In honor of AAHP's 100th anniversary year, we’re looking back at the history of homeopathy to learn how the medical modality spread worldwide. Readers will discover startling vignettes of unexpected paths and outcomes. Many may know much about homeopathy here and now, but we hope you find our "There and Then" series informative and interesting!
Homeopathy arrived at in Columbia around 1825–1830; early practitioners included a pair of father and son pharmacists. The first homeopathic medical school opened in 1837. Throughout the 19th century, members of religious orders, especially Dominicans, were instrumental in the use and teaching of homeopathy, which ensured its continuing growth. Five homeopathic pharmacies were in operation by the end of the century in Bogota. A century later that number expanded to 30, plus 10 in Medellin.
Legal recognition was given to four alternative medical modalities, including homeopathy 15 years ago. An unusual and successful project began soon thereafter: a homeopathic dispensary was established in Bogota under the support of the Red Cross. The dispensary treats the houseless every weekend using only approximately 80 major homeopathic medicines. This free clinic has had excellent results.
For more than a decade, some private health care companies have allowed clients to choose medical doctors using alternative medicines; homeopathy is the principal alternative chosen by many patients. These medical doctors face the challenge of working within the time constraints of the allopathic model, which limits consultations to a maximum of 30 minutes per patient. One of these health care providers began to offer homeopathic medicines in their own drugstore. After a couple of months, nobody was requesting allopathic drugs. Due to the poor sales, the drug wholesalers forced the health provider to stop selling homeopathic medicines.
The history of homeopathy in Spain begins with the first homeopathic pharmacy operating in 1833. THE enthusiastic acceptance of the modality resulted in many homeopathic texts being translated into Spanish; homeopathic practitioners soon followed merchants and others into Latin America, spreading homeopathy to an ever-widening circle. By the end of the 19th century, Spain had a teaching center and a homeopathic hospital; the latter continues to provide a homeopathic outpatient clinic.
Although homeopathy was still tolerated, the number of practitioners declined in the first half of the 20th century due to unrelated political circumstances (the Spanish Civil War and WWII). Yet as in many other countries, a resurgence of interest in homeopathy occurred in tandem with rising demand for natural alternative in the 1970s. Coming full circle, Spanish homeopaths turned to Latin America’s teachers for courses and training. An influx of homeopathic companies followed, primarily from France and Germany, and most selling combination products. All homeopathic medicines are available in pharmacies only.
Homeopathy in Spain is described today as “standing on a knife’s edge.” With a firm legal foundation, homeopathy is recognized as a non-conventional therapy. Licensed doctors with homeopathic training may prescribe homeopathic medicines. This is also true for pharmacists — within their dispensing authority. Homeopathic medicines are regulated by the European-wide directive with national rules for the authorization, registration, and marketing that apply equally to all medicinal products — homeopathic and allopathic.
On the other side of “the standing knife” as elsewhere, there has been a campaign to discredit homeopathy. Unfortunately, Spain’s Ministry of Health has helped to orchestrate this. Homeopathy has been labeled as a “pseudo-therapy,” its’ effectiveness has been questioned, and it is no longer taught in any university. It is being evaluated to define its’ effectiveness, but Spanish homeopaths say the evaluation criteria offer no desirable guarantees or transparency.