Homeopathy was discovered in 1790 by a German physician, medical translator, and chemist, Samuel Hahnemann, MD. After he completed medical school, he found himself to be philosophically opposed to the dangerous medical techniques that were the current standard of his time.
These included: Blood-letting which was a very common form of treatment in Europe and America during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. For example, George Washington, the first president of the United States, died because too much blood was taken from him in an attempt to treat his influenza.
Mercury was used to treat a variety of illnesses, including syphilis. We know today, mercury is extremely poisonous in the concentrated doses that were given to patients at that time.
Purging consisted of giving large doses of antimony or ipecac with the idea that if the patient could be induced to vomit or experience diarrhea, the illness would subside. Again, this treatment only made the patient dehydrated, emaciated and had no real therapeutic value.
Hahnemann could not bring himself to use these methods and instead turned to make his living by writing books and translating various texts on chemistry and other medical subjects. In one of these texts, it was claimed by a leading physiologist, William Cullen, that Peruvian China bark, which contains quinine, was effective for treating malaria because of its bitterness.
Hahnemann had his doubts about this claim, so he tested mixtures even more bitter than Peruvian bark on patients who had malaria and found that there was no therapeutic benefit for them. As there was still evidence to support the claim that Peruvian China bark was of value, Hahnemann decided in the year 1790 to test the drug on himself. In his own words he tells us what happened:
I took by way of experiment, twice a day, four drachms (about three ounces) of good China (Quinine). My feet, finger ends, etc., at first became cold; I grew languid and drowsy; then my heart began to palpitate, and my pulse grew hard and small; intolerable anxiety, trembling, prostration throughout all my limbs; then pulsation in the head, redness of my cheeks, thirst, and, in all these symptoms, which are ordinarily characteristic of intermittent fever, (malaria) made their appearance, one after the other…This paroxysm (common) lasted two or three hours each time, and recurred if I repeated this dose, not otherwise. I discontinued it, and was in good health. (T.L. Bradford, pp 36-37)
From this experiment, he formed the hypothesis that a substance that could cause a set of symptoms in a healthy person could also cure those same symptoms in a sick person. The medicine created a ‘similar suffering’ in the patient, hence the name homeopathy: ‘homeo’ – similar, and ‘pathos’ – suffering. Over the next few years, Hahnemann set out to test this theory. He and other volunteers took large doses of various plant extracts to see what symptoms they would experience. These symptoms were carefully recorded.
For example, all persons who took the plant Belladonna developed a very strong sensitivity to light, among other symptoms. We know today that this is because a chemical constituent of Belladonna, called atropine, has the ability to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, dilating the pupil and thereby creating a great pain to the eyes from ordinary sunlight. Hahnemann called this process of taking medicines to see their effects on healthy people, the “proving” of medicines. If enough people developed the same symptoms from a particular drug, then it “proved” that the substance would produce a unique set of symptoms.
One of the obvious provings we have all experienced is coffee. It produces a unique set of symptoms that have been verified many times. These symptoms include wakefulness, a stronger ability to concentrate and a mild excitability. In a homeopathic dose, Coffea 30c will cure these same symptoms. For example, a child who is over-excited before his/her birthday and cannot sleep, could benefit from a dose of Coffea 30c. In a homeopathic dose, it would create relaxation and sleepiness. In order to further test his theory, Hahnemann started to interview patients. When he found a patient with symptoms which could be reproduced by one of the drugs he had tested, he gave it in a smaller dose and observed the results. He found his theory to be valid as the patients he treated in this way improved. At this moment he knew that he had stumbled upon a major medical discovery that could produce a revolution in the treatment of all forms of illness. There have been over two thousand substances proven since the time of Hahnemann and every year new provings are published. I have done a number of provings, including the Borage plant, the Shore Pine, The Red Alder, the Douglas fir tree, the Arbutus tree, Tee Tree oil, Hawthorn tree, Angelica sinensis and the Vine Maple. I found, for example, that Borage could produce and therefore cure certain types of eczema, high blood pressure, and arthritis. The Vine Maple is an excellent medicine for teenagers who worry too much about their appearance and as a result refuse to eat. My book Arbor Medica has the complete text on these provings.