Similia Similibus Curentur Post 1

In the first columns of this series we looked at some of the principles of homeopathy which represented dramatic breaks with the previous history of medicine — the idea of the single dose and the single medicine — in our search for the core principles of homeopathy. These principles were revolutionary at the time Hahnemann enunciated them, and they are still way in advance of mainstream medical practice and theory.

There is another principle of homeopathy which we have not yet looked at, the most important of all — the principle of similarity itself. As we know, Hahnemann hit on this idea empirically, by taking doses of cinchona bark, the standard treatment for malaria of his day and precursor of quinine, and finding that cinchona bark produced the symptoms of malaria which he previously had not experienced. In consequence, he surmised that cinchona bark was the best treatment of malaria available at that time because of its capacity to produce a similar condition to the disease it was being used to treat.

Similar observations had been made before by various medical practitioners and writers throughout the centuries. Hahnemann cites a number of these references in the introduction to his summa, the Organon of Medicine [1]. The principle of “like cures like” itself had been known since the time of the ancient Greeks.

However previous writers had failed to generalize sufficiently from isolated observations and had failed to investigate the principle of similarity in a systematic fashion to see how wide its application could be. It had not been developed into a comprehensive system of medical practice.

Hahnemann’s great contribution to medicine was to do precisely this. He was one of the great systematizers of intellectual history, with a capacity to integrate a vast amount of data and observations culled from his extensive experience and reading and distill fundamental principles. Truly, he conformed closely to the psychological picture we have come to identify with the homeopathic medicine Sulphur.

Like other Sulphur types, Hahnemann was never lacking in self-confidence. This is how he introduces his seminal idea in the sixth edition of the Organon :

Now, however, in all careful trials, pure experience, the sole and infallible oracle of the healing art, teaches us that actually that medicine which, in its action on the healthy body, has demonstrated its power of producing the greatest number of symptoms similar to those observable in the case of disease under treatment, does also, in doses of suitable potency and attenuation, rapidly, radically and permanently remove the totality of the symptoms of this morbid state, that is to say, the whole disease present, and change it into health; and that all medicines cure, without exception, those diseases whose symptoms most nearly resemble their own, and leave none of them uncured.

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