by Christopher Ellithorp
Samuel Christian Friederich Hahnemann, M.D. was the first to scientifically establish and systematize the principle of curing by similars.
Similia Similibus Curentur had been known throughout the history of medicine and was recognized by Hippocrates.
By testing single drugs on reasonably healthy human subjects, rather than animals or the sick, Hahnemann was able to determine their pure effects.
Although others had suggested this, and imperfect experiments were done to seek antidotes or immunity from poisons, Hahnemann was the first to methodically and precisely demonstrate a drug's ability to cause deviations from health. Thus he may correctly be considered the "Father of Experimental Pharmacology".
Prior to his enunciation of the simile principle, drugs had been given on speculative indications. These included The Doctrine of Signatures, effects on sick individuals, effects on animals, toxicological effects, and botanical affinity.
Or, most often, the deciding factor was adherence to some established authority detailing formulae containing any number of drugs, many in massive, toxic doses. Purging and bloodletting prevailed until Hahnemann's condemnation and offering of a safer, more effective means of treatment.
Hahnemann's contributions to chemistry and pharmacy are notable. His efforts in the period prior to his enunciation of the Similar principle in 1796, were to be vital to his development of a new system of pharmacy suited to the requirements of his practice.
He introduced a new test for arsenic for use in toxicology and forensic medicine. His test for the detection of adulterants in wine was authoritative, as was his standardized pharmacy lexicon used in Germany for a good part of the 19th Century. A preparation of soluble mercury still bears his name.
Dr. Hahnemann introduced medicinal preparations of inert substances such as platinum and vegetable charcoal. Substances that were in his time generally considered inert, such as gold, silica, and the spores of lycopodium were re-introduced.
The followers of Paracelsus had used silica, Arabian physicians utilized powdered gold, and lycopodium had a history of use in folk medicine. But Hahnemann's method of preparation by trituration and subsequent potentization profoundly expanded their efficacy.