Motivated by compassion: A portrait of Samuel Hahnemann Part II

After turning his back on practicing traditional medicine, Samuel Hahnemann concentrated most of his attention on relentless medical research. Hahnemann was however still a highly regarded doctor and pharmacist and would sometimes be called upon to perform healing “miracles” of which he fervently de-mystisized, putting his healing abilities down to pure common sense.

Hahnemann toiled through hours of chemical theory, and with his unceasingly inquiring mind even criticized the medical ethos of physicians whose books he translated. In particular William Cullens “A treatise of the materia medica”, which Hahnemann was translating into German. He arrived at a chapter on cinchona bark (which was used to treat maleria) which was said to offer a stomach-strengthening effect. Hahnemann questioned the mechanics explained by Cullen, and with a mixture of curiosity and innate desire to heal, not harm, fellow humans, this led him to use his own body as a laboratory. He concluded that in healthy indiviuals of a healthy constitution, taking cinchona bark produced the symptoms of malaria, whereas a malaria-sufferer would be healed.

Today these findings are known as the laws of similars, or the treatment of “like with like” from which the term homeopathy originated. Hahnemann argued that introducing a foreign medicine to an ailment or illness was as good as giving the patient a secondary disease to conquer.

Hahnemann recognized that substances that produced similar symptoms to that of the disease could still be harmful to his patients, so he reduced the levels of substances to quintesimal amounts, to the point where the disease could no longer be present. He believed that a process of dynamization, as he called it, would preserve the energy of the medicine and developed a system of shaking, known as succussion, to protect and enhance the substance.

Samuel Hahnemann saw the patient as a whole, a human being, that possessed a body, mind and soul, and that each of these attributes should be met with respect by the practitioner.  Hahnemann bravely enforced his mandate, that there should be nothing arbitrary about the medicine prescribed the patient. Hahnemann felt obligated to look into the future of medicine, seeking answers well beyond the call of an academic. Fuelled by compassion and a quest for truth, he unravelled dangerous medical dogma, personified patients, and gave us homeopathy.


About hillviewroad

Gestalt student, Pilates teacher.
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