History of Homeopathy
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A BRIEF HISTORY OF HOMEOPATHY IN THE UNITED STATES
The growth of homeopathy in the United States
Homeopathy is an effective natural system of health care that uses remedies comprised of micro-doses of substances to stimulate the body and mind to heal naturally. It was discovered almost 200 years ago by a German physician, Samuel Hahnemann, and since that time, has been effectively used in many countries for the treatment of acute and chronic diseases. Interest in homeopathy began to grow in the United States in 1825, and this non-toxic system of health care became extremely popular because of its effectiveness in treating the various epidemic diseases of the time. Homeopathic medical schools and hospitals appeared all over the country and the effectiveness of treatment with homeopathy was so impressive that life insurance companies offered a discount to homeopathic patients.
This natural health care system was not only generally popular; it also drew the respect of many of our most illustrious Americans. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Cullen Bryant, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe were all supporters of homeopathy.
By 1840 homeopathy was widely used in the United States and in 1844 homeopaths founded the first medical organization in this country, the American Institute for Homeopathy. There were 99 homeopathic physicians in the state of New Jersey in 1860. That is one homeopathic physician for every 6800 persons. What happened to all this?
In 1846, non-homeopathic physicians formed an organization. This organization was the American Medical Association and one of its goals was to combat homeopathy and other medical practices. They denied membership and consequently the ability to practice medicine to any doctor who even associated with a homeopath. One of the reasons that homeopathy was such a threat to them was that the homeopathic doctors of the day were very well trained physicians who were following a consistent philosophy of medicine. Homeopaths were sharply critical of treatments that they saw as simply suppressing symptoms and depleting health in general, which may be partly responsible for the backlash. But the true reason may simply have been financial. In a 1903 meeting of the AMA one respected allopathic physician admitted that they never fought homeopaths because of their principles, they fought them because they moved in and got the business. The AMA continued its onslaught against homeopathy up until the beginning of the twentieth century forcing most of the homeopathic medical schools to close down or deteriorate to the point where it was almost impossible to get an adequate education in homeopathy.
The decline of homeopathy
In spite of the efforts of the AMA, homeopathy still existed in the United States in the 1920's and 30's. But two other factors completed what the AMA had failed to do. One was the discovery of antibiotic drugs. These were considered to be the "magic bullet". And, indeed, they were extremely effective in a time when most diseases were acute infections due to organisms, which hadn't been exposed to any form of antibiotic treatment. These new drugs quickly became the treatment of choice of both doctors and their patients, as they were easy to use and acted quickly. No one even considered the possibility of there being any harm in this form of treatment. But several decades before this, James Tyler Kent, the great American homeopath, had warned his students about this type of treatment. He said that if we insist on treating every superficial symptom without consideration for the whole person, symptoms would move deeper and deeper into the body, causing more chronic diseases.
The final blow to homeopathy came due to increased infatuation with technology. People fell in love with machines and with specialization and began to think of their bodies as machines with interchangeable parts. They consulted physicians who were trained in medical specialties emphasizing one part or one system of the body. With this change in attitude, homeopathy, with its emphasis on treating the whole person, fell out of favor.
Present Day Interest in Homeopathy
The "miracle" of antibiotics was short lived. Penicillin, the first commercial antibiotic was discovered in 1928 and resistant staphylococcus developed even before it was widely used. As we moved into the twenty-first century, anti-microbial resistance has become a significant threat. Anti-microbial resistance, and the development of more chronic disease lead again, to greater interest in homeopathy.