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Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), a German physician, began formulating homeopathy's basic principles in the late 1700s. Hahnemann was justifiably distressed about bloodletting, leeching, purging, and other medical procedures of his day that did far more harm than good. Thinking that these treatments were intended to "balance the body's 'humors' by opposite effects," he developed his "law of similars" -- a notion that symptoms of disease can be cured by extremely small amounts of substances that produce similar symptoms in healthy people when administered in large amounts. The word "homeopathy" is derived from the Greek words homoios (similar) and pathos (suffering or disease).

Homeopathy was brought to the United States (beginning in 1825) by several doctors who had studied in Europe. They, in turn, converted other doctors to homeopathic practice. Slowly schools were established, and a medical organization was formed. By the mid-1800's, several medical colleges existed that taught homeopathy, including the New England Female Medical College, the first medical school in the U.S. to admit women.

At the turn of the century there were 22 homeopathic medical colleges, and one out of five doctors used homeopathy. But the move toward a mechanical model of the body and of disease pushed homeopathy into the background. By 1910 only 15 colleges remained. By the late 40's, no courses in homeopathy were taught in the U.S.

The American Foundation for Homeopathy began to teach homeopathy as a post-graduate course for doctors in 1922, and the courses, now run by the National Center for Homeopathy, have continued to this day. The present day resurgence of homeopathy, fueled in part by graduates of the NCH course, is slowly bringing homeopathy back to its place in the medical care system in our country.

The manufacture and sale of homeopathic medicines is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. The Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States was written into federal law in 1938 under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, making the manufacture and sale of homeopathic medicines legal in this country. Most are available without a prescription.

Laws about the practice of homeopathy vary from state to state. Usually it can be practiced legally by those whose license entitles them to practice medicine in their state. Health freedom laws in a growing number of states allow the practice of homeopathy by non-licensed professionals as well. Since homeopathic remedies are sold over the counter, people in all states are free to use them for self-care at home.

For more information, please visit the National Center for Homeopathy

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