Translated by Katja Schütt and Alan Schmukler
Many native people of Mexico have the dexterity of relating their wisdom through embroidering. The threads intertwine skillfully to give shape to myths, legends and epic battles between light and shadow that allow them to create, cyclically, a terrestrial order that makes life possible on Earth.
The history of Mexican Homeopathy has been written in this way, with ribbons, stamens, strips of all colors and materials that cross between chaos and order of a country that is young and millennial at the same time. There are, of course, names and dates that stand out as transcendental moments for good or bad. But above all there is a collective intelligence that gives coherence to this gigantic canvas.
Of all the words that could define this story, the Mexican Dr. Fernando Darío François Flores, who has been national vice president of the Liga Medicorum Homoeopathica Internationalis (LMHI) as well as the secretary of Archives of that organization, chooses only one: “the fight, basically the fight. ”
And it is so, that Mexican homeopathy has distinguished itself by traveling against the tide, by means of its strength to achieve unprecedented achievements and gain the recognition of a large number of patients who enjoy their benefits, but also, as in other countries, because of being a victim of skepticism, misunderstanding, marginalization and, unfortunately, of their own weaknesses and mistakes.
Once upon a time
The second half of the 19th century was very complex for Mexico. They were difficult years, because the young nation, independent since 1821, tried to consolidate its identity while facing the interventions of the world powers. In fact, it lost half of its territory due to the war with the United States (1846-48) and lived under the imposition of the Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg (1864-1867), who was supported by the Conservative Party and the government of France.
Internal politics oscillated between the whims of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (intermittent president between 1833 and 1855), the liberal reform movement led by Benito Juárez (1855-1863), the establishment of the Second Mexican Empire (1863-1867) and the “scientific and positivist” dictatorship, with the air of the Belle Époque, led by General Porfirio Díaz, which began in 1876 and provoked the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution in 1910.
“Homeopathy arrived in Mexico in 1849, when the Catalan physician Cornelio Andrade y Baz landed in Veracruz (Gulf of Mexico), came from Cuba. With his arrival and that of other Spanish doctors, the consultations began and the first groups were formed to teach and spread homeopathy”, explains Dr. Fernando Domínguez Vello, founding member of the Mexican Circle of Homeopathy and medical coordinator of the Project of Homeopathic Health Care in the Desert.
It was a romantic time, full of enthusiasm and the first attempts to establish the type of medicine developed by Samuel Hahnemann, as Fernando François, author of numerous books, including History of Homeopathy in Mexico remembers:
- The Spanish physician Ramón Comellas, who arrived in Mexico in 1850, wrote the first publication on the subject: Review of homeopathy dedicated to Mexicans. He was also the first to have disciples: Julián González and Rafael Degollado.
- José María Carbó arrived with the purpose to fight an epidemic of yellow fever in Veracruz in 1854. His successful performance allowed him to obtain the first permission to practice homeopathy officially in Mexico.
- In 1855, Narciso Sanchís, also Spanish, instructed the first Mexican practitioners: Alfredo Domínguez Ugalde and Pablo Fuentes Herrera.
- In 1867, Julián González founded the first homeopathic pharmacy in the country.
- Pablo Fuentes Herrera and Pascual Bielsa organized the first local homeopathy group: the Homeopathic Society of Mexico, and in turn edited the first specialized journal: La Gaceta (1870).
- In 1871, Rafael Degollado founded the first homeopathic hospital in the country in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato (center).
Moreover, according to the Association of Historians of Sciences and Humanities, Matilde Petra Montoya Lafragua was the first Mexican woman to become a physician and surgeon (1887) and practiced homeopathy , wherefore she can be considered to be the first female Mexican homeopath.
The great milestone
The economic and sociopolitical conditions did not provide the best opportunities for the flourishing of the first groups, schools, hospitals and homeopathic publications, so that their lifetime was very short.
In fact, Dr. Fernando Ochoa Bernal, coordinator of homeopathy at the National Homeopathic Hospital of the Ministry of Health, explains that “homeopathic medicine was developed through private practice, it was disseminated thanks to the personal efforts of the Spanish doctors who introduced it and through their disciples, but they had little influence on Mexican medicine of that time. ”
This was so until the appearance of an emblematic character or, rather, of a gentleman: Dr. Joaquín Segura y Pesado, who traveled to France to perfect his knowledge about medicine and returned to Mexico having converted into a blazing homeopathic physician.
“Dr. Segura y Pesado belonged to an aristocratic family and was close to the circles of power. As a coincidence or circumstance of the moment, General Porfirio Diaz Mori, the then president of Mexico, suffered from a chronic illness, osteomyelitis in the hip, caused by a bullet in a battle. Many doctors treated him, including specialists from France and the United States, but without success. Doctor Segura y Pesado treated him with homeopathy and cured him,” says Dr. Domínguez Vello.
Expressing his gratitude, President Porfirio Díaz asked Joaquín Segura y Pesado how he might reward his attentions, to which the doctor, seconded by his colleagues Ignacio Fernández de Lara, Ignacio María Montaño and Fernando Gómez Suárez, asked for permission to use an old building from the colonial era to found a hospital-school of homeopathy. The president agreed, albeit under certain conditions to calm the angry protests of the allopathic physicians.
With some trepidation, President Diaz alone authorized the start-up of the hospital (by the way, financed by the homeopathic doctors themselves and some donations). Its continuity and the creation of a Hahnemannian medical school would only be allowed if homeopathy showed its effectiveness. Armed with an arsenal of books and dilutions, and a lot of willpower, the physicians started the road upward without knowing that they were already destined to occupy a place in history.
Fernando François affirms without hesitation that “the founding of the Homeopathic Hospital and the consequent officialization of Hahnemannian medicine was the first great milestone of homeopathy in Mexico”, by itself and by everything that happened around it.
The then Homoeopathic Hospital started its activities in mid-1893. “For two years its results were published and a statistical analysis showed that homeopathy was significantly more effective than conventional medicine”, adds François Flores.
Consequently, on August 10, 1895, a decree was issued authorizing the teaching of Hahnemannian medicine and the founding of the National School of Homeopathic Medicine, which began its work on January 4, 1896. In this way, Mexico became the first country to formalize the exercise and teaching of homeopathy[3, 4].
The current National Homeopathic Hospital (HNH), comments Fernando Ochoa, “was from its beginning a public health center that was dedicated mainly to the care of the poorest people in Mexico City. This led to the relief of public health care, with minimal fees, something that has been maintained to date in this institution, which, since 1943 became part of the Ministry of Health and Assistance”, now the “Ministry of Health”.
The impact of this hospital center still continues, says Dr. Arturo Benítez Trejo, the current director of the HNH. “Every year we offer about 35 thousand homeopathic consultations and, according to the surveys we conducted as part of our efficiency indicators, we have a satisfaction of more than 90%. The conditions we most often treat are pediatric, allergic, chronic degenerative (hypertension, diabetes), obesity, upper respiratory tract infections and behavior-related disorders (depression, insomnia, anxiety)”.
According to Fernando François Flores, there are two other milestones in Mexican homeopathy. The first was “the inauguration of the Escuela Libre de Homeopatía (Free School of Homeopathy), with the very important ideological influence of the Mexican Revolution”.
This new institution dedicated to the teachings of Hahnemannian medicine was founded in 1912 by Dr. Higinio G. Pérez, a man of an agile mind and remarkable humanism who perceived that the teachings of the National School of Homeopathic Medicine deviated from his principles.
Fernando Domínguez Vello comments that “Higinio G. Pérez was an altruistic man, very brilliant, he knew philosophy, religion and music, besides being a very experience physician. The school was supported with his own Money; he gave scholarships to its students and it had mixed schedules (in the morning and in the evening) so that the people who worked could attend”.
It is important to note that both the Escuela Libre de Homeopatía de México (ELHM) and the Escuela National Homeopathic Medicine exist to this day, although the latter was integrated into the National Polytechnic Institute in 1936 and changed its name to the Escuela Nacional de Medicina y Homeopatia/National School of Medicine and Homeopathy (ENMH). Moreover, both institutions have a unique aspect: “Only in Mexico and India can homeopathy be studied as a degree, throughout the remaining world it has become a graduate discipline,” clarifies Dr. François Flores.
The other milestone pointed out by Fernando François is the foundation of the Homeopathy of Mexico, in 1960, by Dr. Proceso Sánchez Ortega. “This gave a perspective to Mexican homeopathy that it never had before”, and which was accentuated, to a large extent, by the teaching of the miasm theory as developed by its founder, and “who gave us a systematization and a continuation of Hahnemannian teachings never seen before”.
Fernando Domínguez remembers: “Dr. Proceso Sánchez studied at the ELHM, an institution in which there was also a certain degradation of orthodox homeopathy and wherefore he created this new specialized school, that is, for doctors already trained in conventional medicine. Sánchez Ortega was an individual who gave homeopathy in Mexico great importance, a man who was considered the master wherever he passed by”.
In a history of 170 years there are many other episodes to remember, for example, the foundation of the Propulsora de Homeopatía in 1936, a laboratory in Mexico City that develops the remedies of the Similia brand and which has distinguished itself by supporting the advancement of homeopathy through scholarships, refresher courses, recognitions, promotion of research, publication of books and the edition of the Mexican homeopathic medical journal, which is the only one until now included in the indexes of scientific publications: La Homeopatía de México (Homeopathy of Mexico).
Since we are talking about the pharmaceutical industry, it is fair to mention the persistence of Dr. Josefina Sánchez Reséndiz de Montaño, a teacher and researcher who led the efforts of doctors, academics and representatives of the most important laboratories for decades to dialogue with the authorities of the Ministry of Health until the publication of the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United Mexican States (1998) , which consists of three editions and has been the reference book in other Latin American countries.
We can also recall that Mexico has hosted the LMHI Congress four times: in 1929 (Mexico City), 1980 (Acapulco), 1995 (Oaxaca) and 2007 (Puebla), and that it has had two honorable members and a president in that organization: the doctors Proceso Sánchez Sánchez (1987), David Flores Toledo (1995), Dr. José Matuk Kanan (2010-2013) , respectively. Not bad, isn’t it?
But if we had to choose an important lesson that Mexican homeopathy has given to the world, Fernando François chooses “the victory of the Escuela Libre de Homeopatía over President Lázaro Cárdenas, who tried to close this educational institution in the 1930s through a decree. The accomplishment of beating an acting president in court exemplifies that an organized group of dedicated people can reach whatever they want”.
Like other underdeveloped nations, Mexico is a country that invests very little in science and technology. For this reason, researchers, universities and institutes have to face many bureaucratic obstacles and the lack of interest by businessmen and politicians in supporting their projects.
Homeopathic research has to face these same limitations, and even more, as it causes skepticism in some scientific circles and due to the indifference of many homeopathic doctors who prefer to dedicate themselves exclusively to clinical practice. Nevertheless, Fernando François highlights in this matter the contribution of “the 50 homeopathic remedies we have proven and which have been made, mainly, with Mexican specimens.”
Although the first studies of this type were conducted with Arnica, Bufo and Pulsatilla within the Mexican Homeopathic Society, in 1861, the Veracruz’ physician Ismael Talavera was the first to publish the pathogenesis “of a purely Mexican remedy, Magnolia grandiflora, in 1885″.
To the efforts of this researcher we must add those of many others who have proven homeopathic medicines, among them: Manuel de Legarreta, Pánfilo Carranza, Pablo Fuentes and Herrera, Manuel A. Lizama, José D. Conde Perera, Sánchez Ortega Process, David Flores Toledo, María Eugenia Pulido Álvarez, Pablo Hernán López Sánchez, Víctor Manuel Toledo Ramírez, Rosario Sánchez Caballero, Eduwiges Sánchez Caballero, Martha Riba Espinosa de los Monteros, Beatriz Zenteno Manzano, Celia Chávez Camarena, Luis Bárcenas García, Raúl C. Morales López and Raul E. Morales Pascual.
Some of the proven remedies have been: Euphorbia pulcherrima (Christmas Eve flower), Malmea depressa (elemuy or yumel), Persea americana (avocado), Lophophora williamsii (peyote), Gryllus assimilis (common cricket), Centruroides suffusus (scorpion of Durango) and Carcinosinum (nosode of cancer), not forgetting some as peculiar as Sol (lactose exposed to rays of the Sun), Cinis popo (ash from Popocatépetl volcano) and Microwaves (produced by the magnetron of a conventional microwave oven at 2,450 MHz) [9,10].
Another aspect of studies conducted in Mexico has been aimed at verifying the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies. In this sense, it is important to remember the researches of the beloved and already mentioned doctor Josefina Sánchez Resendiz, who studied the biological effect of different dynamized remedies, some of which are used for the benefit of women’s health.
By the way, the first of his studies, carried out to verify the action of Pulsatilla nigricans in the hypothalamic-hypophyseal axis of rats, gave way to the authorities of the National Polytechnic Institute authorizing the creation of the Graduate and Scientific Research Section of the ENMH .
Another outstanding researcher in this story is Dr. Emma del Carmen Macías Cortés, who has proven the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies in the treatment of depression and postpartum depression [12,13].
Especially important was a study which she conducted and in which she compared the effectiveness of individualized homeopathic treatment and the use of conventional drugs in the care of depression during the peri and postmenopause. The research, which involved 534 women and was carried out for 6 weeks, found that both homeopathic treatment and fluoxetine are effective in reducing depression in the climacteric [12-14].
Mexico has also contributed studies aimed at showing the nature of homeopathic dilutions. For example, I mention the work done at the end of the 1980s by the physicist Ángel Salas Cuevas, who subjected different dynamized remedies to a nuclear magnetic resonance test, and compared the results with a control batch formed by water samples and alcohol .
The results allowed him to conclude the following:
- The spectrograms of homeopathic remedies were different from those of water and alcohol.
- Spectrograms of the same homeopathic remedy with different potencies were very similar to each other, although with some variations.
- The spectrograms of homeopathic remedies obtained from different substances were different from each other.
Salas Cuevas suggested that this phenomenon was due to “the formation of clusters of particles that determine a state of liquid crystals […]. The clusters have different dimensions according to the added solute. ”
A few years later, an analogous investigation was conducted by Dr. Vicente Rosas Landa Lechuga and his collaborators , only that his analysis was carried out with spectrophotometry. The scientists experimented with high homeopathic dilutions, that is, those in which it is mathematically impossible to have traces of the original medicinal substance, but the end results demonstrated that the matter “was still there”.
It should be noted that each of the analyzed remedies had different emission patterns, and that the remedies coming from the same substance, but in different potencies, showed very similar response patterns. Finally, they found that although the homeopathic remedy loses strength over time, it is able to recover it when being shaken.
Regarding this topic, Fernando Ochoa Bernal comments: “The results of these investigations have not only been disseminated locally but are known outside of Mexico, having influenced the development of homeopathy in Central America and Cuba, where these studies have been used as reference.
“We should remember that physicians of the HNH or graduate of the ENMH have brought their teachings to other countries. Costa Rica was a seedbed; for several years we have been their teachers. These courses have given international exposure to Mexico, not so much in English-speaking countries, but in Ibero-America”, explains the homeopath.
Not only in humans
The work that has been carried out in recent decades in the Mexican areas to use homeopathy for the health of animals and plant crops deserves special mention. Undoubtedly, the application of Hahnemannian knowledge in veterinary medicine is in debt to the impulse given by its first and most important defender, the veterinarian and zootechnologist Enedina Silva Cabrera, who, in addition to writing a fundamental book on this subject in the decade of 1990 was in charge of organizing inter-institutional debate forums, seminars and training courses to spread this knowledge both in Mexico and other Latin American nations, mainly Cuba.
In her words, the application of homeopathy in animal husbandry and bird breeding represents the instrumentation of “an excellent preventive method and recognized benefit that produces no collateral effects, much less toxic ones. It would be important to consider it in the production of protein of animal origin due to public health aspects, because the use of homeopathic remedies is effective to improve food asssimilation and promote growth, which has been proven in species for human consumption, ensuring the purity and good quality of edible products of animal origin. ”
With regard to agrohomeopatía, the most notable efforts have come from the Autonomous University of Chapingo (central Mexico), where several researchers have conducted studies concerning the effects of homeopathic remedies on crops, with very positive results. Dr. Felipe Ruiz Espinoza, a notable promoter of this branch of knowledge in Mexico, explained in an interview published in 2015 that the use of homeopathy in the field would allow them to “harvest healthy organic food with zero contamination in its production process, also by applying another form in the healing of plantings and reducing their damage by plagues; to increase fertility of the soil, and not to cause any harm to the environment in ecological terms.”
“Due to the positive results of our research we can guarantee that the homeopathic preparations applied to plants are innocuous, and demonstrate that certain substances that are able to kill some organisms are equally useful to promote life in this organism, so that the central part of agrohomeopatía is constituted by its innocuity and non-toxicity. ”
The use of homeopathy in the Mexican countryside is a reality, but its scope is limited and its spread among producers is far from being ideal. It is very likely that we will witness an important growth in these areas in the coming years, because the current regulations, for example the production of organic foods, limit or disapprove the use of insecticides, fertilizers or antibiotics, while promoting the use of harmless methods.
Due to all of the above, Dr. Ruiz Espinoza said that it is only necessary that “the responsible authorities of our country have to see this alternative method, which could save the noble Mexican countryside and contribute to the national agricultural solution thanks to its surprising results”.
A difficult and promising future
From his position as director of the National Homeopathic Hospital, Dr. Arturo Benítez Trejo considers that the application of homeopathy has great potential and that its has gained ground on its own account. “Although the consultation times in public health care are limited, we have left the traditional scheme and allocate more time for the homeopathic consultation because it requires it to ensure appropriate prescriptions.”
After this hospital center remained closed for several years because it was rebuilt, its reopening at the end of 2014 can be taken as a starting point for undertaking new projects. “Our hospital is a large institution, it is in a new stage, it has first class facilities and a staff that strives to help patients recover their health. Moreover, we will venture into the research area, in order to obtain new knowledge to improve homeopathic care.”
In this regard, says Dr. Fernando Ochoa Bernal in his posotion as Homeopathy Coordinator of the HNH, “the hospital is destined to be the leader in the development of homeopathic medicine in the clinic and in research (in fact, we are already planning the development of some protocols), but it has to be a collaborative work with other groups such as the ENMH. ”
In addition to this, the hospital works to “make a collection or repository of information about the research that has been done in Mexico, with the contributions of all the institutions of the country. We are open to agreements, for organizations to come, for people with a desire to support it or with the philanthropic spirit to develop homeopathy. We have the place, which is official, and there are people, but as always we need resources and to move away from individualism.”
When asked about the contributions that homeopathy could make in terms of public health, Ochoa Bernal points out two. First, he says that the “resistance to antimicrobial drugs is a concern for the World Health Organization and healthcare systems. In that sense, homeopathy can give fresh air to the system, help in many cases of infections in which it has shown to be of great benefit and at a cost equivalent to a fifth or sixth to that if it were treated by conventional pharmacology.”
And second, he explains, that homeopathy can sensitize medical practice. “Many HNH staff members are not homeopaths. We speak of nurses, social workers, paramedics, inhalotherapy staff, psychologists, nutritionists, who have received the idea of treating the patient from the point of view of Homeopathy through us, with which you hardly lose the integral focus of the person and dedicate yourself to seeing the sick person, not to the illness. Some foreign doctors who have come to the hospital to perform clinical practices tell us that our treatment of patients is warmer.”
For his part, Dr. Fernando François concludes his comments with a balance of the present and the future: “In my book History of Homeopathy in Mexico I define the period in which we are as a ‘modernity’ era, in quotes, in an ironic way, because we live an ambiguous moment”.
The current period, in which “we no longer have masters, because those of the old guard have all died”, began approximately in 1999 amid confusing signals. On one hand, “the Health Sector accepted the establishment of homeopathy clinics outside the HNH; the ELHM participates in the interdisciplinary centers of Health Sciences that depend on the government of Mexico City, and in 2018 it is very likely that a new school of homeopathy will open in Tlaxcala (center of the country). However, in Jalisco (west) and other areas, the training of homeopaths without medical knowledge has been supported locally, which seems horrible to me.”
Another ambivalence is the high demand and the difficulty in satisfying it. “The crisis and the lack create conditions for homeopathy to flourish. In that sense, the future looks promising, because of the number of people looking for us, but the problem is that we are very few homeopaths for a population of almost 130 million Mexicans.”
Despite all this, the balance over 170 years of history is positive according to François Flores: “Mexico is the first country that recognized homeopathy officially, the one that gave it the rank of a Medical Science, and I dare to suggest that after Germany (especially during the period of its origins, in Hahnemann’s time) and the United States (during the 19th and part of the 20th century, when it was a power in hospitals and drug experimentation), Mexico may follow as a power in the homeopathy world”.
- François Flores FD. Historia de la Homeopatía en México. Ciudad de México: Homeopatía de México; 2007.
- Historiadores de las Ciencias y las Humanidades, A.C. Momentos de Ciencia. La primera médico en México: Matilde Montoya . 8 Ago 2013 [consultado 10 Abr 2018] [00:02:00]. Disponible en: https://youtu.be/VFF7WavcR1w
- Carrera de Médico Cirujano Homeópata: queda establecida en el Distrito Federal. En: Redacción del Diario Oficial. Recopilación de leyes, decretos y providencias de los poderes legislativo y ejecutivo de la unión, tomo LXV. Ciudad de México, Imprenta del Gobierno, 1896. p. 59-61.
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- François Flores FD. Materia Médica Mexicana. Ciudad de México: Homeopatía de México; 2000.
- Morales Pascual RE; Morales López RC, Hernández Hernández CA, Magdaleno Acevedo I; Castillo Chávez D; Olivera Martínez J. Experimentación pura y clínica. La Homeopatía de México. Nov-Dic 2014; 83(693): 5-13.
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- Macías Cortés EC. Depresión y Homeopatía. Una Alternativa de Tratamiento. La Homeopatía de México. Sep-Oct 2014; 83(692): 27-43.
- Macías Cortés EC. Enfoque médico homeopático de la depresión postparto. La Homeopatía de México. Sep-Oct 2012; 81(680): 16-23.
- Macías Cortés EC, Llanes González L, Aguilar Faisal L, Asbun Bojalil J. Individualized homeopathic treatment and fluoxetine for moderate to severe depression in peri- and postmenopausal women (HOMDEP-MENOP study): a randomized, double-dummy, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. PLoS One. 13 Mar 2015; 10(3): e0118440. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118440. PMID: 25768800. PMCID: PMC4359147.
- Rosas Landa Lechuga V. Las bases de la homeopatía médica. Ciudad de México: Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Escuela Nacional de Medicina y Homeopatía; 2015.
- Salas Cuevas A. Investigación de la resonancia magnética nuclear en el medicamento homeopático. La Homeopatía de México. Jun 1989; (526): 10-19.
- Rosas Landa Lechuga V. Op cit.
- Silva Cabrera E. Homeopatía veterinaria. Ciudad de México: División Editorial de Propulsora de Homeopatía; 1993.
- Ponce R. La agrohomeopatía, solución para el campo. Proceso: 30 Abr 2015. Disponible en: https://www.proceso.com.mx/402830/402830-la-agrohomeopatia-solucion-para-el-campo