Hahnemann’s Fight Against Venesection and Compound Mixtures

We shrug our shoulders at the uses of venesection and emetics in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when they were used for every disease….



Hufeland still says in 1830: Who ever neglects to draw blood, when a man is in danger of suffocating in his own blood, has in the event of his patient’s death or incurable disease, resulting from such omission, committed a serious crime of which his conscience must eternally accuse him; he is a murderer by omission quite as much as he who does not draw his brother from the water when he is danger of drowning.

Venesection was considered, first and foremost, in inflammations of the lungs and pleura, as the predominant and frequently the only helpful remedy “thousands and thousands of cases of inflammation of the lungs are quickly and permanently cured by venesection” (Mukisch). “In inflammation of the lungs the patient is irretrievably lost unless copious and even repeated with drawals of blood are made.” (Zeroni), “When an inflammation of the lungs is cured without venesection it is a rara avis, nigro simillima cygno” (a rare bird like a black swan-R.H.). And also in other diseases, for example, strangulated hernia (Augustin), in coughing up blood and haemorrhage from the lungs (Bischoff). “In hereditary tendency to consumption, venesection used occasionally arrests its development, and fights most powerfully against its progress” (Simon, Hamburg). Even in cholera (in 1831 and still in 1854) copious withdrawals of blood were recommended (Hasper), “It must be four to five pounds” (Rieser). Its intention was to avoid too great thickening of the blood, following upon the great loss of water through the frequent evacuations. If insufficient blood was drawn, the patient was still in danger of contracting a serious chronic disease. Therefore it was necessary to repeat venesection,-repeat it, until the patient fainted, ” even if those around him wailed” (Bischoff), because ” are not the most exhausting haemorrhage to be stopped by venesection to the point of fainting” (Heinrotn).



According to official statistics, France introduced and exported leeches: in out.

1820 — 1, 117, 930.

NOw Broussais’ teaching begins to spread: in out 1823 320,000 1,188,825 1827 33,644,494 195, 950 1833 41, 654, 300 869, 650

Dr. Thilenius who gives us these figures in the “Berlin hom. Ztschr.” (1885, Vol. 4. page 67), adds: “We can indeed ask with one of Broussais’ contemporaries, who has shed more French blood, Napoleon or Broussais?”



Professor Kussmaul describes in a graphic way the mania for blood- letting in his “Remembrances of Youth of an old Physician” (page 293):

The frequency with which blood-letting was prescribed now seems incredible. A strong woman of Kandern, whom I knew personally, was ordered by her family physician to have seven venesection in six weeks and the application of sixty leeches, because of an alleged inflammation of the brain and a subsequent intestinal inflammation. She was then over fifty and she reached the age of eighty three. Even weakly patients were frequently bled. I once heard the thin wife of a clergyman tell my father- she was then more than forty-that thirty venesections had been performed on her because of a frequent recurrence of blood in the sputum. She died of phthisis at the age of fifty-two years and six months.

In the clinics of Heidelberg the lancet and spring-lancet were in almost daily use. An Assistant Physician of the “Pfeufer Clinic,” I had to revise the apothecaries, accounts in which the yearly amount spent on leeches was heavier than that expended on medicines, although the latter were not sparingly used. We assistants soon became experts in venesection: to-day there are professors who have never performed a venesection or even seen one.

Even in the year 1861, one of the most eminent statesmen of the nineteenth century, Count Cavour, lost his life unexpected in consequence of senseless venesection (three times during twenty-four hours and twice more during the following two days) The venesections had been so thorough that when a further attempt was made, no more blood would flow, and only by compressing the artery could two or three more ounces of coagulated blood be extracted. The reporter of the “Times” in Turin at that time, called this procedure on the part of the eminent Italian physician by the right name when he reported to his paper on the death of this eminent man: The Romans are said to have crowned, on the capital, the physician who liberated them from Pope Adrian VI. The Italians of our day would hang the Physicians of Count Cavour with an easy conscience, if by that they could alleviate their sorrow. The treatment was pure murder. The names of the worthy physicians deserve to be handed down to posterity. They were Dr. Rossi, Mattoni and at the last the physician-in-ordinary to the king, Dr. Riberi, at whose hands the mother, the wife and the brothers of Victor Emmanuel died in succession in the beginning of that unlucky year, 1833.

We read on page 137 of Professor Franz von Winckel’s Allegemeiner Gynaekologie” (1909): No generation has passed in which a number of physicians have not considered it urgently necessary to venesect full- blooded pregnant women, that is to extract from time to their precious life-force, in quantities that were by no means small. A representative, of this rage for blood, a very well-known obstetrician in Berlin, Hanck, gives a description of the mania for blood-letting which was still in vogue in the fifties, and proves that venesection was not only performed with the firm conviction of helping, but also with the outspoken intention of posing as a help, or as they expressed it, “in order to afford science a small share in the natural course of parturition.”

And Professor Sticker of Bonn says in this book on “Whooping cough” (2nd edition, 1911, Clinical part, page 188):

We shrug our shoulders at the uses of venesection and emetics in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when they were used for every disease, as well as for whooping- cough in which venesection still plays such a large part up to the middle of the nineteenth century that Romberg (1853) warms us not to omit it: ” the earlier and the more copiously the better!” In the sixteenth century very few physicians dared to omit the use of venesection and emetics, because they would have made enemies of surgeon-barbers who were then becoming a very powerful Guild. Jaques Despars and others knew how to describe the persecution by this powerful Union; the great courage of A valleriola Johann, Weyer or Sennert was required in order to combat the abuse of venesection.



In the preface to the 6th edition of the “Organon,” page 18, Hahnemann says:

Homoeopathy knows that a cure can only take place by the reaction of the vital force against the rightly chosen remedy which has been ingested, and that the cure will be certain and rapid in proportion to the strength and vitality of the patient. Hence homoeopathy avoids everything in the slightest degree enfeebling. Homoeopathy never sheds a drop of blood it administers no emetics, purgatives, laxatives or diaphoretics.

And in another passage in the ” Organon” we read: Introduction, page 39. Annotation).

Although there probably never was a superfluous drop of blood in the living human body, yet the old-school practitioners consider an imaginary excess of blood to be the man active cause of all haemorrhages and inflammations, which they must remove and drain off by venesection, cupping and leeches. The allopathic physician with his venesection draws from the patient. not an oppressive superabundance of blood as that cannot possibly exist; he only robs him of that which is indispensable to life and recovery-the normal quantity of blood-and consequently of strength-this great loss no physician’s power can replace.

In his opinion (“Organon,” 74. Annotation 2, pages 163 and 164): Such a great loss of blood is evidently irreplaceable for the reminder of life, since the organs intended by the Creator for blood-making have thereby become so weakened that while they may manufacture blood in the same quantity it is not of an equally good quality. It is utterly impossible for this imagined plethora which has to be combated by frequent venesection to have been produced with such remarkable rapidity since the pulse of the now heated patient was so quiet up to an hour ago, before the fever and chill has set in. No man no sick person has ever had too much blood or too much strength. On the contrary, every sick man lacks strength, otherwise his vital energy would have prevented the development of the disease. Thus it is irrational and cruel to add to this already weakened patient, a greater, indeed the greatest serious source of debility that can be imagined. It is a murderous malpractice, irrational and cruel, which is based on a wholly groundless and absurd theory, rather than on the elimination of his disease which is ever dynamic and can only be removed by dynamic potencies.

Richard Haehl
Richard M Haehl 1873 - 1932 MD, a German orthodox physician from Stuttgart and Kirchheim who converted to homeopathy, travelled to America to study homeopathy at the Hahnemann College of Philadelphia, to become the biographer of Samuel Hahnemann, and the Secretary of the German Homeopathic Society, the Hahnemannia.

Richard Haehl was also an editor and publisher of the homeopathic journal Allgemcine, and other homeopathic publications.

Haehl was responsible for saving many of the valuable artifacts of Samuel Hahnemann and retrieving the 6th edition of the Organon and publishing it in 1921.
Richard Haehl was the author of - Life and Work of Samuel Hahnemann