“The highest ideal of cure is the rapid, gentle, and permanent restoration of  health; that is, the lifting and annihilation of the disease in its entire extent in the shortest, most reliable, and least disadvantageous way, according to clearly realizable principles.” (Hahnemann, “Organon of the Medical Art” § 2).  

Samuel Hahnemann, MD developed an innovative system of medicine at the end of the 18th century. He first described the use of this system, which he named homoeopathy, in several articles. He refined the system throughout his life, writing six editions of his “Organon”; the last published posthumously.  

Homoeopathic remedies act upon the body’s homeostatic mechanisms to stimulate healing. Remedies are prepared by minutely diluting and succussing individual substances.  The action of remedies is studied by observing their effect upon healthy human volunteers (provings), and the effect of the undiluted substance in accidentally exposed individuals; this establishes a materia medica picture for each remedy. Remedies are chosen for patients by choosing the remedy whose materia medica is most similar to the symptoms of the patient.  It is important for the homeopathic doctor or vet to use all their skills: clinical examination, diagnostic studies, and a thorough anamnesis to choose the most appropriate remedy and treatment course for each patient.

"Aude sapere - venture to be wise."

Dr. Samuel Hahnemann initially was a private practitioner, but soon became disgusted and disheartened by the medical practices of the day. Medical practice of the 1700’s relied heavily on bloodletting, purgatives, and cathartics, which frequently weakened patients, and often permanently damaged their health.  Hahnemann rejected these practices, turning to his linguistic skills to translate medical texts and thereby support his family.  Hahnemann also supported improved diet and hygiene as means to improve health. 

As with many discoveries, Hahnemann developed one of the basic principles of homeopathy, ‘like is to be cured by like’ through a happy coincidence. While translating the “Materia Medica” of Cullen from English to German, he noticed that the poisoning symptoms of Cinchona bark were remarkably similar to the intermittent fever symptoms of malaria, which Cinchona bark effectively treated.  Hahnemann was curious about this, and in 1790 he conducted the first proving. He took doses of the Cinchona bark  for several days, resulting in symptoms of intermittent fever like those cured by cinchona bark.  The first basic principle of homeopathy was discovered: the curative properties of a remedy can be proved by testing their effect on a healthy person. Hahnemann refined his proving methods by sequentially diluting and shaking the substances to be proved. This allowed the proving of highly toxic substances such as mercury, belladonna, and digitalis. The proving symptoms still had a striking concordance to the symptoms relieved by the substances in patients, and the symptoms seen in accidental poisonings.

In 1796 Hahnemann published his results in Hufelands Journal as “Experiment of a new principle to find the healing powers of medical substances.” This concluded that like is to be cured with like, or in Latin, similia similibus curentur. Hahnemann expanded upon this at length in the “Organon” with examples from his homeopathic practice as well as from provings.

There were discussions of this healing power of similars in ancient medical practice by Hippocrates, through Ayurvedic practice, and by Paracelsus in the 15th century.  Effective folk remedies of the late 1700s also relied upon the healing power of similars, as Hahnemann recognises in the introduction to the “Organon”.  Through Hahnemann’s writings and via his extensive and thorough experiments, the principle of similars was saved from oblivion.  Hahnemann, via his provings, illustrated how scientific experimentation can be used to demonstrate the healing power of medicines.  This careful observation and categorisation of the effect of remedies allows homeopathic doctors to choose, via this law of similars, the most appropriate remedy for a patient. Hahnemann is not the founder of homeopathy, because the homeopathic principle is a law of nature. Hahnemann is the father of homeopathy, by his elucidation and explanation of the principles of homeopathy.

Major Works of Hahnemann

  • Organon of the Medical Art — six editions
  • The Chronic Diseases
  • Materia Medica Puramateria medica of 67 remedies 

Even during Hahnemann’s lifetime homeopathy was known in several European countries. The best-known students of Hahnemann were Müller, Bönninghausen, Stapf and Hering.

Hering emigrated from Germany to Philadelphia and established there the first homoeopathic teaching institute in the world. Homoeopathy had a wide appeal in North America. The most remarkable students of this American school are Kent, Allen, Dewey, Nash, Farrington and Clark. 

Out of this classical homoeopathic school, the Swiss school by Pierre Schmidt, Flury, Künzli and Vögeli, the Latin-American schools by Paschero and Ortega, and the Indian school of Sankaran developed.

The French school of Julian, Voisin and Pierre Schmidt developed from Hahnemann’s teachings via Jahr and Bönninghausen.

In Germany, clinical homoeopathy developed, often following the indications of clinical diagnosis as taught by Müller, Stauffer, Stiegele, Mezger, and Leeser.

The Vienna school of Mathias Dorcsi aims for a synthesis of these two approaches. It is a specific concern of the Vienna school that the intuitive perception of the whole, of the characteristic of the patient, and of the homoeopathic remedy must be acknowledged.

In the early 1900s homeopathy was adversely affected by the ascendance of the pharmaceutical industry, successes and results in natural science medicine, and the growing influence of medical organizations.  Homeopathy suffered from the dissent between homeopaths with different approaches.  Classical homeopathy was more time-consuming than using the new pharmaceuticals, and homeopaths couldn’t agree among themselves regarding the best approach to cases.  Financial and educational problems led to a lessening of the popularity and lowering of the status of homeopathy. Critics of homeopathy dismissed homeopathy as irrelevant. 

Today the status of homoeopathy in medical and veterinary practice varies between countries. In some countries, such as Great Britain, homeopathy is available as part of the National Health Service. In India, homeopathy is widely available, with teaching institutes attached to universities.  In Germany Austria, and France, all countries with strong connections to Hahnemann, there are many homeopaths.  The situation worldwide is fluid, though homeopaths of note reside on every continent. The LMHI (Liga) is the worldwide medical homeopathic organisation, as the IAVH is the worldwide veterinary medical homeopathic organisation.

Veterinary homeopathy has almost as long a tradition as medical homeopathy. The first publication, in 1815 by Donauer, was only five years after the first edition of the “Organon”. In 1829, Hahnemann spoke to the royal economic society regarding homoeopathic healing of domestic animals, and provings with animals. Numerous veterinary homeopathic publications by veterinarians, physicians and laypeople (Lux, Weber, Sommer, etc) followed. The number of homoeopathic veterinarians rapidly grew, with brisk exchange of ideas in periodicals: theoretical questions regarding homoeopathic materia medica, articles about homoeopathic pharmacopoeias, disease histories, and critical arguments.

Veterinary homeopathic groups have been established in many countries.  In 1982 the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons (BAHVS) was formed, and with the UK Faculty of Homeopathy promotes education of vets to attain the VetMFHom credentials. In 1983 the Swiss study group for Veterinary Acupuncture and Homoeopathy was established, which regularly organizes seminars for veterinarians. In 1987 the “Working Group for Homoeopathy and Acupuncture (AHA)” was founded in Austria, which in 1994 became the Austrian Society for Veterinary Homoeopathy (ÖGVH). The ÖGVH is responsible for the education of veterinarians interested in homoeopathy.  The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH), established in 1995, serves vets in the US and Canada, and administers exams certifying veterinary homeopaths.  Other countries and regions also have groups for veterinary homeopaths.

The IAVH was founded in Luxembourg in 1986, as a focus for international exchange of information and discussion. Its goal is to promote veterinary homeopathy in all countries. The IAVH has annual conferences, certifies veterinary homeopathic educators, and administers certifying exams for homeopathic vets. The demand for integrated healing methods is growing worldwide. The problem of antimicrobial resistance to various antibiotics, as well as organic agriculture regulations require effective, holistic, antibiotic free therapy.  These factors have driven increased interest in integrative therapy among livestock producers. Companion animal owners have become aware of the advances in integrative medicine, and many use it as their own health care. These people want to give their companion animals the same benefits as they enjoy. Homeopathy has so much to offer to all animals, large and small.