Blood letting to an unbelievable degree was in favour. It is said that Leopold of Austria, and Count Cavour the Saviour of of Italy were amongst the illustrious victims; while Raphael, Lord Byron and a host of celebrities were seriously injured by bleeding. Polypharmacy grew like anything. We are told that the largest number of ingredients recorded in one prescription was four hundred.


On 10th April, in the year 1755, Samuel Hahnemann was born in Saxony. He was a great scholar, a prodigious worker, a good musician and an astronomer. He was also a great linguist. We are told that before he was twentyone, he knew French, German, English, Italian, Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Arabic and could quote medical writers in all those languages and could examine their view either in disagreement or in support. His access to the field of Chemistry is also well – known and in Crells Annals 1793) he was mentioned as the famous analytical chemist.

About his peculiar habits it is said that for 40 years his custom was to sit up one night in four, studying. We note that about 120 pamphlets and 116 large works were published by him. As a dietetician and hygienist he was also considered far ahead of his time. He was also a reformer in psychiatry and he himself founded a small insane asylum in Georgenthal. Above all, Hahnemann was a born physician, a scientist – cum – philosopher, and iconoclast and a great friend of the suffering humanity.

Very Queer Idea

The idea and conception of disease and its mode of treatment were queer indeed in the days of Hahnemann Details of the mode of treatment of his days would perhaps make one as horrified and worried as the thought of the Indian Sati. Disease was thought of as something inhabiting a body which required to be drained out and given and exit by any means. Sickness, it was viewed, was caused by humours that had to be expelled from the body by any and every method that could be devised. Here was a reign par excellence of imagination, tradition and hoary authority. Medicines were harmful and futile, cruel and crude.

Blood letting to an unbelievable degree was in favour. It is said that Leopold of Austria, and Count Cavour the Saviour of of Italy were amongst the illustrious victims; while Raphael, Lord Byron and a host of celebrities were seriously injured by bleeding. Polypharmacy grew like anything. We are told that the largest number of ingredients recorded in one prescription was four hundred. The famous Venice – Treacle contained sixtyfive ingredients and Mithridate, also a world – famed prescription, contained 50 ingredients having its place in the pharmacopoeia of 1785.

A great Discovery

Although a reputed physician, Hahnemann was always sceptical and was not at all satisfied with the notions and ways of healing of his time. Discontent grew so much in him that he decided to give up practice and earn his livelihood by writing and translating books. In the sceptic stage of his mind, in the year 1799, while he was translating the Materia Medica of the English Doctor, Cullen, he disagreed with Cullens dictum that the curative effect of Peruvian bark (Cinchona) was due to its action on the stomach.

This disagreement indeed is a great event in the history of medicine. In order to arrive at something concrete, Hahnemann took cinchona in large doses and discovered with amazement its power of exciting the familiar symptoms of intermittent fever which made a profound impression on his mind. “With this first trial” (i.e. with cinchona) Hahnemann says, “broke upon me the dawn that has since brightened into the most brilliant day of the medical art, that it was only by their power to make healthy human being ill, that medicine can cure morbid states whose symptoms the selected drug can itself produce in the healthy.” He was led to think seriously about the novel conception of Similia Similibus Curantur.

The conception of Similia Similibus Curantur did not first originate in the mind of Hahnemann. The idea of treatment by similars was first put forward by Hippocrates (about 460 B.C. to 370 B.C.) and the words Similia Similibus Curantur are stated to have been written by Paracelsus in the Geneva Edition (1658) of his works (Encyclopedia Britannica).

Like Cures Like

Hahnemann gave instances where half a dozen doctors before him had had presentiments that medicines by their power of producing symptoms would cure analogous conditions. We note that Stahl, a Danish Military physician, expressed his conviction on this subject most distinctly and had said that the rule accepted in medicine to cure by contraries “Contraria contraries” was entirely wrong. Stahl was convinced on the contrary that diseases were cured by means of medicines capable of producing a similar affection.

He pointed out that burns were cured by approaching the fire, frozen limbs by the application of snow or very cold water, inflammation and contusions by distilled spirit. But, Similia Similibus Curantur (let likes be treated by likes) was never thought of so seriously and put into a practice by any school or medicine. In 1796, in an essay on “The New principle for a ascertaining the curative powers of drug” Hahnemann communicated his great idea of similia.

It is the crusaders zeal, strong conviction or Hahnemann reinforced by series of successful experiments after Cinchona and his life – long studies (1755-1843) that gave a solid foundation to the conception of Similia Similibus Curantur and it became the rule of practice under the name of Homoeopathy derived from the two Greek words; Homoeos (like) and Pathos (feelings or sufferings), which contain the ideas like cures likes, and therefore, let like be treated by likes (Similia Similibus Curantur).

What is disease? What are the cause of disease? to these pertinent questions different schools of thought have given different answers. It would be wiser to say that history alone would vindicate is victor. On the etiology of disease, Hahnemann took up the whole thing in terms of three forces or powers – the Vital force. Miasm (disease force), and the Medicinal force, which are now being termed as the Hahnemannian three parallels.

These forces or powers are invisible and cannot be proved physically. When the Vital force of a man becomes weak or gives way to disease force, it loose the equilibrium that keeps the man in health and reacts on the individual by releasing a chain of symptoms that calls for treatment. To Hahnemann disease was a non – entity and where it was a question of treatment, he knew no disease but only sick persons.

The Homoeopathic conception of disease is that it is nothing but a mere expression of the suffering Vital force appealing through symptoms for its treatment and therefore, In order to cure gently, quickly, unfailingly and permanently, says Hahnemann select for every case of disease a medicine capable of calling forth by itself an affection similar medicine in doses so fine as to be just sufficient, without causing pain or debility, to obliterate the natural disease, through the reaction of the Vital energy.

The Homoeopathic conception of cure, in other words, is that if a disturbed or suffering Vital force can be stimulated by a medicinal force capable of initiating a similar disturbance or suffering, the vital force will overcome the Miasm through its own reaction to medicinal force.

Homoeopathy is not a theory – involves no dogmatic faith. It is a system of therapeutics, rather a speciality in pharmaco – therapeutics based on a definite law – Similia Similibus Curantur. It is simply the one scientific way of finding out what drugs are capable of doing and then using each of them in its own place to do its own job. It may be said that Homoeopathy treats the patient and not the disease – it takes the patient in his totality, for it views and maintains that all parts of the body are so intimately connected to form an indivisible whole both in feelings and functions that all curative measures must be planned with reference to the whole system.

In Homoeopathy disease neither owns its origin nor is talked of in terms of pathology or physiology. In the field of treatment Homoeopathy takes into account the symptoms only, no matter whatever may be the pathological changes, for it views the pathological changes as the resultant effect of the disease.

Its pharmacology is the direct out come of what drug can cause when administered on healthy person and therefore, in the field of treatment its therapeutics is nothing but matching a previously ascertained drug – picture with the drug – picture of the patient, or, in other words, a direct application of a foreknowledge of drug actions obtained from experiments on a healthy person. Hahnemann said that Medicines should be distinguished from each other with scrupulous exactness with regard to their powers and true effects upon the healthy body. For upon its accuracy depend life and death, sickness and health of human beings.

Series of Proving

It was an innovation of Hahnemann to propagate and introduce testing (called proving in Homoeopathy) of the drug actions on healthy human beings, and by proving drugs on healthy human body. Homoeopathy has elicited the fact that every drug produces its own peculiar symptom – complex which is different with different drugs. Experiments with Cinchona dawned upon Hahnemann that drug is a sickness – producing power and what it can cause, it can cure. A series of proving thereafter with different drugs established the fact that there exists a constant relationship between the effects of drugs on the healthy and the curative reactions they call forth in the sick.

So, Hahnemann said that drugs manifest no other curative power except their tendency to produce morbid symptoms in the healthy persons and remove them from the sick. Provings of drug actions on healthy persons have, therefore, given the world an exact law, and have enabled humanity to assess the true value of a drug and give the drug a place it only deserves, that could not be obtained by experiments of drugs in vitro.

Whatever, and however exhaustive the data one may obtain from experiments of drugs on animals, these cannot give one the comprehensive knowledge of the drug – actions in its fullness, for such experiments always fail to appraise us of the drug – actions on the consciousness or mind, which are of great importance.

Sudhir Kumar Adhikari