Many “cultural icons” have been known to use/advocate for homeopathy!
The story of what happened to Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, is a classical story in medical history that exemplifies conventional medicine’s attitude toward and actions against unconventional medical treatments and the physicians who provide them.
William Seward (1801–1872) was one of Lincoln’s closest political advisors, and he was also an advocate for homeopathic medicine. On the night Lincoln was assassinated, Seward was stabbed in the multi-person assassination plot against the Union. Thanks to the medical care provided by Joseph K. Barnes, MD, U.S. Surgeon General, Seward survived. However, because Seward’s personal physician was a homeopathic doctor and because the AMA had a policy that it was an ethical violation to consult with a homeopathic doctor or even provide care for a homeopathic patient, Dr. Barnes was denounced by the vice president of the AMA for providing medical care (Haller, 2005, 192).
Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) himself showed a special interest in homeopathic medicine. In 1854, before Lincoln was elected president, he was retained as a lawyer to prepare a state legislative proposal to charter a homeopathic medical college in Chicago. Because Chicago was the home of the American Medical Association, which had been founded in 1847 in part to stop the growth of homeopathy, Lincoln’s job was no simple effort. However, many of Chicago’s most prominent citizens and politicians participated on the board of trustees of the proposed Hahnemann Medical College, including Chicago’s mayor, two congressmen, an Illinois state representative, a Chicago city councilman, the co-founder of Northwestern University, the founder of Chicago Union Railroad, and several medical doctors who were homeopaths (Spiegel and Kavaler, 2002). Despite significant opposition, Lincoln was successful in obtaining a charter for the homeopathic college.
Today, the Pearson Museum at Southern Illinois University has an exhibit of a nineteenth-century doctor’s office and drug store; included in this exhibit is a homeopathic medicine kit from the Diller Drug Store of Springfield, Illinois. The exhibit notes that Abraham Lincoln was a frequent customer of the drug store and a regular user of homeopathic medicines (Karst, 1988, 11).
In addition to choosing Seward to be his secretary of state, several leading advisors were homeopathic advocates. On November 1, 1861, Lincoln appointed Major General George Brinton McClellan (1826–1885) to command the Union army during the Civil War. However, in late December McClellan contracted typhoid fever, which left him unable to go to his office to conduct business (Rafuse, 1997). During the first week of McClellan’s illness, two homeopathic doctors arrived from New York to care for the ill general and his father-in-law and chief of staff, Randolph B. Marcy, who was also ill. McClellan’s decision to employ homeopathic doctors is particularly interesting considering the fact that the general came from a family of prominent conventional physicians.
Despite this serious illness, General McClellan remained active, giving regular orders to his subordinates, arranging for troop movement and supply transport, meeting with the president on a weekly basis, issuing court martial orders, and even providing commendations to officers. By January 2, he seemed to be much better and shortly afterwards he had no noticeable physical limitations. McClellan lived another twenty-three years.
Despite the success of this homeopathic treatment on the military leader of the Union army, that very month, January 1862, the Army Medical Board rejected requests by homeopathic doctors to serve in military hospitals, arguing that to grant this request would invite applications from all types of quacks and charlatans claiming medical expertise.
Typhoid fever caused more deaths during the Civil War and the Spanish-American War than the deaths caused by bullets (Wershub, 1967, 175). Despite the fact that homeopathy gained widespread popularity in the United States and Europe due to its successes in treating various infectious disease epidemics of the mid- and late-1800s, including typhoid epidemics (Bradford, 1900; Coulter, 1973), the antagonism against homeopathy and homeopaths led to government regulations stipulating that graduates of homeopathic medical colleges could not receive a commission for military service.
In Connecticut, several “irregular” physicians offered their services to the governor, who accepted them, but the examining board of the Union army rejected them and instead accepted recruits from a hastily graduated class from Yale College.
Although the Union army had strict restrictions against homeopathic physicians, the Confederate army did not. In fact, the physician to the wife of the Confederate army’s General Robert E. Lee was a homeopathic doctor, Alfred Hughes, MD (Hughes, 1904, 39). At least in one incidence, General Lee himself was known to have taken homeopathic medicines (Mainwaring and Riley, 2005).
The British royal family has had a longtime and deep appreciation for homeopathic medicine, ever since Queen Adelaide (1792–1849), wife of King William IV, first made public her special interest in this “new medicine” in 1835. Other British aristocrats shared the queen’s interests, including the Marquess of Anglesey who crossed the British Channel to go to Paris for treatment by the founder of homeopathy, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann.
In 1830, the Earl of Shrewsbury (1791–1852) had asked Hahnemann for the name of a homeopath who could come to England to be his doctor, and Hahnemann suggested Dr. Francesco Romani (1785–1854) of Italy. Dr. Romani’s cures were so remarkable that he soon created a sensation in London and its surrounds. Queen Adelaide heard about this new medical system from his good work. However, the cold climate didn’t suit the Italian homeopath, and he returned home just one year after his arrival (Granier, 1859).
Queen Adelaide had been suffering from a serious malady that the court physicians couldn’t cure. The queen called for the services of one of Hahnemann’s oldest and most faithful colleagues, Dr. Johann Ernst Stapf (1788–1860), who cured her, creating the first of many supporters of homeopathy from British royalty. The British homeopath to the titled Marquess of Anglesey, Dr. Harris Dunsford (1808–1847), wrote a book on homeopathy that was dedicated, with permission, to Queen Adelaide (Dunsford, 1842). This dedication made public her interest in and her appreciation for homeopathy. She was instrumental in helping to establish homeopathy’s early popularity, especially among the upper classes in England.
Various kings and queens of Great Britain since Queen Adelaide have openly sought medical care from homeopathic physicians. Princess May, who later became Queen Mary (1865–1953), wife of King George V, headed the fundraising efforts to move and expand the London Homeopathic Hospital. King George V (1865–1936) was appreciative of homeopathy because it provided him with the real practical benefit of treating his seasickness whenever he suffered from it.
King Edward VII (1841–1910) carried on the homeopathic tradition and was a close drinking and eating partner of Dr. Frederick Hervey Foster Quin (1799–1878), the first British physician to become a homeopath. Edward’s daughter, Maud (1869–1938), married King Haakon VII of Norway, and both sought the homeopathic care of Sir John Weir, MD (see below).
King Edward VIII (1894–1972), known as Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, after his abdication in 1936, carried his homeopathic medicines in powder doses in his pocket. His brother, King George VI (1895–1952), also had a special love for homeopathy. He even named one of his prize racehorses Hypericum, after a homeopathic medicine for injuries. He was known to be an expert user of homeopathic medicine himself, and he formally granted the use of the royal title to the London Homeopathic Hospital, now called the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. Today’s Queen Elizabeth II (1926–), King George VI’s daughter, who ascended the throne in 1952, is patron to this important hospital, which underwent a $35 million refurbishing in 2005.
The most famous homeopath to royalty was Sir John Weir (1879–1971), who served six monarchs: King Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor, George VI), Elizabeth II, King Gustav V of Sweden (1858–1950), and King Haakon VII of Norway (1872–1957).
Perhaps America’s most known and most quoted author is Mark Twain (1835–1910) (a pseudonym for Samuel Clemens). Conventional medicine of his day was a relatively frequent target of his barbed wit. In Harper’s Magazine, he wrote:
When you reflect that your own father had to take such medicines as the above, and that you would be taking them to-day yourself but for the introduction of homoeopathy, which forced the old-school doctor to stir around and learn something of a rational nature about his business, you may honestly feel grateful that homoeopathy survived the attempts of the allopathists [conventional physicians] to destroy it, even though you may never employ any physician but an allopathist while you live. (Twain, 1890)
Mark Twain also makes reference to homeopathy in his highly acclaimed novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889). This masterpiece tells the story of Hank Morgan, a nineteenth-century firearms and mechanical expert who is transported to sixth-century Britain. Morgan introduces many modern technologies to Arthurian Britain, including the telephone, and eventually, he begins running the country. However, during a family vacation, the Church takes over the government and destroys the many new technologies Morgan has introduced and changes many of the social reforms he enacted. Part of Morgan’s new life is that he marries and has a child who eventually is taken ill. Various conventional treatments are ineffective. Morgan then says: “‘Quick!’ I shouted to Clarence; ‘telephone the King’s homeopath to come!’” Morgan’s arch-enemy is the magician Merlin, who places a spell on him, causing him to sleep for thirteen centuries. He wakes during the nineteenth century and tells his story.
Mark Twain was particularly critical of doctors who didn’t further their medical education after graduation. He considered the New York Postgraduate Medical School to be “one of the two greatest institutions in the country” because of its commitment to continuing education. In a 1909 speech at this school, which awarded him an honorary medical degree, he said: “I am glad to be among my own kind tonight. I was once a sharpshooter, but now I practice a much higher and equally as deadly a profession” (Ober, 1997).
Ultimately, Mark Twain was appreciative of various schools of thoughts in healing. He was a supporter of osteopathic medicine because this form of manipulation alleviated his own daughter’s epilepsy and his own chronic bronchitis. And one of his doctors, Cincinnatus Taft, MD, was a homeopathic physician whose obituary said “he exercised a certain eclectic independence, which looked rather to cure than to creed, and was not entirely within the limitations of any one school” (Ober, 1997).
Cher (1946–) is a total entertainer. This singer and actress has achieved true diva-hood. She has won a Grammy (1999), an Oscar (1989), three Golden Globe awards (1974, 1984, and 1989), and an Emmy (2003). One of the best-selling singers of all time, she has recorded thirty-four albums, seven with her former husband (Sonny Bono), twenty-seven solo albums, and eight compilations of previous work. Films in which she has starred include The Witches of Eastwick, Moonstruck, Tea with Mussolini, Mermaids, Silkwood, and Mask. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum immortalized her in 1992 with a life-size statue as one of the five most beautiful women of history.
In 1987 Cher was struck by a debilitating viral illness that manifested in chronic fatigue and bouts of pneumonia. She was disabled from working for two years: “I tried regular medicine and it just didn’t work. Doctors said any illness was all in my head. People thought I was crazy.”
Then she decided to do something different: “I turned to a Sikh homeopathic doctor, almost in desperation. He started doing homeopathic stuff with herbs and vitamin therapy. Many doctors didn’t believe in all that back then. Within four months, he’d got me up and back on the road again.”
In addition to seeking care from this unnamed Sikh doctor, Cher sought treatment from a French homeopathic doctor, Dr. Marcel Dinnet. According to famed gossip columnist Liz Smith, Dr. Dinnet is reported to have 10,000 devoted patients in Los Angeles, including Sarah Ferguson (the Duchess of York) and Elizabeth Taylor (Smith, 1988).
It is assumed that models have to do all they can to take care of their skin and looks. Therefore, supermodels know how to take super good care of their appearance. It’s not surprising then that supermodel Cindy Crawford (1966–) is super into homeopathic and naturalistic products (Finn, 2004).
In October, 2007, on Oprah Winfrey show themed “What the Stylemakers Can’t Live Without,” supermodel and supermom Cindy Crawford revealed that homeopathic medicines are must-haves in her life.
“I am the doctor of our family and I’m a big fan of homeopathy,” she said. “If I have the kids, for sure, I always take this with me,” she explained, holding up a plastic kit containing small vials of homeopathic medicines. Cindy said she carries these medicines in case of bee stings, mosquito bites, and bruises. “You need like 5 of those little pellets,” she said, adding that they “taste sweet so the kids will take them.”
Coretta Scott King (1927–2006), wife of the late Martin Luther King, Jr., had a special interest in homeopathic medicine, and actually, it was her death that led Dana Ullman to write his book “The Homeopathic Revolution.” When Ms. King died in January 2006, in an alternative medicine hospital in Mexico, her family let it be known that her special interest in homeopathic medicine led her to this hospital, even though she arrived there in end-stage disease. Although homeopathy cannot save everyone from disease or death, its history of safety and efficacy will no longer be forgotten as a part of history.
Paul McCartney (1942–), formally known as Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE, is best known as a member of the Beatles, and later, as leader of Wings. He is a British singer, musician, and songwriter who the Guiness Book of World Records lists as the most successful composer in popular music history. He has written or co-written more than fifty top-ten hits, and innumerable other music artists and orchestras have recorded his songs.
Paul’s first wife, Linda Eastman (1941–1998), introduced her husband to vegetarianism in 1975, and she authored several best-selling vegetarian cookbooks. In a 1992 interview, Linda McCartney asserted: “We never go anywhere without our homeopathic remedies. We often make use of them—and that goes for Paul too” (Glew, 1992).
Linda’s interest in homeopathy began when a friend broke her arm, and Linda was duly impressed at how fast the injury healed with homeopathic treatment. But it wasn’t until she had her own case of tonsillitis that she actually tried homeopathy herself. She was prescribed a round of antibiotics that worked but only temporarily. She then went to a homeopathic doctor. Not only did her symptoms go away rapidly, they never returned. She said, “We couldn’t cope without homeopathy.”
Sadly, Linda McCartney died in 1998 due to breast cancer.
Tina Turner (1939–), often called the queen of rock & roll, is an American pop, rock, and soul singer who has won seven Grammies. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
It is hard to imagine, but during the early 1970s this powerful woman was literally brought to her knees by a diagnosis of tuberculosis. She initially sought conventional medical treatment, but continued to suffer, until she sought care from Chandra Sharma, MD, a homeopathic doctor in England. Tina considered him her doctor and her friend. He passed away in 1986, and she wrote in her autobiography: “I miss him more than I can say.” Tina also noted: “Fortunately, his son, Rajandra, was his protégé and is carrying on his work” (Turner, 1986, 156).
In 1985, Vogue magazine reported on Tina’s longtime interest in homeopathy and Buddhism: “Tina Turner looks about thirty-six, and her skin is flawless. She does not deprive herself. She sips wine at dinner, does not diet, does not take vitamins. If she’s feeling particularly stressed, she consults a homeopathic doctor” (Orth, 1985).
In her autobiography, she wrote: “Life in the fast lane wore me down, changes in my diet and homeopathy saved me. Thanks to my Homeopathic physician, for bringing me back to health and always being available for me” (Turner, 1986).
Gabriel García Márquez (1927–2014) is a Colombian novelist and journalist who won the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature. He is considered one of the greatest South American writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Perhaps the most well-known of his many novels is One Hundred Years of Solitude. Many of his writings are drawn from his own life. Because his father was trained as a medical doctor and a pharmacist who practiced homeopathy, this medical subject has been a part of several of his novels and short stories.
In Love in a Time of Cholera, the godfather of the novel’s protagonist is a homeopathic doctor, and ironically, the protagonist is fighting for the affections of a woman who is married to a conventional physician. Also, in an autobiographical short story called “Serenade: How My Father Won My Mother,” published in the New Yorker (February 19, 2001), Garcia Márquez wrote: “Over the course of the year, Gabriel Eligio gave up his worthy profession of telegraph operator and devoted his talent as an autodidact to a science on the decline: homeopathy.”
In his most recent writing of non-fiction, Living to Tell the Tale (2003), Garcia Márquez chose to incorporate elements of his own life with some fictional twists. His heroine, a much-loved mother, is a “lioness” who fights a long battle with her family to marry a violin-playing telegraph clerk. Then, struggling in poverty when her husband abandons her and her eleven children, she seeks to make a better life for her family by making a living as a homeopathic pharmacist.
George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) was one of England’s most respected playwrights. Shaw is the only person ever to have won both a Nobel Prize (Literature in 1925) and an Academy Award (Best Screenplay for Pygmalion in 1938). In his play The Doctor’s Dilemma (1906), Shaw showed the dilemma that doctors inevitably face between their need to care for their patients and their need to practice, often using dangerous drugs and performing unnecessary operations in order to earn a livelihood.
In the play’s preface, Shaw wrote:
The test to which all methods of treatment are finally brought is whether they are lucrative to doctors or not. It would be difficult to cite any proposition less obnoxious to science than that advanced by Hahnemann, to wit, that drugs which in large doses produced certain symptoms, counteract them in very small doses, just as in modern practice it is found that a sufficiently small inoculation with typhoid rallies our powers to resist the disease instead of prostrating us with it. But Hahnemann and his followers were frantically persecuted for a century by generations of apothecary-doctors whose incomes depended on the quantity of drugs they could induce their patients to swallow. These two cases of ordinary vaccination and homeopathy are typical of all the rest.
He continued: “Here we have the explanation of the savage rancor that so amazes people who imagine that the controversy concerning vaccination is a scientific one. It has really nothing to do with science. Under such circumstances vaccination would be defended desperately were it twice as dirty, dangerous and unscientific in method as it really is.”
Thankfully, Shaw goes on to assert that times and things are changing, “Nowadays, however, the more cultivated folk are beginning to be so suspicious of drugs, and the incorrigibly superstitious people so profusely supplied with patent medicines that homeopathy has become a way of rehabilitating the trade of prescription compounding, and is consequently coming into professional credit.”
In 1932 Shaw wrote an essay, Doctors’ Delusions, Crude Criminology and Sham Education, which included a story about the homeopathic treatment he received for a hydrocele. This accumulation of fluid around the testicle normally requires surgery, but Shaw experienced a rapid cure without recurrence.
Shaw once challenged Sir Almroth Wright, a noted conventional physician, to look into homeopathy’s ability to cure many “incurable” diseases. Wright expressed complete incredulity, while Shaw retorted that Wright had no scientific attitude or simple curiosity. This short conversation was a classic:
Almroth said, “This thing is absurd and impossible; let me put it this way. Would you, Shaw, trouble to get out of your chair if I called from the next room. ‘Do come in here and see what I have done—I have turned a pint of tea leaves into pure gold.’”
Shaw responded back simply saying, “Certainly I would.” (Coulter, 1994, 409).
Jerome David Salinger, (1919–), known as J. D. Salinger, gained his reputation as a result of his novel The Catcher in the Rye (1951). Salinger wrote a couple of other books after this and several short stories, but ultimately, he has become one of the most private and reclusive modern-day authors. Very little was known about him, until Joyce Maynard, a New York Times columnist who developed a relationship with him and then lived with him for several years, wrote a book about her time with “Jerry” Salinger (Maynard, 1998). Maynard wrote (and Salinger’s daughter Margaret confirmed, in her own book, published in 2000) that Salinger has a special deep love for homeopathy. He spends several hours each day studying homeopathic books, and he regularly prescribes homeopathic medicines to people and animals.
At one point, Maynard describes a visit by her mother, who had an infected toe at the time. After an interview with her, Jerry prescribed a homeopathic medicine, and within minutes, her toe swelled considerably and then burst, after which the pain disappeared instantly (Maynard, 1998, 138). Maynard describes Salinger’s interest in high-potency homeopathic medicines and his appreciation for constitutional homeopathy (one of the important and sophisticated practices of classical homeopathy, in which a single remedy is prescribed based on the totality of a person’s physical, emotional, mental, and genetic characteristics in order to strengthen a person’s entire constitution). Maynard also notes Salinger’s method of giving a person a homeopathic medicine in water, which is an advanced method of dispensing remedies to people (or animals).
Ultimately, Maynard moved out of Salinger’s home, got married, had children, and then got divorced, but throughout this time, she too has sought treatment from professional homeopaths.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) is generally considered the greatest composer in the history of music. He was born in Bonn, Germany but moved to Vienna in his early twenties to study music with Joseph Haydn. Somewhere around 1800 he began suffering from tinnitus (noises in the ear) and hearing loss. The cause of Beethoven’s deafness remains unknown, though various experts have attributed it to syphilis (Hayden, 2003), beatings from his father, lead poisoning, typhoid, or the newest theory, otosclerosis (Mai, 2007).
Beethoven also experienced severe gastrointestinal distress, powerful headaches (he even had several teeth pulled in the hopes of relieving some of his pain), an abscessed jaw, recurrent rheumatic pains, and frequent cardiac arrhythmia (which he set to music in a piano sonata, Opus 81a, Les abieux).
Historians are lucky to have a rich cache of letters to and from Beethoven as well as his Conversation Books, the writing pads that he used to communicate with others when he could no longer hear audible speech. There are references by Beethoven to homeopathy in this written documentation, and it is well known that his doctor between 1820 and 1826 was Dr. Anton Braunhofer, a professor of biology at the University of Vienna. Beethoven’s nephew, Karl, described Dr. Braunhofer as using homeopathic medicine “because he too follows fashions in medicine” (Beethoven, 1981, 21; Mai, 2007, 127). Braunhofer also recommended certain dietary changes, including avoidance of wine, coffee, and spices. Braunhofer admonished Beethoven that he “must live according to nature” (Schweisheimer, 1945).
In late April 1825, Beethoven was suffering from inflammation of his bowel, and in May he was spitting blood. Initially, the prescriptions given him didn’t work, and Beethoven’s nephew complained that he was required to make him specific meals, one rule of which was serving only steak for lunch. Several sources acknowledge that the treatment allowed him to return to work and finish a quartet in July 1825 (String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132) (Hellenbroich, 1995; Takacs, 2007). By August 1825, Beethoven wrote to his associate and early biographer, Anton Schindler: “My doctor saved me, because I could no longer write music, but now I can write notes which help to relieve me of my troubles” (Mai, 2007, 126).
Ultimately, Beethoven expressed such appreciation to and for Dr. Braunhofer that he composed two canons in his honor (of forty-three canons in total): the Four-Part Canon in C Major (WoO 189, “Doktor, sperrt das Tor dem Tod”—“Doctor, bar the gate to death, notes save from distress”) and Canon in Two Parts in C Major (WoO 190, “Ich war hier, Doktor”—“I was here, Doctor.”).
Over his life Beethoven had sought the care of various conventional physicians and was known to refer to them as “medical asses” (Hayden, 2003, 78). Composers such as Beethoven, literary greats such as Goethe, and many others in the creative arts were known to join the political leaders and the wealthy classes of Germans in going to homeopathic doctors and to spas and natural medicine centers in Teplitz, Marienbad, and Driburg (Maretzki and Seidler, 1985, 395–396).
In early February 1826, Ignaz Schuppanzigh (1776–1830), a violinist, friend, and teacher of Beethoven, assured Beethoven that Braunhofer was very skillful, and further, he told him that their mutual close friend and confident Nikolaus Zmeskall, who had suffered from gout, was particularly enthusiastic about homeopathy (Albrecht, 1996, 132).
In late February 1826, Braunhofer treated Beethoven for symptoms of dysentery and gout, at which time he discouraged Beethoven from drinking coffee, because, the doctor said, it would be bad for his stomach and his nerves over the long term, even though the stimulant effect would seem to provide temporary relief (Mai, 2007, 127). Braunhofer prescribed a homeopathic dose of Cinchona officinalis (Peruvian bark, from which quinine is a primary ingredient), and Beethoven later expressed gratitude for the benefits he received from the doctor’s treatment.
Although Beethoven moved to Baden, some 300 miles away from Vienna where Braunhofer practiced, the composer sought Braunhofer’s care when he traveled to Vienna. When Beethoven asked Braunhofer to come to Baden to treat him, Braunhofer declined, saying that it was too far a distance to travel. Several historians note that Beethoven did not follow the doctor’s advice to stop drinking wine in 1826 and that this created some tension between the doctor and his patient. Braunhofer’s advice to stop drinking was indeed sound, especially in light of the fact that Beethoven died in 1827 of cirrhosis of the liver (Schweisheimer, 1945). Although Beethoven scholars say that he was not a “drinker,” he was very fond of table wines, consumed in moderate quantities, and was very reluctant to abstain.
It should also be noted that even though the emperor of Austria had declared the practice of homeopathic medicine to be illegal in 1819 and even though it remained illegal until that emperor died in 1835, homeopathy was still practiced by a small and select group of highly respected physicians and even priests. Dr. Matthias Marenzeller, captain of the medical corps in Vienna, was a leading advocate of homeopathy, as was Father Veith (1787–1877), pastor at the famed St. Stephens Cathedral in Vienna. Homeopathy was appreciated enough in 1820 that even Prince Schwarzenberg, commander-in-chief of Austria’s allied armies against Napoleon, went to Leipzig, Germany, to seek treatment from Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948, spiritual leader for independence) had strong interest in and support for homeopathy, which stimulated interest in this school of medical thought and practice. In Reminiscences of Gandhi (Nayyar, 1946), he is quoted to have said, “It was regard for the memory of the late C. R. Das and Pandit Motilal Nehru which had led me to seek homeopathic aid. They had always wanted me to give it a trial.”
On August 30, 1936, after Gandhi, and many of his friends and colleagues, had had positive experiences with homeopathy, Gandhi asserted, in his unique speaking and writing style:
Homeopathy is the latest and refined method of treating patients economically and nonviolently. Government must encourage and patronize it in our country. Late Dr. Hahnemann was a man of superior intellectual power and means of saving of human life having a unique medical nerve. I bow before his skill and the Herculean and humanitarian labour he did. His memory wakes us again and you are to follow him, but the opponents hate the existence of the principles and practice of homeopathy which in reality cures a larger percentage of cases than any other method of treatment and it is beyond all doubt safer and more economical and the most complete medical science. (Das, 1950; All India Homeopathic Medical Conference, 1968)
The appreciation for homeopathy is not limited to literary greats in the Western tradition. Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) is widely recognized as the greatest writer in modern Indian literature. He was a Bengali poet, novelist, educator, and an early advocate of independence for India. Tagore won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Two years later he was awarded knighthood, but he surrendered it in 1919 to protest against the massacre of Amritsar, where British troops killed hundreds of Indian demonstrators. Tagore’s influence over Gandhi and the founders of modern India was known to be significant.
In 1936, he wrote: “I have long been an ardent believer in the science of homeopathy, and I feel happy that it has got now a greater hold in India than even in the land of its origin. It is not merely a collection of a few medicines, but a real science with a rational philosophy as its base” (Bagchi, 2000).
Mother Teresa (1910–1997) studied homeopathic medicine with Dr. Diwan Jai Chand (1887–1961), a highly respected Indian homeopath whose two sons and grandson are also leaders of Indian homeopathy. Mother Teresa told others that she would not do a “physician’s prescribing” (that is, she would not treat people with chronic or potentially fatal illnesses) but instead would use homeopathy in many first aid situations.
According to a report from a conventional physician who worked closely with Mother Teresa from 1945 through at least 1988, the Mother “believes that homeopathic treatment is indispensable for the poor and distressed people of India in particular, [and] all other countries of the world in general, for its easy approach, effectiveness, and low cost” (Gomes, 1988). Mother Teresa’s mission opened a charitable homeopathic dispensary in Calcutta in 1950 and it is reported that the Mother prescribed homeopathic medicines herself and assisted homeopathic physicians.
Lindsay Wagner (1949–) is an actress best known for her starring and Emmy-winning role on The Bionic Woman and her socially significant television films. This superwoman has authored books on both vegetarianism and acupressure and has significant respect for homeopathy. She serves on the advisory board of the National Center for Homeopathy (www.homeopathic.org), and she has spoken at a couple of the organization’s conferences in the past.
She wrote me personally to acclaim her deep appreciation for homeopathy: “Homeopathy has been the primary form of treatment for my sons and myself since 1980. It is an exquisite and powerful form of bringing the body and emotions back to balance and health. I am eternally grateful to those who brought this special modality to my attention.”
Sir Yehudi Menuhin (1916–1999) was a Jewish American-born violinist, violist, and conductor who spent most of his adult life in the United Kingdom. He began playing the violin at age 3, and his first public performance, with the San Francisco Symphony, occurred when he was only 7. During World War II, he performed more than 500 concerts for the Armed Forces, which earned him the French Legion of Honor and Croix de Lorraine, the Belgium Order of the Couronne and Order Leopold, the Order of Merit from West Germany, and the Order of the Phoenix from Greece. He also received more than fifty additional honors, including the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Gold Medal, the Cobbett Medal, the Sonning Prize (from Copenhagen), and an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II (England’s highest honor for a non-British subject).
Due to ailments he experienced from the strain of performing and traveling, he began practicing yoga and meditation and using homeopathic medicines. He became the honorary president of the Hahnemann Society, a leading British homeopathic organization.
In early 1988, I sent him a copy of a book I had written on homeopathy. He responded:
Homeopathy attracted me because it is so subtle, so discreet and so effective in approach to the whole human being, and I have certainly met some remarkable people who practice it. For me it is a personal preference as I try to steer clear of all doctors, as few have this commitment, and it is because I find that the world deals these days so much in terms of size and mass and volume and is always striving for bigger mass and bigger volume. The mentality that seems to dominate is meeting one mass with a greater one in order to overcome the lesser. This is, of course, nonsense, as any thinking human being knows, for it does not apply to human life. Many people close to me have benefited from homeopathy. (July 5, 1988)
More publically, he asserted with great succinctness: “Homeopathy is one of the rare medical approaches which carries no penalties—only benefits.” Sir Yehudi further acknowledged that homeopathy’s survival has not been easy as it has had to “withstand the assaults of established medical practice for over 100 years” (Kindred Spirits, 1989).
A writer that one might predict to have had an interest in homeopathy would be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930), author of the Sherlock Holmes detective stories. The Scottish Doyle popularized the field of crime fiction and put Scotland Yard on the map. He was a prolific writer who also wrote science fiction, historical novels, plays, romances, poetry, and nonfiction.
In many ways, being a good homeopath is a lot like being Sherlock Holmes. A good homeopath obtains an enormous amount of detail about the totality of a sick person’s symptoms. A good homeopath probes and probes and probes, asking open-ended questions that lead patients to describe what they are experiencing in their own words. A good homeopath is open to hearing things he or she does not expect, and makes the best use of unusual symptoms that the sick person describes. Sherlock Holmes was also known to assert: “That which is out of the common is usually a guide rather than a hindrance.” And again: “That which seemingly confuses the case is the very thing that furnishes the clue to its solution.” Both of these statements are an integral part of homeopathic casetaking and case analysis. Homeopaths usually conduct a conventional diagnosis, but they then always seek to find the symptoms that are unusual for the diagnosis, and these unique symptoms are vital in selecting the medicine for the patient.
There is an intriguing reference in Doyle’s Lost World (1912). Many people are familiar with this novel because several movies were made of it (including a pioneering 1925 silent film with stop-motion special effects of the dinosaurs done by the same wizard who later created the special effects for the original King Kong). It is one of Doyle’s Professor Challenger stories. Challenger was a zoological “Indiana Jones-type” with a reputation for beating up reporters whose interviews were anathema to him. In Lost World, the narrator is a reporter who bravely decides to interview the violent professor, and a physician friend of this reporter advises him to take along a new remedy that is reported to be “better than arnica” for dealing with the injuries he is sure to suffer from the encounter. But then, the narrator of the story asserts, “Some people have such extraordinary notions of humor” (as though there could ever be something better than arnica).
Arnica is one of homeopathy’s most well-known remedies for shock of injury, for sprains and strains, and for certain pre- and post-surgical problems.
Of additional interest is the fact that Doyle originally trained as a medical doctor, but his frustration, bitterness, and even cynicism is well expressed in his great Holmes adventure, “The Adventure of the Resident Patient,” a story in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894). Ultimately, we must all feel quite blessed that Doyle was not so appreciative of homeopathic medicine that he practiced it rather than writing his stories.
Brian Josephson, PhD (1940–) is a British physicist who won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1973 for work he completed when he was only 22 years old. He is currently a professor at the University of Cambridge where he is the head of the mind-matter unification project in the Theory of Condensed Matter research group.
Responding to an article in the New Scientist (October 18, 1997), Josephson wrote:
Regarding your comments on claims made for homeopathy: criticisms centered around the vanishingly small number of solute molecules present in a solution after it has been repeatedly diluted are beside the point, since advocates of homeopathic remedies attribute their effects not to molecules present in the water, but to modifications of the water’s structure.
Simple-minded analysis may suggest that water, being a fluid, cannot have a structure of the kind that such a picture would demand. But cases such as that of liquid crystals, which while flowing like an ordinary fluid can maintain an ordered structure over macroscopic distances, show the limitations of such ways of thinking. There have not, to the best of my knowledge, been any refutations of homeopathy that remain valid after this particular point is taken into account.
A related topic is the phenomenon, claimed by Jacques Benveniste’s colleague Yolène Thomas and by others to be well established experimentally, known as “memory of water”. If valid, this would be of greater significance than homeopathy itself, and it attests to the limited vision of the modern scientific community that, far from hastening to test such claims, the only response has been to dismiss them out of hand. (Josephson, 1997)
Josephson’s remarks on the structure of water have been confirmed by more recent research (Roy, et al., 2005). Professors of material sciences, in conjunction with an MD/PhD homeopath, have written a review of basic science research on the important but technical subject of the structure of water. These leading scientists described how the process of making homeopathic medicines changes the water to turn it into a medicine and differentiate it from simple or plain water. The shaking process, an integral part of making homeopathic medicines, is now known to create bubbles and nano-bubbles that change the pressure and structure of the water.
Josephson was interviewed by the New Scientist (December 9, 2006), and asked to comment on how he became an advocate of unconventional ideas. He responded:
I went to a conference where the French immunologist Jacques Benveniste was talking for the first time about his discovery that water has a ‘memory’ of compounds that were once dissolved in it – which might explain how homeopathy works. His findings provoked irrationally strong reactions from scientists, and I was struck by how badly he was treated.
Josephson went on to describe how many scientists today suffer from “pathological disbelief”; that is, they maintain an unscientific attitude that is embodied by the statement “even if it were true I wouldn’t believe it.”
Emil Adolf von Behring (1854–1917) won the first Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology for his discovery of the diphtheria antitoxin. Later, he discovered the tetanus antitoxin. For many years he served as military captain of the medical corps to the Pharmacological Institute at the University of Bonn, and then was given a position at the Hygiene Institute of Berlin in 1888 as assistant to Robert Koch (1843–1910), one of the pioneers of bacteriology. He then became professor of hygienics in the Faculty of Medicine at the prestigious University of Marburg. Because of his significant discoveries in immunology, Behring retains a highly regarded place in its early history.
In 1892 Behring actually experimented with serial (homeopathic) dilutions and found paradoxically enhanced immunogenic activity, but he was advised to suppress this experiment due to the aid and comfort it would provide to homeopaths. Only after he won the Nobel Prize did he feel comfortable in making public these experiments (Behring, 1905; Coulter, 1994, 97).
Behring broke from orthodox medical tradition by recognizing the value of the homeopathic law of similars:
In spite of all scientific speculations and experiments regarding smallpox vaccination, Jenner’s discovery remained an erratic blocking medicine, till the biochemically thinking Pasteur, devoid of all medical classroom knowledge, traced the origin of this therapeutic block to a principle which cannot better be characterized than by Hahnemann’s word: homeopathic. Indeed, what else causes the epidemiological immunity in sheep, vaccinated against anthrax than the influence previously exerted by a virus, similar in character to that of the fatal anthrax virus? And by what technical term could we more appropriately speak of this influence, exerted by a similar virus than by Hahnemann’s word “homeopathy”? I am touching here upon a subject anathematized till very recently by medical penalty: but if I am to present these problems in historical illumination, dogmatic imprecations must not deter me. (Behring, 1905)
Behring actually made a plea for homeopathy to be granted “citizenship of medicine” (medicinisches Biirgerrecht) and that it no longer be taboo for physicians to practice it. Behring even said he would go to a homeopath himself: “If I were confronted with a hitherto incurable disease and could see no way to treat it other than homeopathy, I can assure you that I would not be deterred from following this course by dogmatic considerations” (Behring, 1905; Coulter, 1994, 98).
Behring also showed a certain sophisticated understanding of Hahnemann’s contribution to medicine and pharmacology: “The concept that the sick person reacts differently to medications than the healthy one, which had to be established empirically by therapeutic trials, also played a role in Hahnemann’s thinking” (from a Behring article in 1915, quoted in Coulter, 1994, 96).
The point here is that Behring understood that homeopaths determine the effectiveness of a medicine by conducting experiments in toxicology in which relatively healthy people are given repeated doses of a substance until symptoms of overdose are created. Every simple or complex substance will create its own toxicological syndrome of symptoms, and homeopathic doses of that substance can and will heal people who have that similar symptom complex. The logic here is because symptoms of illness, from whatever cause, are adaptive efforts of the body to fight infection or adapt to some sort of stress, the use of a medicinal agent that mimics the body’s defenses will provide immunological benefit to the sick person.
In 1898 Behring asserted that Koch’s discovery of the Tuberculin bacilli and his use of it to treat people for tuberculosis falls under the homeopathic principle, as does Pasteur’s rabies therapy (Coulter, 1994, 96). Koch and Pasteur could not and certainly would not give homeopathy credit for any insight or contribution to their discovery, or if they did, they and their new medicine would have been harshly attacked.
By the mid-1890s, as a result of Koch’s claims, London homeopath Dr. James Compton-Burnett (1840–1901) used homeopathic doses of the tuberculous sputum to treat fifty-four people, calling this medicine Bacillinum. Compton-Burnett aptly differentiated his medicine from Koch’s:
The difference between our old friend [homeopathic] Tuberculinum or Bacillinum and that of Koch lies in the way it is obtained; our is the virus of the natural disease itself, while Koch’s is the same virus artificially obtained in an incubator from colonies of bacilli thriving on beef-jelly; ours is the chick hatched under the hen. Koch’s is the chick hatched in an incubator. (Compton-Burnett, 1890, xiii–xiv)
Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906) co-founded the National Women’s Suffrage Association with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and she is recognized today as one of America’s leaders for women’s rights in the 19th century. It is also not surprising that Susan B. Anthony was a homeopathic patient. Her homeopathic physician was Julia Holmes Smith, MD, another activist in the social reform movement. Susan B. Anthony was known to advocate homeopathy throughout most of her life.
Swami Satchidananda (1914–2000) played an important role in popularizing yoga in the West during the 1960s and 1970s. Some of his well-known students included Allen Ginsberg, Alice Coltrane, Carol King, and Jeff Goldblum. After one of his students, artist Peter Max, invited him to New York in 1966, he continued to have a significant effect on the emerging counterculture of that era. In 1969, he was the opening speaker at the Woodstock music festival. What is less known about Swami Satchidananda is that he was trained as a homeopath earlier in life and strongly believed in its efficacy.
When Dana Ullman once visited some friends who lived at his ashram in Buckingham, Virginia, he was asked to give a talk on homeopathy. After completing my presentation, he left the stage, at which time he was asked to go back to the microphone because the Swami had a question for me. As Dana walked back to the stage, he wondered what deeply spiritual question he was going to ask me. Dana was therefore shocked and impressed when he posed the question: “Has homeopathy been computerized?” The Swami was quite pleased to hear that not only has homeopathy been computerized but that there are numerous expert-system software programs that help professional homeopaths prescribe more efficiently and precisely.
Swami Satchidananda was one of the teachers of yoga who believed that people can and should do spiritual practice while being fully engaged in the modern cosmopolitan world. Several of his students have asserted that besides being a teacher of yoga, he also loved to do computer programming.
Excerpted from: Dana Ullman, The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy. Berkeley: North Atlantic, 2007)