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Book and Media Reviews
April 5, 2006

Homeopathy

Author Affiliations
 

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2006;295(13):1587-1592. doi:10.1001/jama.295.13.1590

In the 21st century, “homeopathic” has become a vacuous term—all but interchangeable with “natural” and “holistic”—an inclusive label that serves as a sort of New Age umbrella to cover a host of ill-defined notions. In The History of American Homeopathy: The Academic Years, 1820-1935, John S. Haller, Jr, reminds us that homeopathy in the 19th century rested upon highly specific principles—all of which flowed from Samuel Hahnemann's fundamental axiom that “like cures like” —and that homeopathy as a medical system was taken seriously indeed by a great many thoughtful physicians (and medical policy makers) throughout the United States. By taking the homeopathy of that period seriously himself, Haller is able to remind readers that 19th-century homeopaths pioneered systematic drug-testing research, challenged the dangerously depleting procedures of mainstream physicians at that time, established rigorous professional standards, and valued advanced education at least as highly as their mainstream counterparts did. It was not without reason that homeopaths considered the bases of their approach to medical problems to be more logical and more promising than the inherited tradition of the ancients, upon which mainstream physicians still based their practices.

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