It was in 1790, while translating William CullenÔÇÖs Materia Medica that the first evidence emerged for the great things still to come. Unconvinced by CullenÔÇÖs theory that Cinchona was a specific for Malaria because of its tonic action on the stomach, Hahnemann decided to take a small dose of Cinchona over several days to observe its effects. In this first proving experiment, Hahnemann observed symptoms broadly similar to those of malaria, including spasms and fever. [Cook, 59; Haehl 37, 39] With Cinchona, he had “produced in himself the symptoms of intermittent fever,” [Haehl, vol. 1, 39] which suggested to him a medical principle. He thus established anew the validity of an old therapeutic maxim: ÔÇÿlike cures likeÔÇÖ or similia similibus curentur.

With his family and friends, he then undertook further drug provings. “Day after day, he tested medicines on himself and others. He collected histories of cases of poisoning. His purpose was to establish a physiological doctrine of medical remedies, free from all suppositions, and based solely on experiments.” [Gumpert, 92] In his search for new remedies to prove, “Hahnemann sent his children into the fields to collect henbane, sumach, and deadly nightshade. They grew up like young priests of the Asclepieion of Cos…they felt the leaves, blossoms and tubers with small but expert hands…everyone was obliged to join in the work…for there was no other way to succeed in his titanic plan of rescuing the wealth of natural remedies from the quagmire of textbooks, and displaying it in the bright light of experience.” [Gumpert, 93-94] His family and friends became central to his task: “the family huddled together; and every free moment of every one of them, from the oldest to the youngest, was made use of for the testing of medicines and the gathering of the most precise information on their observed effects.” [Gumpert, 114] The results of his investigations were meticulously cataloged: “Hahnemann neatly and conscientiously assembled and numbered his observations of the symptoms excited in himself and his children by the most varied of medicines.” [Gumpert, 114]


However, another fifteen years elapsed before his thinking, study and experiments finally bore rich fruit. In 1796, his Essay on a New Principle consolidated the work with Cinchona, extending it into a general principle applicable for all drugs, and this laid the foundation for a complete system of medicine based on similia. By 1796 he was also practicing medicine again, but “he did not charge for the medicines which he produced himself.” A Brief Biography of Samuel Hahnemann by Peter Morrel
for ILH Beatriz Hernández Hill, Beatriz H Hill




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