Homeopathy is based on the principle of “like treats like” – in other words, a substance taken in small amounts will treat the same symptoms that it would cause if it were taken in large amounts.
This idea dates back to Hippocrates (460-377BC), who also thought that symptoms specific to an individual should be taken into account before making a diagnosis. This is also an important principle of homeopathy, where an individual’s unique symptoms are important in distinguishing the correct medicine.
It was in the late 18th century that the idea of “like treats like” re-emerged, when the German physician and scientist Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) developed the system of medicine that we know as homeopathy. As a doctor of that period, he was dissatisfied with the conventional medical practices of his day.
Blood-letting, purging and giving patients large doses of toxic materials such as arsenic and lead were commonplace. Hahnemann disagreed with these harsh methods. He investigated the effects of various medicinal substances on himself and other healthy volunteers and found that an illness could be treated with a very small amount of a substance that, in larger quantities, could cause that illness.