The Story of Homeopathic Cinchona Bark

Cinchona Bark and the Founding of Homeopathy

Samuel Hahnemann (April 10, 1755 – July 2, 1843) was the founder of homeopathic medicine. From a very young age, he was bright and intelligent and had a lust for knowledge. He taught himself 8 languages fluently and unlike what his father envisioned for him, he was drawn to the study of medicine. He graduated as a physician from Erlangen University, Germany in 1779. He quickly became dissatisfied as a physician because he didn’t agree with the medical treatments of the time which included purging, blood-letting, laxatives and treatment with high dose lead and arsenic. Hahnemann could not bear to continue practicing as a physician because he saw the treatments as ineffective and making sick people even worse. Hahnemann was very bold and was quick to give his reasons and opinions about his dissatisfaction of the medical system.  He left his practice as a physician and resorted to making his living translating medical books.  He would always be sure to add his own notes when he didn’t agree with the medical texts he was translating. In 1790 when Samuel Hahnemann was translating William Cullen’s book, A treatise on Materia Medica, he came upon Cullen’s theory that Cinchona worked to treat malaria because of its tonic (bitter) action on the stomach. Hahnemann was not convinced this was the reason, so he experimented on himself by taking small doses of Cinchona bark.  For several days Hahnemann took four drams (7.087 grams) of Cinchona bark twice daily. He reported the following:

My feet and finger tips, etc., at first became cold; I became languid and drowsy; then my heart began to palpitate; my pulse became hard and quick; an intolerable anxiety and trembling (but without a rigor); prostration in all the limbs; then pulsation in the head, redness of the cheeks, thirst; briefly, all the symptoms usually associated with intermittent fever appeared in succession, yet without the actual rigor. To sum up: all those symptoms which to me are typical of intermittent fever, as the stupefaction of the senses, a kind of rigidity of all joints, but above all the numb, disagreeable sensation which seems to have its seat in the periosteum over all the bones of the body-all made their appearance.

These symptoms lasted for two or three hours and would return again when he repeated a dose. When he stopped taking the cinchona bark he was back to his normal self. Hahnemann concluded that the cinchona bark in small doses was creating symptoms of intermittent fever and those that may be similar of a patient suffering with malaria. He was realizing that this medicine was creating temporary symptoms in himself, a healthy person. After more experimentation with other substances, Hahnemann concluded the basic principle of homeopathy, that “like cures like”, in latin known as “Similia Similibus Curantur.” Cinchona bark was able to treat malaria because it created symptoms in a healthy person that was similar to one suffering with the malaria disease; and thus when given to a person suffering from malaria the similar symptoms it created was able to annihilate the disease. This worked because the cinchona bark created an artificial disease state thereby capable of lifting and eradicating the natural disease. Interestingly enough, the work of Hippocrates (460-350 BC) and Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) would have started to come alive for Hahnemann. Hippocrates (460-350 BC), known as the “father of medicine”, had written years before that “by similar things a disease is produced and through the application of the like is cured. And Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) wrote, “often the simile acts upon the simile”. Samuel Hahnemann was the one that first discovered this natural law by experimentation and turned it into a profound healing science we know as homeopathy today.

Cinchona Bark and Treatment of Malaria

In conventional medicine today, 400 years after it was first documented, Cinchona bark alkaloids – quinine and quinidine – remain a significant source of treatment for malaria.  Malaria is a very serious disease which stems from mosquito bites and tiny parasites that get into the bloodstream and cause a host of symptoms including headache, abdominal pain, chills, shaking, fever and sweat and can lead to more serious illness, including death. However, conventional treatment with quinine, does not come without its side-effects. The WHO recommends that people receive a dose of 20 mg salt/kg by intravenous infusion, then 10 mg/kg every eight hours. Mild side effects include tinnitus, impairment of hearing, headaches and nausea. More severe side effects include vertigo, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, marked auditory loss, and visual symptoms, including loss of vision, hypoglycemia, skin outbreaks, asthma, thrombocytopaenia, hepatic injury and psychosis. Hahnemann would not have approved of the conventional treatment of today, with the high dose intravenous infusions and the side effects that come with that. This brings us to Hahnemann’s other basic principle of homeopathy which is the law of minimum dose which is about giving the minimum dose required to bring about cure. Hahnemann experimented and created doses that were diluted to the point they still had therapeutic effect but without the harmful side effects of substances in crude form.  Today the homeopathic cinchona bark is still one of the many homeopathic medicines that is able to effectively treat malaria by homeopaths around the world. A 2012 study on mice showed that the combination of homeopathic china (Cinchona bark) 30ch and chelidonium 30ch resulted in complete malaria parasite clearance after 28 days post inoculation. This was a similar result to the positive control group who was receiving the pharmaceutical combination of artesunate (4 mg/kg)+sulphadoxine-primethamine (1.2 mg/kg). Homeopathic medicine can be just as effective in the treatment of malaria as the pharmaceutical route. And homeopathic medicine is so gentle and safe to be used on people of all ages and comes with no side effects.


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