History of Homeopathy in Ontario

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Homeopathic Medicine was Regulated Under the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

Homeopathic Medicine is a traditional system of medicine that was regulated under the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) from the years 1869 – 1974.  That’s 105 years! Today the practice of homeopathy is regulated in Ontario by the College of Homeopaths since April 1, 2015. Homeopathic medicine remains popular throughout the world and remains the second most used system of medicine worldwide. The practice of homeopathic medicine was brought to Ontario through the European settlers, where homeopathy had become popular since its discovery by German born Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). Dr. Hahnemann was a physician who became dissatisfied with the harsh treatment methods of his time which included bloodletting, purging, laxatives and treatment with high dose arsenic and lead. He quit as a practicing physician and made his money translating medical books, and through this work is where he discovered the principles of the Law of Nature which led into his discovery of homeopathy in 1796. More on that can be found on my blog, The Story of Homeopathic Chincona Bark.

Ontario's First Homeopaths

Dr J.O Rosenstein, who was a Dutch Immigrant, who settled in Montreal in 1845, was the first recorded person to practice homeopathy in Canada (6). There were two homeopaths who brought homeopathy to Ontario, Dr James Lillie and Dr Joseph Lancaster (6,12).

Dr. James Lillie

Dr James Lillie, was originally a pastor who was a graduate of the University of Edinburgh in the UK. He was introduced to homeopathy by a Dr Vanderburgh and was so drawn to it that as a pastor he would bring a homeopathic Materia Medica Pura with him to pastoral visits to be able to prescribe at the bedside of the people he visited (6). He then decided to get an education in homeopathy and came to New York in 1842 to study homeopathy at the College of Physicians and Surgeons. After having completed studies from New York, he settled in Toronto, Ontario where he practiced homeopathy (7,12).

Dr. Joseph Lancaster

Dr Joseph Lancaster was born into a Quaker family in Norwich, Ontario on May 25th 1813. At just 7 years old he became paralyzed and he was paralyzed for four years until he was, “released from his suffering”. It is not documented how he overcame paralysis, but this is what likely inspired Joseph Lancaster to become a homeopathic physician. Joseph Lancaster attended a boarding school in New York (3). He became a farmer in Norwich where he owned 80 acres of land. He was involved in a political battle and was imprisoned and when he was released on bail he fled to the United States and attended a medical school where he studied homeopathic medicine (1). He returned to Norwich, Ontario in 1846 and opened up a practice in Norwich. He later moved to Lambeth, Ontario and practiced there and in 1848 he moved to London, Ontario where he had his homeopathic practice for many years (1,2).

Materia Medica Pura
Materia Medica Pura, by Samuel Hahnemann

An Act Respecting Homeopathy

In the 1850’s physicians using homeopathic medicine in Ontario increased and public demand for homeopathic physicians grew as well. But at that time, homeopathic physicians had no legal licence to practice in Ontario. In 1854, The Homeopathic Medical Society of Canada was established and Dr Joseph Lancaster was appointed as an executive. Dr Joseph Lancaster worked many years petitioning the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada (Ontario) to give homeopaths legal rights to practice(8). Finally, in 1859 an act was formed, “An Act Respecting Homeopathy”.  This act set standards for the practice of homeopathy where it was a requirement to complete a 3 year homeopathy program (6,9). A board of examiners was established to qualify and license homeopathic physicians in Upper Canada (12).

This allowed homeopathic physicians to become licensed and be placed on equal grounds as other physicians. At this time there were three main types of doctors in Ontario who all had their own licensing boards: the “regulars” (meaning standard licensed doctors), the eclectics and the homeopaths. The “regulars” practiced the only methods they knew at that time which were often violent as they believed severe illness needs to be treated with equally severe treatment and thus included bleeding for fevers, blistering as a counter-irritant and purging(5). The eclectics were educated mainly in the use of roots and herbs to treat people which they learned from the medical knowledge of the Indigenous people.  But the eclectics would also use physical therapies and treatment methods from any available source whether that included homeopathic or regular medicine, as long as it was safe and effective in bringing about cure. Then the homeopaths who use medicine made from plant, animal and minerals which is homeopathically prepared by dilution and succession and given based on individual symptoms of the patient suffering from the disease (11).

Conflict between regular physicians and homeopaths

In the 1850’s and 1860’s a medical degree was not required for the practice of medicine. However, during this time a lot of long time practicing physicians obtained their first medical degree and thus acquiring an MD had become admired (11). In this time, the eclectics and homeopaths gained quite a following  with new physicians entering practice being about 5% homeopathic and 11% eclectic. People were choosing to be treated by a homeopath or eclectic because they wanted the gentle approach as the “regular” physician treatments consisted of blood-letting, purging, blistering as a counter-irritant, and poisonous substances. People felt safer consulting a homeopathic physician or eclectic because their treatment methods didn’t have drastic medical interventions. This was a conflict for the “regular” physicians because they felt their professional status in the community was threatened. The “regular” physicians wanted to ban unsafe practitioners but their definition of unsafe practitioners included the eclectics and homeopaths. There was an attempt to create a series of bills regarding physicians but each time they were defeated by either public or professional pressure. Ontarians wanted the freedom to choose their own practitioners and so were unwilling to accept any new Bill that did not include homeopaths and eclectics (5, 11).

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario was established to include Homeopaths, Eclectics and Regular Physicians

It took until 1869 to establish a Medical Act that the physicians and the public could agree upon. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) was established and included Homeopaths, Eclectics and Regular Physicians.  A representative governing body of the CPSO was established named the Medical Council which included twelve members elected by the profession; the various medical schools and universities had 1 representative each, and the Homeopaths and Eclectics five each. The CPSO board was represented with 5 homeopaths until 1934 when it became 1 homeopath on the board, unwillingly of its homeopathic members (8, 12). The eclectics and homeopaths who already had the miniority representation on the Medical Council, were slowly eliminated. The eclectics and homeopaths had limited power, and they were slowly eliminated by educational requirements set by the majority 11). The last homeopathic representative, Dr. Charles Ernest, served from 1956 up until his death in 1960.  After his death, the Medical Act was amended and the council no longer had homeopathic representation (6).  In 1974, the Medical Act was replaced with the Health Disciplines Act which was later replaced by the Regulated Health Practitioners Act in 1991. Homeopathic practitioners were not included in either of these acts (6,9).

Emily Stowe, first female physician, practiced homeopathic medicine

Emily Stowe who is famous for being the first female physician to publicly practice medicine in Canada, was a homeopathic physician. She was born May 1, 1831 in Norwich Ontario. Hannah Howard Jennings, was Emily’s mother and always into healing with herbs and roots. Emily together with her mother started to learn about homeopathic medicine from their family friend and fellow Quaker, Dr. Joseph Lancaster. Dr Joseph Lancaster was from Norwich, Ontario as well and was Ontario’s first homeopathic physician (12). Emily Stowe was educated at the New York Medical College and Hospital for Women, Homeopathic where she received her degree in homeopathic medicine in 1867. After she graduated, she spent a few months training under Dr. Joseph Lancaster, before opening up her own homeopathic practice in Toronto (12). She is also well known for her fight for women’s rights.  In 1880, she was awarded her medical licence by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (9). Dr Emily Stowe founded the Women’s Medical College in Toronto. In 1898, the Dispensary was added, a clinic where women could be treated by female physicians. Today the Women’s Medical College, though it has undergone many changes, is known as the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto (1).  Read more on the blog Emily Stowe, Homeopathic Physician.

Ontario had Homeopathic Hospitals

Ontario had homeopathic hospitals where patients were treated exclusively with homeopathic medicine. In 1886, the Toronto Homeopathic Free Dispensary was opened which was the first homeopathic hospital in Ontario. In 1890, the second hospital opened known as the Toronto Homeopathic Hospital. It started with 11 beds and quickly expanded to 32 beds just four months later. In 1926, when conventional medicine began to dominate, the hospital was merged with Toronto Western Hospital and lost its homeopathic status (6).

April 1st 2015 the College of Homeopaths of Ontario started overseeing Homeopaths

Under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA) and the Homeopathy Act, 2007, the College of Homeopaths of Ontario was established. The College regulates Homeopaths to ensure safe, ethical and competent homeopathic care for people in Ontario. The College sets out requirements to enter the profession, establishing comprehensive standards and administering quality assurance programs. Only members of the College of Homeopaths can use the title “Homeopath” in Ontario (4). There are rigorous education requirements which include in-depth study of Homeopathy, Medical Sciences and clinical hours. Ontario has two homeopathic schools which are the Ontario College of Homeopathic Medicine and Canadian College of Homeopathic Medicine.


  1. Beacock Fryer, Mary. T.P. Morley Series Editor. Emily Stowe Doctor and Suffragist. Hannah Institute and Dundurn Press. Toronto and Oxford. 1990.
  2. Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. Emily Stowe, MD. Retrieved from: https://cdnmedhall.ca/laureates/emilystowe. Sept 27, 2023
  3. Cleave, Egbert. Presented by Sylvain Cazalet. Cleave’s Biographical Cyclopædia of
    Homœopathic Physicians and Surgeons. Retrieved from: http://homeoint.org/history/cleave/l/lancasterjj.htm. Sept 27, 2023
  4. College of Homeopaths Ontario. https://collegeofhomeopaths.com/index.html. Retrieved Sept 27, 2023
  5. College of Physicians Ontario. A Look Back. Retrieved from: https://www.cpso.on.ca/About/What-we-do/A-Look-Back. Sept 27,2023
  6. Homeopathic College of Canada. “Background on Homeopathy.” HCC. www.homeopathy.edu/index_abouth_back.php (accessed June 5 2011).
  7. King, William Harvey, MD, LL,D. Presented by Sylvain Cazalet. History of Homeopathy and its Institutions in America. Chapter 5- Homeopathy in New York (continued). Retrieved from: http://www.homeoint.org/history/king/1-05.htm. Sept 27, 2023
  8. Navab, Iman. Hpathy. Legislation for Homeopathy in 19th Century Ontario. Dec 16, 2014. Retrieved from: https://hpathy.com/homeopathy-papers/legislation-homeopathy-19th-century-ontario/. Sept 27, 2023
  9. O’Reilly, Patricia. Health Care Practitioners: An Ontario Case Study in Policy Making. Toronto: University of Toronto Press Incorporated, 2000.
  10. Raymond, Katrine. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Emily Stowe. April 1, 2008. Retrieved from: https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/emily-stowe. Sept 27
  11. Romano, Terrie, M. Histoire Sociale /Social History. Professional Identity and the Nineteenth-Century Ontario Medical Profession. 28 No. 55 (1995) Retrieved from: https://hssh.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/hssh/article/view/36803.  Sept 27, 2023
  12. Whole Health Now. Homeopathy Ontario. Retrieved from: https://www.wholehealthnow.com/homeopathy_pro/ontario.html. May 1, 2022

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