An epidemic is the rapid spread of disease to a large number of people in a given population within a short period of time.
In aphorism 73 Dr. Hahnemann says, “Allied to these are those diseases in which many persons are attacked with very similar sufferings from the same cause (epidemically); these diseases generally become infectious (contagious) when they prevail among thickly congregated masses of human beings. Thence arise fevers, in each instance of a peculiar nature, and, because the cases of disease have an identical origin, they set up in all those they affect an identical morbid process, which when left to itself terminates in a moderate period of time in death or recovery. The calamities of war, inundations and famine are not infrequently their exciting causes and producers – sometimes they are peculiar acute miasms which recur in the same manner (hence known by some traditional name), which either attack persons but once in a lifetime, as the smallpox, measles, whooping-cough, the ancient, smooth, bright red scarlet fever of Sydenham, the mumps, etc., or such as recur frequently in pretty much the same manner, the plague of the Levant, the yellow fever of the sea-coast, the Asiatic cholera, etc.”
Dr. Hahnemann’s technique of collecting symptoms and evaluating a group similimum for acute epidemics have been described in his Organon of Medicine in Aphorisms 100, 101 and 102 which helps to find out specific remedies (along with good diet and proper hygiene, etc.) for the treatment and prevention of acute and sub-acute diseases. The key of finding specific prophylactic is constructing a clear picture of the prevailing epidemic. He never used the phrase ‘genus epidemicus’but in Aphorisms 102 (footnote), 147 and 241 of Organon of medicine he says about ‘homoeopathic (specific) remedy’. Kent also says that in an epidemic, one may find half-a-dozen remedies that are daily indicated and one of these remedies seems to be the best suited for prophylaxis and this may differ from the curative one.
The concept of Genus epidemicus comes into play in terms of Homoeoprophylaxis which also act as a curative remedy in some cases under consideration.
Three approaches of homoeoprophylaxis may be used to select the remedy for prophylaxis of a prevailing epidemic – Constitutional Approach, Genus epidemicus remedies and Nosode Prophylaxis.
Constitutional treatment is based on examination of the constitution, diathesis, temperament and predispositions of the patient to remove the susceptibility of being getting affected by infectious acute miasms. The chronic remedy provides the best general protection from all diseases and it removes the greatest number of predispositions. Genus epidemicus remedies and nosodes are used to provide specific prophylaxis. When epidemic diseases threaten the population, specific prophylactic remedies can be applied immediately. The selection of a genus epidemicus is as per the indications in totality of symptoms revealed after study of several cases in the epidemic and nosodes can only be used when the cause of the disease is known (Little, 1996-2007).
Genus Epidemicus and Hahnemann:
Hahnemann describes the use of Ignatia Amara in the treatment of a continual and sporadic fever affecting children in January 1797. Two months later, a similar fever once again affected children but presented different characteristic symptoms and hence this time the healing remedy was Opium. And still the next month, Camphora was the remedy used in an epidemic of influenza, which aggravated by the use of Opium due to a different set of peculiar symptoms. With these examples, it can be understood that no epidemic is the same. Next was the case of scarlet fever in its initial phase of breaking out with the remedy Belladonna. This earned him fame throughout Europe from his exceptionally effective treatment of the epidemic that was sweeping Germany. Hahnemann published this in the pamphlet of Cure and Prevention of Scarlet Fever in 1801. At that time, he promoted Belladonna as a specific prophylactic remedy for Scarlatina and with each pamphlet sold, a vial of Belladonna prepared according to his technique at that time was offered (Bradford, 1895).
Aconite proved to be the specific for a subsequent Scarlatina epidemic sweeping Germany between 1800 and 1808. In a paper entitled ‘Observations on the Scarlet Fever’, Hahnemann provided a careful description of the individualizing aspects of these two epidemics. Hahnemann also describes the use of Bryonia alba, Hyoscyamusniger or Rhustoxicodendron as (prescribed single or in alternation) in the treatment of an epidemic of typhus in 1813.
In 1831 he also describes the use of Camphora, Cuprum metallicum and Veratrum album as genus epidemic for the prevention and treatment of epidemic of Asiatic cholera in the German area. He would favor Cuprum as prophylactic, Camphora for the treatment of the initial stages, and Cuprum or Veratrum for the later stage.
Other Genus epidemicus recommended by Hahnemann were Aconite napellus for Purpura miliaris, Camphora officinalis for Asiatica cholera, Merc cyanatus for Diphtheria, Pulsatilla for measles.
Genus Epidemicus and Others:
Boenninghausen had excellent success in using Thujaoccidentalis in the prophylactic treatment of Small-pox. In 1902 smallpox epidemic occurred in Iowa. Dr. Eaton treated 2806 patients with Variolinum. Only 14 developed the disease out of 547 patients who were exposed. Hering was the first to consider the use of nosodes. 50 years before Pasteur became famous for using Rabies vaccine and now Hering suggested the use of Lyssinum. However, as also other followers of Hahnemann (Timothy F. Allen, John H. Clarke, James T. Kent, etc.) who had also mentioned the possibility of using biotherapics as prophylactics, he never incorporated isopathy in his actual clinical practice.
Dr. J.H. Clarke strongly recommended Pertussin in Whooping cough. Dr. S.R. Wadia – He found Parotidinum a most useful prophylactic against Mumps.
In, 1830 and 1831 in a Cholera epidemic in Vienna, out of 1270 patients treated with homoeopathy only 108 died, whereas allopathic mortality rate was 60-70%. Homeopathy was also used in the 1854 epidemic in London once again with significant reduction of mortality rates.In 1854-55, in Cholera epidemic Dr. Rubini treated 225 cases in Alberge and 166 soldiers of a Swiss regiment without a single case of death.
In 1846, during another cholera epidemic, Boenninghausen suggested to use Camphora as single epidemic genius remedy for the treatment of affected patients. Kent describes the treatment of some cases of an epidemic of childhood diarrhea with Podophyllum 30C. Moreover, a meta-analysis of 3 Randomized controlled trial (RCT) of homeopathy in epidemics of childhood diarrhea showed that individualized homeopathic treatment was significantly more efficacy than placebo.
A severe epidemic of diphtheria was successfully treated with individualized homeopathy in New York with 84% mortality rate for conventional treatment and 16% for homeopathy.
In 1918, Spanish Flu pandemic infected 20% of the world population and killed about 30 million people. Homoeopaths treated 6602 cases with 55 deaths which is less than 1% and of 24,000 cases treated allopathically with mortality rate 28.2%.Gelsemium sempervirens was the common remedy used during the epidemic (Bryonia alba, Arsenic album, Baptisia and Eupatorium perfoliatum were used occasionally) (British Homoeopathic Society, 1998).
Dr. Grimmer stated that over 30,000 individuals received Lathyrus sativa successfully to prevent Polio and no one had any side effect.
In 1974 epidemic meningitis occurred in Brazil in which 18,640 children were given Meningococcinum prophylaxis. 4 cases only developed meningitis in comparison to 34 cases out of 6340 children who didn’t receive the nosode.
In another epidemic of keratoconjunctivitis in Cuba in 1995, 108 patients were distributed in a randomly into homeopathic and conventional treatment groups, the former using Pulsatilla nigricans 6C as homeopathic medicine as genus epidemicus. Homeopathic treatment was found to be significantly more effective than the conventional one in initiating improving of symptoms in less than 72 hours.
Recently a cluster-randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted in Kerala, India for prevention of Chikungunya during an epidemic outbreak in 2007. Bryonia alba 30C as genus epidemicus proved better than placebo in decreasing the incidence of chikungunya in Kerala.
Since 1990 Japanese Encephalitis became an uncontrollable problem in India (especially Andhra Pradesh). Owing to doubtful efficacy of the existing vaccine the government chooses to adopt homoeopathic prophylactics (consisting of Belladonna, Calc carb and Tuberculinum separately administered in specific days at particular intervals). After its commencement in 1999 and till 2004, there appeared a drastic reduction in morbidity and mortality.
Homeopathy has been immensely successful in treating as well as preventing many epidemics which were nightmare to the conventional system of medicine. But it has been forgotten by people as time passed. Several different homeopathic methods can be used to treat epidemic diseases. The challenge for the future is to refine these approaches and to build on the knowledge base with additional rigorous trials. If and when conventional medicine runs out of options for treating epidemic diseases, homeopathy could be seen as an attractive alternative, but only if there is viable experimental evidence of its success.
- Baker, W.F. 1920. Research work in Gelsemium sempervirens and Bryonia alba in influenza. Journal of American Institute of Homeopathy, 12, pp.695-698.
- Boenninghausen, C.M.F. 2005. Brief instructions for non-physicians concerning the prophylaxis and treatment of Asiatic cholera. In: von Boenninghausen, C.M.F. B Jain Publishers, New Delhi. Reprint edition. p.299-308.
- Bradford, T.L. 1895. The Life and Letters of Dr Samuel Hahnemann. Available from http://www.homeoint.org/books4/bradford/index.htm. site.
- British Homoeopathic Society (Meeting). 1918. Discussion on the treatment of influenza and its complications as seen in the present epidemic. British Homeopath Journal, 8(12), pp.305-312.
- Castro, D. and Nogueira, G.G. 1975. Use of the NosodeMeningococcinum as a preventive against meningitis. Journal of American Institute of Homoeopathy, 68, pp.211-219. Dudgeon, R.E. 2002. Hahnemann’s discovery of the prophylactic powers of belladonna in scarlet fever – Allopathic testimony to this prophylactic. In:
- Dudgeon, R.E. Lectures on the theory & practice of homoeopathy. Reprint edition. B. Jain Publishers, New Delhi. Lecture XIX, p.540-544.
Mr. J. Peter
Third year BHMS
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