Homeopathy : A History of Opposition
“When a fact appears that threatens orthodox medical practice,
the power groups go into action. They pounce on the poor
pitiable ‘heresy’ and suppress it, if at all possible.
If it cannot be suppressed, it is explained away.
If it cannot be explained away, it is denied.
If it cannot be denied, it is buried.”
Alexis Carrel, French Surgeon,
1873 – 1944
The publication of the Organon of Rational Medicine by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann in 1810 set the world of Western medicine into turmoil.
Original thought is almost always opposed, that is until it is accepted as the new norm.
When Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis in 1847 asserted that doctors should wash their hands between treating patients he was reviled as a lunatic.
So was Albert Einstein when he first put forth his theories pertinent to relativity.
At the time when Dr. Samuel Hahnemann was introducing homeopathy, around the beginning of the 1800s, the orthodox medical techniques in vogue were horrific: bloodletting, the use of crude doses of toxic substances such as mercury and arsenic, and gut-wrenching nostrums and potions. Hahnemann was not the first or last person to proclaim that these mainstream treatments did more harm than good. His assessment of the prevailing system was that it was entirely too painful, invasive and toxic.
Hahnemann could not have unveiled his new system of treatment without ruffling a lot of feathers. Actually it was more like plucking the whole chicken. Instead of suppressing symptoms, the key principle of homeopathy was that a substance that could create symptoms in a healthy person would cure those same symptoms in a sick one. Dosing was predicated on the principle that “less was more.” And instead of routinely and thoughtlessly treating the symptoms of the “disease”, homeopathy discerned how the individual expressed symptoms as a guide to the true nature of their illness.
The pharmacists immediately sued Hahnemann for making his own medications. He was poaching on their turf. Hahnemann was forced to move to a region where he was given free rein to practise as he needed to. The pharmacists couldn’t be trusted to prepare the homeopathic remedies according to his instructions, and they were unfamiliar with the protocols.
But as word of his medical success spread, he began to attract large numbers of patients and a following among other medical doctors. One of these medical students, Constantine Hering, who was initially sent as a spy by his professor with the mission of debunking homeopathy, eventually became one of its greatest contributors, now referred to as “the father of American homeopathy.”
In the 1800s, the practise of homeopathy began to spread quite rapidly throughout Europe and the United States, due in particular to its success against deadly epidemics of cholera, yellow fever, scarlet fever, small pox, influenza and others. It became incredibly popular with patients and the media. Orthodox physicians and pharmacists began to suffer financially. What had been their monopoly for hundreds of years was being eroded by the new system of medicine.
The American Medical Association was founded in 1848 in large part to oppose the spread of homeopathy. Homeopathic doctors were earning approximately four times as much as their conventional counterparts. There were 22 homeopathic medical schools and thousands of Homeopathic doctors. The historical record indicates the biggest complaint at AMA meetings in the mid-1800s was that homeopaths were getting all the business. The AMA acknowledged that conventional medicines didn’t work, however it was a harder pill to swallow when homeopaths openly said so.
So what do you do when you can’t win “fair and square”? You change the rules of the game.
A lot of behind-the-scenes manipulation and collusion conspired to create the infamous Flexner Report in 1910. Along with persecution by the AMA and other factors, this report effectively shut down all non-conventional medical schools in the United States and Canada. Only two of the homeopathic medical schools temporarily survived this attack. Most of the women’s and black medical schools were destroyed as well.
This report effectively marginalized all non-conventional forms of medicine including osteopathy, chiropractic and naturopathy and promoted a dominant white male medical establishment in the United States and Canada. It is why homeopathy—a gentle, patient-centred, non-invasive form of health care—is not as common and well-known on this continent as it is in Europe, South America, India and other parts of the world.
The opposition to Homeopathy today is still a battle for healthcare dollars predicated on these same principles of limiting competition and preserving the financial interests of the orthodox medical monopoly at any cost.
For a more detailed history see: