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(hōmēŏp`əthē), system of medicine whose fundamental principle is the law of similars—that like is cured by like. It was first given practical application by Samuel Hahnemann of Leipzig, Germany, in the early 19th cent. and was designated homeopathy to distinguish it from the established school of medicine which he called allopathy. The American Institute of Homeopathy was founded in 1844, and the practice of homeopathy was popularized in the United States by the physician and senator Royal S. Copeland (1868–1938). It had been observed that quinine given to a healthy person causes the same symptoms that malaria does in a person suffering from that disease; therefore quinine became the preferred treatment in malaria. When a drug was found to produce the same symptoms as did a certain disease, it was then used in very small doses in the treatment of that disease. U.S. medical schools do not presently emphasize the homeopathic approach, although it has become popular among some physicians in European and Asian nations and is widely used by the public in over-the-counter medications.


See N. Robins, Copeland's Cure: Homeopathy and the War between Conventional and Alternative Medicine (2005).



a system of treating disease with small, frequently taken doses of medicines, which in large doses produce in healthy persons phenomena similar to the symptoms of the disease itself.

Homeopathy was founded by the German physician S. Hahnemann at the beginning of the 19th century. Hahnemann considered it necessary to act on individual manifestations of disease, since he regarded diseases as a disruption of the spiritual “life force,” which is not susceptible to therapeutic influence. The basis of homeopathy is the principle of like curing like (similia similibus curantur). Thus, in order to establish that manifestations of disease are produced by a particular medication (“pathogenesis of medications,” according to Hahnemann), it is necessary to introduce the medication into a healthy person in toxic doses. However, it is well known that the effects of many medications on a diseased organism are different from their effects on a healthy one. Modern scientific medicine is based on the principle of causative (pathogenetic) treatment, that is, it attempts to act not on individual manifestations but on the causes and developmental mechanisms of the disease. The effect of medications on the diseased organism is the subject of clinical pharmacology, which studies the effects of therapeutic and not toxic doses.

Another proposition of homeopathy set forth by Hahnemann was the idea that the strength of a medication’s effect supposedly increased in proportion to the decrease in its dosage (potentiation), which is achieved by large dilutions according to the so-called centesimal scale, each succeeding dilution decreasing the content of the initial substance 100 times. Hahnemann went as far as the 30th dilution, which contained a decillionth part of medication.

Practicing modern homeopaths have essentially renounced the theoretical bases laid down in Hahnemann’s teaching. At homeopathic congresses in 1836, 1896, and 1901, a number of Hahnemann’s propositions were subjected to review, in view of their unscientific character and their preconceptions. In homeopathic practice deep potentiation is not used but only dilution by from three to six times; the effect of homeopathic medicines in certain instances may be explained by suggestion and autosuggestion. Numerous attempts to verify in clinics the methods and medications used in homeopathy have not yielded positive results. The assortment of medications used in modern homeopathy differs but little from the inventory of medications known at the beginning of the 19th century.


Kogan, D. A. Gomeopatiia i sovremennaia meditsina. Moscow, 1964.



A system of medicine expounded by Samuel Hahnemann that treats disease by administering to the patient small doses of drugs which produce the signs and symptoms of the disease in a healthy person. Also known as Hahnemannism.


, homoeopathy
a method of treating disease by the use of small amounts of a drug that, in healthy persons, produces symptoms similar to those of the disease being treated
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