Comparison mainstream and alternative medicine during late 19th century – homeopathy gains in popularity due to its lower mortality rates during the big epidemics

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Hence mainstream and alternative medicine diverged during the late 19th century. That also implied that alternative, unorthodox medicine became a real alternative for rich and urban dwellers as well as poor rural dwellers. However, unorthodox medicine was often offered by lay healers who were often part of the antimodernism movement, a movement which aimed for going back to nature away from industry and their achievements. They wanted to strengthen the vitalis, the inner vital force of the human with natural remedies, with baths, with order, with movements (eurythmy). All approached the disease holistically, i.e. included body, soul and spirit.


As the unorthodox Medicine had better healing results in big epidemics without noxious side effects as the following Table 1 shows, it could grow further in popularity.



Mortality among Homeopathy users

Mortality among the Mainstream Medicine

Typhus 1813 in Leipzig (Clarke 993)


About 30%

Cholera 1831 in Russia (Hawley 536 f)



Cholera 1831  in Austria (Hawley 536)



Cholera 1854 in London (Cazalet)



Cholera 1892 in Hamburg (Miner 819)




Table 1: Mortality rates in epidemics in the 19th century among homeopathy users and mainstream medicine users


In contrast, mainstream medicine often used highly addictive medicine like the Heroine (for cough and pains (Uchatius)) or Morphine (for pain relief (Erlenmeyer p. IX)) which are now mainly forbidden or restrained.


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