. And presto, he developed the symptoms of malaria in himself. Symptoms would reappear each time he took. Fully convinced after thorough experimentation with other substances also, Hahnemann concluded that, a drug that is capable of producing a set of its own peculiar and characteristic symptoms when given in the proper form to the healthy, sensitive individual, can cure harmlessly, quickly and permanently a patient with disease exhibiting a similar set of symptoms. The cinchona assay was the touchstone for development of Hahnemann's novel discovery, "Similia similibus curenter" or "like cures like", the first law of homoeopathy. In his lifetime he 'proved' nearly a hundred drugs on himself as well as on his enthusiastic followers and carefully recorded the symptoms.

The turmoil

The journals of his time printed scathing critiques. The jealous and annoyed allopathic doctors ridiculed, harassed, attacked and persecuted him because Hahnemann and his new doctrine was gathering momentum and his treatments were getting successful. They even prevented him from dispensing his own medicines. But he endured and continued his research and practice. Many letters found after his death revealed how much turmoil he had undergone. Swift had remarked, "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him."


He discovered accidentally that by administering tiny amounts, instead of larger doses of the drug, gave fantastic results. He had noticed an increase in the 'power' of the drug when it was 'potentized' - vigorously shaken (succussed) and diluted.

Second marriage

Hahnemann, aged 80, married a young Parisian lady by name Melanie who took him to France where they established practice and flourished. Hahnemann died in 1843, having lived in full possession of his health, faculties and senses in spite of spending a great part proving drugs. The inscription on his tomb says "I have not lived in vain".

A thumbnail sketch

1810 -Organon of the Healing Art published; the new system is brought to India by some German physicians and missionaries who visited Bengal.

1811- Settles in Leipzig. Carries out his famed provings which result in the publication of the Materia Medica Pura

1813- Napoleon's typhus-affected survived-soldiers treated with Hahnemann's remedies

1820 - Scarlet fever epidemic handled with diluted Belladonna

1828 - Publishes his book on chronic diseases after being convinced that a human being is a trinity of forces: the conscious spirit, the instinctive vital force and the material organism

1829 - Homeopathic Society was formed

1831 - Cholera epidemic successfully treated

1832 - Homeopathic Hospital and Medical School opened in Leipzig

1835- Hahnemann's disciple, Hoeniberger visits Lahore, treats Maharaja Ranjit Singh; Marries Melanie; Shift of residence to Paris; Gives final touches to the final or sixth edition of The Organon.

The great man

Hahnemann was a true physician, a preserver of health, a great healer who was kind and humane. The first of 291 aphorisms of his "Organon" - "The physician's high and only mission is to restore the sick to health, to cure, as it is termed" is ample testimony to his concern for mankind. He was a glorious eccentric, a scientist with the mind of a mystic and vice versa. He was the progenitor of several modern medical approaches. Only geniuses gifted like Hahnemann could envision an entire system of medicine and fully develop it within his own lifetime. An unparalled achievement. There is no system on earth that owes so much to one man as homoeopathy. In a famous letter to Hufeland he wrote: "If experience should show you that my method is the best, then make use of it for the benefit of humanity and give God glory!". The story of Hahnemann is the saga of homoeopathy itself. Salutations to the man who gave mankind a 'divine', scientific system of treatment that is non-toxic, safe, sure, gentle, rapid and permanent in its curative action.


Some Salient Features of Homoeopathy

  1. Economical and easy to administer (small medicated pills) or carry around
  2. Drugs have no expiry dates when preserved properly
  3. No habit forming
  4. Can be safely given to pregnant women, babies, children and old people also
  5. Quickness of cure is proportional to quickness of administering
  6. Illnesses are not suppressed
  7. A boon to quick healing of injuries
  8. Addresses the root of a problem, esp. in chronic ailments
  9. Symptoms, mental/physical and causation are of paramount importance
  10. Individualized treatment; treats the whole patient
  11. Pathological tests are usually not necessary
  12. Genetic disorders can be stopped from visiting the infant
  13. Used extensively for animals also
  14. Homoeopath can fail, not homoeopathy.


Myths and benefits of Homoeopathy

How I came to know about Homoeopathy is here in my blog.