Samuel Hahnemann, a renowned German physician, founded homeopathy in 1796. Medical practices in the 1700s and 1800s often caused more harm than good. Physicians routinely used bloodletting, purging, and large doses of toxic medicines as part of their treatments. Dr. Hahnemann wanted to find a more humane approach. Through years of careful observation, experimentation, and documentation, he developed the system of medicine that he named homeopathy. Homeopathy grew because it was systematic, effective, and comparatively inexpensive. Precisely because of its benefits, the new system threatened the medical establishment. Dr. Hahnemann was persecuted and even arrested. However, he was determined and courageous, and he continued his work throughout his life. His system of medicine spread throughout the world.
Several doctors who had studied homeopathy in Europe emigrated to the United States around 1825. They introduced homeopathy to other physicians, and its popularity grew rapidly. By the mid-1800s, several medical colleges in the United States taught homeopathy. In 1844, homeopaths established the first national medical society in America, the American Institute of Homeopathy. The practice of homeopathy continued to thrive until the early 1900s. At the turn of the century, the United States had 22 homeopathic medical colleges, and one-fifth of the country's medical doctors used homeopathy.
However, like Hahnemann in Europe, the homeopaths in the United States seemed to pose a threat to the conventional medical and pharmaceutical establishments. For a variety of reasons—attacks by the medical establishment, growth in popularity of a more "mechanical" model of medicine, and discord among homeopaths themselves—the practice of homeopathy in the United States declined. By the late 1940s, there were no homeopathy courses taught in this country. Homeopathy also suffered from doubt cast on its efficacy by scientific research, criticism, and unsuccessful or flawed clinical trials. In the past decade, researchers have shown the homeopathic remedies are not effective and that results from past studies supporting homeopathic remedies could not be considered conclusive.
Homeopaths in other countries also experienced opposition. However, homeopathy flourished wherever people were allowed to practice it with relative freedom. Today, more than 500 million people worldwide receive homeopathic treatment. Homeopathy is popular in England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and many other countries. Because homeopathic treatments and drugs are natural and relatively inexpensive, even countries with limited resources can take advantage of them. In this country, there has been a tremendous increase in interest in homeopathy since the 1970s. Statistics show that Americans are increasingly turning to this form of treatment. As complementary/alternative health care is growing, so is the field of homeopathy.
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