From its earliest days, homeopathy has been able to treat epidemic diseases with a substantial rate of success, when compared to conventional treatments. It was these successes that placed the practice of homeopathy so firmly in the consciousness of people world-wide.
There is a story told about Joseph Pulte, one of the earliest homeopaths in Cincinnati. When he began his practice, many people were so angered by a homeopath being in town that they pelted the house with eggs. He was becoming discouraged enough to think of leaving. His wife said, “Joseph, do you believe in the truth of homeopathy?” He replied in the affirmative. “Then,” she said, “you will stay in Cincinnati.”
Shortly after, when the Cholera epidemic swept through, Pulte was able to boast of not having lost a single patient– and he was accepted into the community. In the Epidemic of 1849, people crowded to his door and stood in the street because the waiting room was full.
In 1900, Thomas Lindsley Bradford, MD, wrote a book called “The Logic of Figures” in which he collected the statistics he could find that would compare the conventional therapeutics with homeopathic ones. Many of the figures cited below are derived from Bradford’s work.
One of the earliest tests of the homeopathic system was in the treatment of Typhus Fever (spread by lice) in an 1813 epidemic which followed the devastation of Napoleon’s army marching through Germany to attack Russia, followed by their retreat. When the epidemic came through Leipzig as the army pulled back from the east, Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, was able to treat 180 cases of Typhus– losing but two. This, at a time when the conventional treatments were having a mortality rate of over 30%.
In 1830 as the cholera epidemic was reported coming from the east, Hahnemann was able to identify the stages of the illness, and predict what remedies would be needed for which stages.
When Cholera finally struck Europe in 1831 the mortality rate (under conventional treatment) was between 40% (Imperial Council of Russia) to 80% (Osler’s Practice of Medicine). Out of five people who contracted Cholera, two to four of them died under regular treatment. Dr. Quin, in London, reported the mortality in the ten homeopathic hospitals in 1831-32 as 9%; Dr. Roth, physician to the king of Bavaria, reported that under homeopathic care the mortality was 7%; Admiral Mordoinow of the Imperial Russian Council reported 10% mortality under homeopathy; and Dr. Wild, Allopathic editor of Dublin Quarterly Journal, reported in Austria, the Allopathic mortality was 66% and the homeopathic mortality was 33% “and on account of this extraordinary result, the law interdicting the practice of Homeopathy in Austria was repealed”.
Homeopathy continued to be effective in the treatment of Epidemic Cholera. In 1854 a Cholera Epidemic struck London. This was a historically important epidemic in that it was the first time the medical community was able to trace the outbreak to a source (a public water pump), and when the pump was closed, the epidemic soon ceased. The House of Commons asked for a report about the various methods of treating the epidemic. When the report was issued, the homeopathic figures were not included. The House of Lords asked for an explanation, and it was admitted that if the homeopathic figures were to be included in the report, it would “skew the results”. The suppressed report revealed that under allopathic care the mortality was 59.2% while under homeopathic care the mortality was only 9%.
It is hard today to comprehend what kind of scourge such an epidemic was. As was seen in the later Flu Epidemic of 1918, one could be healthy in the morning and be dead by evening– it moved that rapidly. Many books were written about the Homeopathic treatment of Cholera during these times, among them: Cholera and its Homeopathic treatment, F. Humphreys (1849); Homeopathic Treatment of Cholera, B.F. Joslin (1854); Homeopathic Domestic Treatment of Cholera, Biegler (1858); Epidemic Cholera, B. F. Joslin (1885); Asiatic Cholera, Jabez Dake (1886).
The success of homeopathic treatment continued with the later cholera epidemics. In the Hamburg epidemic of 1892, allopathic mortality was 42%, homeopathic mortality was 15.5% During the 1850s, there were several epidemics of Yellow Fever in the southern states. This disease was eventually found to be transmitted by mosquito. Osler says that the allopathic mortality from Yellow Fever is between 15-85%. Holcome, a homeopath, reported in 1853 a mortality of 6.43% in Natchez, and Dr. Davis, another homeopath in Natchez, reported 5.73%. In 1878 the mortality in New Orleans was 50% under allopathic care, and 5.6% (in 1,945 cases in the same epidemic) with homeopathic care.
The two best books on this topic were: Yellow Fever and its Homeopathic Treatment, Holcome, (1856) and The Efficacy of Crot. Horridus in Yellow Fever, C. Neidhard, (1860).
Another epidemic disease which was treatable with homeopathy was Diphtheria. Since the advent of widespread vaccination, it is a disease not often seen in our modern world. Diphtheria appeared periodically, and rarely had the same presentation. It was, therefore, very important for the practitioner to individualize the treatment in each specific case or generalized epidemic. A remedy which had been effective in treating it one year might not be the same remedy needed the next year.
In the records of three years of Diphtheria in Broome County, NY from 1862 to 1864, there was a report of an 83.6% mortality rate among the allopaths and a 16.4% mortality rate among the Homeopaths. (Bradford)
Perhaps the most recent use of homeopathy in a major epidemic was during the Influenza Pandemic of 1918. The Journal of the American Institute for Homeopathy, May, 1921, had a long article about the use of homeopathy in the flu epidemic. Dr. T A McCann, from Dayton, Ohio, reported that 24,000 cases of flu treated allopathically had a mortality
rate of 28.2% while 26,000 cases of flu treated homeopathically had a mortality rate of 1.05%. This last figure was supported by Dean W.A. Pearson of Philadelphia (Hahnemann College) who collected 26,795 cases of flu treated with homeopathy with the above result.
The most common remedy used was Gelsemium, with occasional cases needing Bryonia and Eupatorium reported. Dr. Herbert A. Roberts from Derby, CT, said that 30 physicians in Connecticut responded to his request for data. They reported 6,602 cases with 55 deaths, which is less than 1%. Dr. Roberts was working as a physician on a troop ship during WWI. He had 81 cases of flu on the way over to Europe. He reported, “All recovered and were landed. Every man received homeopathic treatment. One ship lost 31 on the way.”
Closer to our present time, there were the Polio epidemics in the mid-1950s. Dr. Alonzo Shadman, a homeopath in the Boston area, emphasized that until *actual paralysis* was observed, it was hard to distinguish the prodromal symptoms of Polio from those of the common cold– and he treated many “summer colds” during the time. Were they incipient polio? No one can tell.
Dr. Francisco Eizayaga or Argentina, tells of a polio epidemic in Buenos Aires in 1957, where the symptoms of the epidemic resembled those of the remedy Lathyrus sativa. The homeopathic doctors and pharmacies prescribed Lathyrus 30c as a prophylactic, and “thousands of doses” were distributed. “Nobody registered a case of contagion.” Eizayaga points out that in other epidemics of polio, Gelsemium was the indicated remedy– emphasizing, again, the need for individualization.
Homeopathy has been very effective in treating many of the epidemics during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Why the successes are not better known is a subject for conjecture. It could be that, like the physician quoted below, most would rather not see the ineffectiveness of the conventional therapeutics nor accept the efficacy of homeopathy. From “Homeopathy In Influenza-A Chorus Of Fifty In Harmony” by W. A. Dewey, MD (Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy, May 1921):
One physician in a Pittsburgh hospital asked a nurse if she knew anything better than what he was doing, because he was losing many cases. “Yes, Doctor, stop aspirin and go down to a homeopathic pharmacy, and get homeopathic remedies”. The Doctor replied: “But that is homeopathy.” “I know it, but the homeopathic doctors for whom I have nursed have not lost a single case.”–W. F. Edmundson, MD, Pittsburgh.
Reprinted with the gracious permission of Gwyneth Winston, from the Julian Winston Archives.
Editors note: Julian Winston was considered the foremost historian of homeopathy and his website is rich with homeopathic archives.