Although openly denouncing homeopathy in public, by the 1850's the conventional medical system began to quietly and gradually replace 'Heroic' treatments with many mineral and herbal substances used by homeopathy. Ultimately this gave a strong impetus to the rise of today’s multinational drug industry. Also, despite the advances achieved by individual researchers, homeopathy and alternative therapies of the 19th century were in decline. From 1885 onwards until 1960 the numbers of their practitioners in Europe, England, and the Americas reduced significantly. As the 20th century emerged homeopathy and other alternative therapies went into further decline as the credibility of conventional medical practice was boosted by evolving surgical successes resulting from sterilization, anesthetics, and technological advances such as x-rays. However, in other parts of the world homeopathy was thriving. In India the State governments began to give official recognition to homeopathy. Today there are tens of thousands of trained practicing homeopaths throughout India.
Meanwhile, in the West, post World War II conventional medicine began to experience periodic crises which resulted in an erosion of trust by the public, who began looking elsewhere for medical advice and treatment. During the late 1950s and early 1960s thousands of deformed children were born as a result of mothers taking the ‘miracle’ drug Thalidomide. Confidence in the medical profession continued to be eroded time and again by news of inappropriate medical research such as the ‘Harvard-MIT Radiation at the science club’ study in which 19 boys were observed for 10 years while drinking radioactive milk without their knowledge. These and other incidents were not stopped by ethical concern of those responsible but rather by public outrage.
Furthermore, there evolved a change in the relationship of patients to doctors. Many members of the public, now more informed, began to make personal decisions about they way they wished to be medically treated rather than depending on experts. Periodic media reports about the dangers from recently introduced drugs or illnesses following vaccination only served to intensify a search for alternative forms of treatment.
In the United Kingdom teaching and classes in homeopathy and other alternative therapies had become an almost underground ‘word of mouth’ movement. Many committed practitioners held classes in private homes for a small, stable but keen number of students. However, from 1970 onwards the number of people seeking alternatives increased attendance significantly. The tide of public interest had changed direction and so began a search for and immersion in homeopathy and alternative therapies that has continued to increase right into the 21st century. As an example, the South London and North London Homeopathy Groups merged in 1977, and in 1978 their members established the Society of Homeopaths and the London College of Homeopathy. As the first decade of the century moves toward its completion, there are now 28 colleges and courses of homeopathy being taught throughout the UK. During the past 30 years many thousands of people have enrolled in these courses leading to professional qualification by the professional registers. In addition many others have enrolled in homeopathy first aid courses in order to treat their children and family.
As in the 19th century, when the public first turned in mass to the alternatives, homeopathy and complementary medicine are again under increasing vitriolic attacks in various media channels. But homeopathy continues to develop and expand its range of remedies and approaches to treatment through research and clinical practice. At the same time modern practitioners continue to verify that the remedies introduced 200 years ago are as relevant for symptoms today as they were when Dr. Samuel Hahnemann and his associates conducted the first ever trials of medicinal substances on healthy people, and then observed their successful action on the sick.
Written for H:MC21 by Jerome Whitney