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Homeopathy is a system of medicine founded by German physician, Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). Dr. Hahnemann practiced at a time when most conventional doctors were using leeches, heavy metals and other toxic substances to cure disease. Needless to say, these treatments were not always effective and a good number of patients died from the treatments themselves. Frustrated by this, Hahnemann retired from medical practice and (because he spoke seven or eight languages) went into medical editing, translating papers and texts written by leading researchers of the time.
While translating Dr. William Cullen’s report on the use of Cinchona bark to cure malaria, Hahnemann questioned the author as to why he thought this tree bark was so effective in curtailing the disease. Cullen replied that cure resulted from the bitterness of Cinchona, but Hahnemann was not convinced so he decided to test Cinchona further, but this time, he elected to test the medicine on himself. After taking repeated doses, Hahnemann began to experience chills, fever, and diarrhea. And these three symptoms, he noted, were the very same symptoms that characterized malaria, the disease which Cinchona bark was found to cure.
Hahnemann then reasoned that if Cinchona could bring on specific symptoms in a healthy person and if it could cure those very same symptoms in a sickly person, then perhaps this would be the case with other substances found in nature. So he went on to test various plant, mineral, and animal extracts. And to his delight, the results were consistent, namely that substances that cause a given set of symptoms when given to a healthy person will act as a medicine to cure that same set of symptoms in an unhealthy person.
This principle, Hahnemann called the Law of Similars and the medical system that grew from this Law he called homeopathy. To this day, every homeopathic medicine is developed in the very same way. Volunteers (typically health care professionals) participate in research studies that are called “provings”. In provings they are carefully monitored as they take repeated low doses of natural substances until they experience observable symptoms. These symptoms are documented in minute detail and entered into medical texts called “materia medica.” When homeopaths detect these symptoms in sick people, they know that the substance in the proving can act in a curative manner.
Today, all homeopathic medicines are prepared in licensed homeopathic pharmacies. All are approved by the FDA as over the counter medicines and all come in carefully calculated doses so that the amount of active ingredient is known, maximizing safety and minimizing unwanted side effects.