DOI: 10.1055/s-0041-1725061
Debate Article

Similia Similibus Curentur: Theory, History, and Status of the Constitutive Principle of Homeopathy[*]

Josef M. Schmidt
1  Institute of Ethics, History, and Theory of Medicine, Ludwig Maximilian's University, Munich, Germany
› Author Affiliations


A clear definition of its subject and correct application of its tenets are the basis of any science. Conversely, the want of a unanimous understanding of its constituting principles by the homeopathic community is undermining its scientific practice, research and discussion. To facilitate these, first and foremost the Principle of Similars, similia similibus curentur, has to be clarified and assessed in terms of its theoretical meaning, historical development, and epistemological status. Hahnemann's conceptions, explanations, and appraisals were not static but evolved and hardened over the years, especially from 1796 to 1810. While initially he related similia similibus to an imitation of similar cures by nature and proposed it as an opposition to contraria contrariis, he later generalised it to the treatment of any disease. Whilst originally he considered it to be a hermeneutical principle, or a hint towards a curative remedy, Hahnemann later dogmatised it as the only truth. Considering advances in epistemology and theory of medicine, however, the Principle of Similars may not be assessed as a final truth or natural law to be empirically verified or falsified for good, but rather as a practical maxim, guiding the artist of healing in his/her curing of diseases rationally and individually.


• For the sake of its scientific practice, research and discussion, homeopathy has to clarify its constitutive principles, first and foremost the Principle of Similars, Similia similibus curentur.

• Theoretically, Hahnemann first conceived it as an imitation of similar cures by nature, then as the opposite of contraria contrariis, and finally stretched its application to the treatment of any disease.

• Historically, Hahnemann's conception shifted from his proposal of a new hermeneutical principle, or hint to a curative remedy, towards its rationalisation as a natural law and its dogmatisation as the only truth.

• Epistemologically, today claims of absolute truth or eternal natural laws are untenable; rather, science has to be considered as a social process, consisting of continuous cycles of abduction, deduction and induction.

• In terms of theory of medicine, the Principle of Similars may be assessed as a practical maxim guiding the artist of healing in his/her curing diseases rationally and individually, as exemplified by Hippocrates and Constantine Hering.

• As an irony of history, 200 years of quarrel about ambiguous theoretical issues, in the end, concurrently ensured the safe transmission of the less spectacular core of homeopathy, its practical instructions and spirit of an art of healing.

* This article is based on a presentation at the 74th Congress of the Liga Medicorum Homoeopathica Internationalis “Similarity at Any Level of Knowledge” in Sorrento, Italy, on September 26, 2019.

Publication History

Received: 22 September 2020

Accepted: 03 November 2020

Publication Date:
17 May 2021 (online)

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