Homeopathy emerged from the teachings and writings of Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), a German physician. Dr. Hahnemann became disillusioned with the common medical practices of his day. This was a very primitive time for medicine and practices included the use of leaches, blood letting, purges and the use of toxic chemicals. In articles written in the 1780s and 1790s, Dr. Hahnemann was critical of these extreme medical practices. Here is a quote from Dr. Hahnemann:

“For several centuries, a whole range of causes, which I could not begin to enumerate, have led to the downgrading of that divine science, clinical medicine, to the level of a wretched, money-grubbing exercise in the whitewashing of symptoms and a demeaning traffic in prescriptions, in fact, God forgive us, to a more mechanical trade in which Hippocrates is lost to sight amidst a rabble of charlatans.”

Dr. Hahnemann advocated good hygiene, better nutrition, better housing conditions, fresh air and exercise as the way to achieve health. In 1790 he began translating A Treatise on Materia Medica, by Scottish physician and chemist, Dr. William Cullen (1710-1790). Dr. Cullen was a famous scientist and lecturer, and was also critical of the primitive medical practices of his day.

Hahnemann translated Cullen’s work, but also looked at it with a critical eye. In his work, Dr. Cullen recommended quinine for malaria because it was a good astringent. Hahnemann reasoned that there were better astringents that did not work on malaria. He also found that when he took the quinine, he developed the symptoms of malaria. From this he began to develop the concept of “Similars”—one of the basic principles of homeopathy. The principle of “Similars” can be simply stated as, “Like cures like”. In homeopathy, a substance that can produce the symptoms in a healthy person is likely to be the substance that cures a sick person. Homeopathy is a word coined by Hahnemann; it is from two Greek words: homeo, meaning “similar” and pathos, meaning “suffering”.

Hahnemann wrote his ideas in two books, A New Principle for Ascertaining the Curative Powers of Drugs and Some Examinations of Previous Principles (1796) and The Organon of Rationale Medicine (1810). In 1812 he began to teach homeopathy at the University of Leipzig.