The History of American Homeopathy: From Rational Medicine to Holistic Health Care

The History of American Homeopathy: From Rational Medicine to Holistic Health Care

The History of American Homeopathy: From Rational Medicine to Holistic Health Care

The History of American Homeopathy: From Rational Medicine to Holistic Health Care


Although scorned in the early 1900s and publicly condemned by Abraham Flexner and the American Medical Association, the practice of homeopathy did not disappear. Instead, it evolved with the emergence of holistic healing and Eastern philosophy in the United States and today is a form of alternative medicine practiced by more than 100,000 physicians worldwide and used by millions of people to treat everyday ailments as well as acute and chronic diseases.

The History of American Homeopathy traces the rise of lay practitioners in shaping homeopathy as a healing system and its relationship to other forms of complementary and alternative medicine in an age when conventional biomedicine remains the dominant form. Representing the most current and up-to-date history of American homeopathy, readers will benefit from John S. Haller Jr.'s comprehensive explanation of complementary medicine within the American social, scientific, religious, and philosophic traditions.


In 1978 Dr. Ramunas Kondratas, then assistant curator at the National Museum of American History, Division of Medical Science at the Smithsonian Institution, made a rather unique documentary film on homeopathy. Featuring Gustav “Gus” Tafel, who took the audience on a 30-minute tour of the largest manufacturer of homeopathic medicines in the United States, Boericke & Tafel, “Reunions: Memories of an American Experience” presented a distinguished looking gentleman in his late sixties, the grandson of co-founder Adolph J. Tafel, who waxed nostalgic over his time at the “B & T” firm. Located in Philadelphia at 1011 Arch Street, the building, apparatus, and manufacturing processes had changed little since moving to that location in 1880.* The Skinner potencies used by B & T until 1991, for example, had been recommended by the eminent homeopath James Tyler Kent in 1903, and even Gus Tafel admitted that many of the bottles of assorted attenuated and diluted tinctures made by that process had been lining the storage shelves for years.

But what exactly is homeopathy? The film’s narrator explained that homeopathy was “a vitalistic and holistic medical doctrine formulated by a German physician, Samuel Hahnemann” in the early nineteenth century. After reviewing the company’s history, Tafel toured the facility, introduced the audience to the firm’s president (a “second cousin by marriage”), discussed the business through the years, and concluded with almost fatalistic resignation, “it [homeopathy] lasted until about 1900 and then it slowly started to deteriorate and then the allopathic schools took over.” Happy with his B & T career, Tafel gave a wry

*In 1987 Boericke & Tafel was purchased by VSM in Holland. B & T moved in 1992 to Santa Rosa, California.

†Named after Scottish homeopath Thomas Skinner, the “Skinner Continuous Fluxion Apparatus” used by B & T was designed to produce highly dynamized products.

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