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The Beginnings of Homoeopathy

Homoeopathy was founded by Samuel Hahnemann. He believed that the symptoms and signs of an illness are in fact attempts on the part of the organism to heal itself, so that when a substance capable of producing a similar ‘picture’ to that of the disease is used it encourages a powerful strenghtening of the defence mechanism.

‘...everything must be the pure language of nature carefully and honestly interrogated.’
-- Samuel Hahnemann

Samuel Hahnemann was the founder of homoeopathy. This outstanding scholar was born in Meissen, Saxony (now part of Germany), on 10th April 1755 into an impoverished middle-class family during the Seven Years War in the reign of Frederick the Great. His early education was at home where his father taught him never to learn passively but to question everything.Later in life Hahnemann credited his father with instilling `good and worthy’ ideas into his mind.

Hahnemann pursued his studies vigorously throughout his boyhood and became a gifted linguist. He was proficient in German, English, French, Italian, Greek, Hebrew, Latin and Arabic. As a young man he developed an interest in the sciences and medicine in particular. He eventually trained as a doctor, studying at Leipzig and Vienna before finally qualifying at Erlangen in 1779.

In 1782, at the age of 27, Hahnemann married Johanna Henriette Kuchler, the daughter of an apothecary. They had 11 children—9 daughters and 2 sons. Hahnemann became a Medical Doctor in 1791 and practiced conventional medicine. During the early years of the marriage he earned his livelihood from a combination of medical practice and the translation of medical and scientific texts. Once in practice, Hahnemann became disillusioned with the medical practices of the day.

Over the first 10 years of his practice Hahnemann resorted to treating patients as far as possible by diet and exercise, using a minimum of drugs and other harmful practices. By 1790, he felt he could no longer continue to even do this and gave up his practice all-together.

In latter years he wrote:
My sense of duty would not easily allow me to treat the unknown pathological state of my suffering brethren with these unknown medicines… The thought of becoming in this way a murderer or malefactor towards the life of my fellow human beings was most terrible to me, so terrible and disturbing that I wholly gave up my practice in the first years of my married life… and occupied myself solely with chemistry and writing.’’ Also:``After the discovery of the weakness and misconceptions of my teachers and my books I sank into a state of morbid indignation, which might almost have completely vitiated for me the study of medical knowledge. I was about to believe that the whole science was of no avail and incapable of improvement. I gave myself up to my own individual cognition and determined to fix no goal for my considerations until I should have arrived at a decisive conclusion.’’

For some time Hahnemann lived in considerable poverty with his wife and children, earning a living from writing and translation alone. He is described by a contemporary friend as living with his family in a single room divided by a curtain, pursuing his own investigations by day and staying up every second night to do translation work to provide food for his family. Hahnemann first stumbled across the phenomena that he was later to call the homœopathic action of drugs in the year that he gave up his practice. When translating A Treatise on the Materia Medica by the Edinburgh physician, William Cullen he read that the drug, ‘Cinchona’ (china or quinine) was effective in the treatment of malaria because it was bitter and astringent and had a toning effect on the stomach.

Hahnemann was not satisfied by this statement for, if it were true, then all bitter, astringent substances should likewise be effective in the treatment of malaria, and they were not.

Hahnemann decided to experiment with the effects of cinchona upon himself and discovered that the side-effects, or symptoms that it produced in him were similar to the symptoms of malaria.

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