According to the World Heath Organization (WHO), Homeopathy is currently the second largest system of medicine in the world. Founded by German physician Dr Samuel Hahnemann just over 200 years ago, homeopathy’s evolution is certainly worth exploring.
Painter’s Son Paints the Field of Medicine with Revolutionary Colours
Born on 10th April 1755 at Meissen, a small town in Germany, Dr Samuel Hahnemann was a poor porcelain painter. Poverty did not deter Hahnemann from studying and practising medicine. He was one among the very few to graduate with an MD from Leipzig University, Germany. Doctors of conventional medicine then routinely used bleeding and excessive purging to treat diseases as they thought that diseases were caused due to bad blood within the body. Hahnemann was thoroughly disenchanted with this state of medical practice that led him to give up his medical career.
Hahnemann’s ‘Eureka’ Moment
With no financial backing but immense knowledge of over a dozen languages, Dr Hahnemann started translating medical books in different languages to support his family. Whilst translating William Cullen’s Lectures on the Materia Medica, he came across a statement that said cinchona (quinine) bark possessed specific febrifugal (fever-relieving) properties, because it was one of the most aromatic and bitter substances. This triggered his ‘scientific’ mind and curiosity. He thought that though there were substances that had bitter and fragrant properties, none of them could cure fevers. He was eager to test the idea and drank a decoction of cinchona bark to test the results and developed a malaria-like fever with chills. This was his ‘Eureka’ moment that laid the foundation for homeopathy.
Dr Hahnemann expounded his principle for homeopathy: Likes cures Likes, meaning that what a substance is capable of causing, it is capable of curing. By this we understand that substances which produce a set of symptoms in a healthy individual can treat a sick individual who is manifesting a similar set of symptoms.
For example, when you chop onions, you have watery eyes, a runny nose, you sneeze, cough and all of it happens due to exposure to the tuber’s active substances. The homeopathic remedy, Allium Cepa, made from red onion, can help overcome a cold or allergy attack in which one may have similar symptoms i.e watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, or throat irritation.
Vicious campaign of ‘bullying’ against it takes homeopathy to places
Hahnemann’s idea of a new, humane and gentle system of healing did not go down well with the orthodox medical practitioners. Bullying made Hahnemann’s life in Leipzig impossible; he was abused and hounded out of town. His family became impoverished and he even lost his wife and son soon. During his exile too, he continued his homeopathy practice wherever he went. Hahnemann finally moved to Paris (with his homeopathy practice) making the city the largest contributor to homeopathy in the world followed by Germany.
Global acceptance and growth across US, Europe, India and other Countries
Homeopathy was introduced to the United States in 1825 by Hans Birch Gram, a student of Hahnemann. Throughout the 19th century, dozens of homeopathic institutions appeared in the US with 22 homeopathic colleges and 15,000 practitioners. The success of homeopathy led to the abandonment of harmful treatments of blood-letting and purging, and people moved towards more effective and safer medication. The popularity of homeopathy provoked criticism by mainstream practitioners leading it to closure of homeopathic institutes with the last teaching school too closing in 1920. However, by 1970, homeopathy made a significant comeback with homeopathic companies increasing tenfold. Homeopathy soon received acceptance in several countries including UK, where it enjoys royal patronage from three generations, UAE, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Switzerland.
Homeopathy came to India in 1810 when Dr. John Martin Honigberger, a French traveler who learnt homeopathy from Dr Hahnemann, visited India and treated patients. He treated Maharaja Ranjit Singh - the then ruler of Punjab - with a homeopathic remedy Dulcamara while he suffered from paralysis of the vocal cords.
Impressed with the results, the Maharaja encouraged Dr Martin to continue homeopathic practice in India. Later, a large number of missionaries, and members of the Indian administration i.e. police and foreign services; practiced homeopathy with an intent to spread its benefits to many more people. Here is where the journey of homeopathy in India steered towards legalization in 1948.
Standing Tall Even Today & Growing Exponentially
Today, homeopathy has an estimated market size of over Rs 26,000 crore and is trusted by over 50 crore people across more than 80 countries in the world. In the last few years, homeopathy has grown three times faster than allopathy @ 25-30% annually.
* In England, 42% British physicians refer patients to homeopaths. * More than a third of the French people use homeopathy. A survey of French pharmacists found that an astounding 94.5% reported advising pregnant women to use homeopathy. * It has been estimated that over 6 million people in the US use homeopathy for self-care. * Homeopathy is followed by over 10 crore people in India. The country has a Rs 3,600 crore organized homeopathy market. There are over 2.25 lakh registered homeopathy practitioners with 20,000 new homeopaths being added every year.
How homeopathy has evolved from then to now?
From 200 drugs in Hahnemann’s time, today there are more than 2,000 clinically-proved homeopathic medicines in practice. This is incredible, considering it takes at least 10 years to enlist a single new drug in the allopathy category of medicine.
Homeopathic medicines are now available over the counter (OTC). The homeopathy market has grown in last 10 years with almost every pharmacy in France including it.
* The Government of India’s Department of AYUSH promotes Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy since 2003. It paved the way to form the Ministry of AYUSH in 2014 ensuring optimal development and propagation of systems of health care.
* The Union budget 2017 allocated Rs 1,428.65 crore for AYUSH ministry amid the government’s increased focus on promoting alternative medicines.
* Homeopathic treatments are now being offered by insurance companies under their comprehensive health insurance policy.
* The Government of India is promoting an integrated system of medicine wherein All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) facilities across India have a homeopathic division.
From being an alternative system of medicine, homeopathy today is a complementary system of medicine and can be used alongside allopathy. Some hospitals in India and Dubai already have homeopathy department as part of their OPDs.
Along with showing amazing results in treating several acute and chronic ailments, homeopathy also works on animals and finds application in agriculture too. It works on herds of cows with mastitis, and on individual plants and fields of crops.
What makes homeopathy so popular?
Homeopathy is popular because it is natural and safe for all men, women and the elderly, including children. It is cost-effective and can also be used alongside allopathy or any other system of medicine.
I believe homeopathy, with its impressive track record of safety and utility, is poised to not only be the medicine of the future but also just as useful in preventative healthcare.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.