The Miasm Theory of Disease

Living in Denial

In 1828, Hahnemann published his book The Chronic Diseases, in which he described his theory of miasms as the origin of disease. The three “miasms” described in this book “are held to be responsible for all disease of a chronic nature and to form the foundation or basis for all disease in general”1. Miasms are supposedly ways in which a person’s “vital force” can be tainted, and homeopaths maintain that they are heritable2.

This idea of Hahnemann’s both predates and opposes the modern established science of germ theory, stating that all contagious diseases are caused by microorganisms3, which is a fundamental part of modern medical science. Basically, Hahnemann’s opposing theory has been disproven.

However, Hahnemann’s 19th century theory of miasms as the origin of chronic disease is alive and well in the practice of homeopathy, where it is “now generally accepted by most homeopaths without question”1. While actual medical doctors recognise that infectious diseases such as influenza are caused by microorganisms and are able to effectively treat them as such, homeopaths that subscribe to Hahnemann’s outdated miasm theory of disease are still claiming that the predominant cause of all chronic disease is the miasma known as Psora, or “itch”.

Essentially, these homeopaths are living in denial – trying to practise medicine as though germ theory has never even occurred to anyone. Trying to practise medicine, essentially, as though it were still prior to the 1860s.

It is worth noting, however, that at the time of its inception homeopathy appeared to be effective. The reason for this is that contemporary medicine, consisting of practices based on the misguided idea of the four humours (such as bloodletting), tended to do more harm than good.

In contrast, homeopathy had no active effect on its patients, although it would elicit a similar placebo response (a phenomenon unheard of in those times) to the harmful treatments, without the same detrimental effects. As a result, those treated by contemporary medicine would tend to do worse than those left untreated, who would again tend to do worse than those treated with homeopathy. Even though the homeopathy itself had no effect, it seemed to be effective.

Today, however, we know better. When compared against a similarly administered placebo, the effect of homeopathy is shown again and again to be no stronger. While there may be some statistical flukes in which the result is in the favour of one or the other (if you test something enough, occasionally you’ll get a strange result simply by chance) the overall body of scientific evidence points overwhelmingly toward the conclusion that homeopathy is nothing more than a placebo.

References

  1. Morrell, Peter. Hahnemann’s Miasm Theory and Miasm Remedies. Homéopathe International [updated 24 December 2004; cited 04 April 2012]. Available from: http://homeoint.org/morrell/articles/pm_miasm.htm
  2. Modern Homoeopathy. [cited 14 April 2012]. Available from http://www.modernhomoeopathy.com/miasms.htm
  3. WordNet Search. Princeton University [cited 04 April 2012]. Available from http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=germ+theory
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4 thoughts on “The Miasm Theory of Disease

  1. Homeopaths have known since 1828 that there can be predispositions to illness, and that these can be passed on. Dr Samuel Hahnemann believed that living organisms were responsible for disease. He used the term ‘miasm’ for these organisms.

    1. I’m personally rather curious about the rights of homeopaths to call themselves doctors.

      In New Zealand at the very least, homeopaths are not registered medical practitioners, and as such, using the title ‘Doctor’ is both misrepresentative and unlikely to comply with the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003.

      Also, I’d question the need for self validation for feeling the need to label oneself as such in a blog post.

  2. In my opinion if dr Hahnemann was wrong in his theory of acute diseases, then question is why all persons getting exposed to germs are not affected by the germs equally?
    I think he was right in his theory. Here in Pakistan, homoeopathy is gaining support in public day by day. People admit it more effective. Only difference is surgery, and that too of life saving surgery where allopaths have no match and homoeopathy also do not oppose life saving surgery.

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