Homeopathy originated with the publication of the Essay on New Curative Principle by the German physician Dr. Samuel Hanhemann (1755-1853) in 1796. Over the last two centuries the fortune of homeopathy has fluctuated widely. For most of the 19th century homeopathy enjoyed a rapid growth in Europe and North America, despite the occasional opposition of the medical establishment. This was followed by a dramatic decline of its use in the 20th century, almost disappearing in the US. Yet, in what must be one of the last anticipated recent developments in medicine, homeopathy has staged a strong, worldwide resurgence in the late 1980s and into the 90s.
The “principle of similars” (or similarity) constitutes homeopathy and the basis for its understanding. According to this principle, which has already figured in some medical and philosophical systems of antiquity (Hippocrates, St. Augustine, Paracelsus) but was rediscovered and implemented by Dr. Hanhemann; a disease can be cured by administering a substance to the patient, which in healthy human subjects causes symptoms similar to those of the disease.
In practice this means:
- Every biologically active substance produces characteristic symptoms, which are typical of a pathological alteration of that particular subject
- The healing of a sick body, characterized by the progressive disappearance of all symptoms may be obtained by a targeted administration of a remedy which produces a similar symptom in healthy bodies. For example, a homeopath, starting from the observation that bee venom causes a wheal with pain and erythematic mitigated by cold compresses, administers bee extracts in a homeopathic presentation (diluted and dynamized) to cure patients presenting wheals and pain similar to those of bee stings, albeit of different etiology.