History of Homeopathy in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Myriam Müller (Germany and Switzerland)

Mihaela Serbulea (Austria)

Homeopathy in its birthplace Germany

The first homeopath in Germany was of course Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, who also was the first teacher of homeopathy at the university level.


Over the last 200 years homeopathy was intermittently very popular among the population therefore there have been several attempts of getting a chair in the German universities. Although there has been no chair in homeopathy about 20 homeopaths have been teaching in universities as honorary professors or lecturers. (http://www.aerzteblatt.de/v4/archiv/artikel.asp?src=heft&id=16902)


In the 19th century, homeopathy took strong hold among the aristocracy and the intelligentsia. One of the biggest impacts was produced by the publishing of two homeopathic self-care books, where the treatment of common sicknesses with homeopathic remedies has been described, by Carl G. Casparis “homeopathic house and traveling practitioner” and by Constatin Hering “homeopathic general practitioner,” both published by about 1830.


Shortly afterwards the first unions were founded and first magazines published. (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hom%C3%B6opathie#Hahnemanns_Lehre_von_den_chronischen_Krankheiten)


This tradition is still deeply rooted in Germany of nowadays although unions or groups are not very common anymore. Yet in every bookstore, you will find self-care books using alternative approaches including homeopathy.


Remedies, treated as medicine, are readily available in every pharmacy by prescription although you might have to wait some hours until they are available.


Homeopathy is practiced in Germany by specially trained physicians and heilpraktiker (naturopaths).


In case of serious diseases, homeopathic hospitals are available to patients (http://www.dzvhae.com/portal/loader.php?navigation=57804&org=1113&seite=46327) with increasing popularity and recognition.


In some universities there are special courses provided for medical students. Furthermore, there is the possibility for physicians to study further to become a homeopath physician by taking special courses. At the university Magdeburg physicians are able to graduate in the master program of homeopathy.


In the university hospital in Munich, a group of homeopaths is cooperating with other physicians even from intensive wards like oncology or child cardiology (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4PUCxXso6Y).


According to a poll of the Instituts für Demoskopie Allensbach done in 2009 every second German had taken at least once homeopathic remedies and every forth person is a convinced user of homeopathic remedies. More than 80% of the people asked said that remedies are natural or a medicinal herb products. However, few of them – only 17% were able to define homeopathic remedies by their proper definition.


According to the poll 65% of the population, think that homeopathic remedies have rarely side effects and more than 50% think that they are well tolerated. More than 60% of the users said that it helped them during a common colds or a light flu.


Homeopathy itself is used in many different ways, i.e. in mixed preparations but also in the classical way according to the principles of Hahnemann.


In addition big foundations are supporting homeopathy in different ways. For example, the Robert-Bosch Foundation is sponsoring a travelling exhibition in India with the theme “The Evolution of Homoeopathy” and is taking care of the property of famous homeopaths like Samuel Hahnemann and Clemens von Boenninghausen (http://www.igm-bosch.de/content/language2/html/index.asp). The Carsten Foundation (http://www.carstens-stiftung.de/stiftung) is supporting the research of Complementary Alternative Medicine including homeopathy.


A more detailed article you will find here!


The history of homeopathy in Austria was similar to the one in Germany. Lay Homeopathy was practiced soon after the birth of homeopathy, especially by the pastors, land-owners, and traders. It was furthered by magazines although this has been temporarily forbidden (1819-1837). (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benutzer:Nina/Hom%C3%B6opathie). By the end of the World War Two, almost all of the former successful homeopathic lay unions had been destroyed and soon after that the practicing of homeopathy for lay people has been forbidden.

Therefore, only medical doctors are legally allowed to practice homeopathy in Austria. Nevertheless Homeopathy is the most popular and appreciated form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Austria. The Austrian Society for Homeopathic Medicine was founded in 1953 and has about 900 members. Out of 8465 physicians in the country, that is more than 10%.


Homeopathy training is offered both during the medical study and post graduation. At the universities of Vienna, Graz and Innsbruck there are eligible courses on homeopathy on request of students of human and veterinary medicine in recent years. The Vienna University offers 465 hours of homeopathic education, over 4 years of study, which can be attended freely. Passing the exams before starting the post-graduation clinical training can save time. Recently a 126 hours training program for midwives has been introduced in Vienna.


The teaching team consists of highly qualified homeopaths who practice both in private and in public hospitals, as well as in individual clinics. They undertake regular training constantly, at seminars in Austria and internationally. The magazine “Homeopathy in Austria” is published by the OeGHM (Austrian Society for Homeopathic Medicine) four times a year and consists of case presentations, basic research, provings and news. The language is German, however the abstracts of the articles are published in English as well.


The Austrian homeopaths study the method which was laid out by Dr Samuel Hahnemann over 200 years ago and developed into the highly effective therapeutic which is based on a different paradigm than biomedicine. They distinguish themselves clearly from other methods which are called “homeopathy” but use various instruments.


Homeopathy practice is often integrated in a holistic care system, there are homeopathic clinics in large hospitals where future mothers, cancer patients and a variety of other patients are treated alongside conventional treatment. Homeopathic remedies are readily available in pharmacies, depending on their potency either over-the-counter or with prescription.


Austria is a member, along with other 75 countries, Japan among them, of the Liga Medicorum Homeopathica Internationalis, an international homeopathic medical society established in Rotterdam on 10 September 1925.


In Switzerland homeopathy has a long tradition like in Germany. It continued after the World War Two with three European-wide well-known homeopaths: Jost Künzli, Adolphe Voegeli and Rudolf Flury.


Between 1999 and 2005 homeopathy and four other Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) methods were added to the benefits catalogue of the basic health insurance. That means the health insurance covered the cost as long as the homeopath was a physician.


In the context of evaluation of Complementary Alternative Medicine the Swiss government commissioned a Health Technology Assessment, which is the highest level of Evidence Based Medicine, in order to evaluate the efficacy, safety and costs of medicinal therapies. It is a huge report, which will soon be available in English in full and will certainly be briefly reported here in English and Japanese. As a summary, one can say that there is enough evidence for the pre-clinical (experimental) effect and clinical efficacy of homeopathy and that homeopathy is a safe and inexpensive intervention especially in comparison with conventional therapies (see Rezension published in: Homöopathie in Österreich (HIOe) 2008;2: 42).


Unfortunately, a study from the ministry of health published in Lancet concluded that there is no evidence over placebo controlled studies. This resulted in a public discussion and was followed by the removal of Homeopathy and other CAM methods out of the public health insurance. However, on May 17th 2009 the majority (67%) of the Swiss population voted for the anchoring of CAM into the federal constitution. Therefore, homeopathy and the other four complementary alternative medicines were readmitted to the national health insurance between 2012 and 2017. During that period, the government has to evaluate the efficacy, the expedience and the profitability of the complementary alternative treatment methods.


That previously mentioned Swiss study resulted in an outcry in the homeopathic community worldwide and was refuted by several studies in 2008 (http://www.gesundheitlicheaufklaerung.de/die-wirksamkeit-der-homoopathie-ist-nachgewiesen).


Swiss physicians can study homeopathy in seminars and supervision lasting a two year period. (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hom%C3%B6opathie)


The practicing of Lay-homeopaths is restricted to Heilpraktiker (naturopath) and is very much dependent on the local prefecture. While the national health insurance only covers the treatment by medical doctors, some private health insurances also cover the treatment done by Heilpraktiker Homeopaths.