RogerBW's Blog

The Origins of Homœopathy 11 July 2014

Homœopathy has some very strange ideas. But where did it actually come from?

I should say first that, because I am not innumerate, I regard homœopathy as arrant nonsense, at best a waste of money and at worst fatal when its practitioners cause patients to avoid real medicine. The placebo effect is a real, powerful and very useful tool, but there are far better ways of achieving it.

But like any medical scam it must have sounded convincing when it was originally invented. If one considers the date, all becomes clear: 1796, the year Edward Jenner demonstrated his smallpox vaccine. The idea of variolation had been in England since 1721, but it had been slow to catch on; the idea of a small dose of a disease preventing the larger disease was obviously silly.

But then Jenner made a clear demonstration, and the world changed. And that same year Samuel Hahnemann invented homœopathy, based on the very similar idea of a small dose of a disease curing the larger disease. Coincidence? I rather suspect not. Oh, Hahnemann claimed to have got the idea from the symptoms of an overdose of quinine being similar to those of malaria, but that's the sort of founding myth every religion needs.

The dilution is simply a safety measure. The more you dilute your drugs, the less likely you are to overdose your victim, and it's a bad idea to kill the marks because then they can't pay you any more.

Of course, Hahnemann also claimed that negative states of mind could attract disease-causing spirits, sorry, miasms. But given the basic idea, a spoonful of misappropriated vaccination and a cupful of safety measures to avoid having any physical effect on the patient (unlike the bleeding and cupping that was still part of orthodox medical practice), one can quite see how it could have become popular in a largely pre-scientific age.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2022 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1