Expat Life

When did doctors become allopaths?

What is allopathic medicine, and why do some people throw that term around so insultingly?

Wikipedia reports that German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) invented the term “allopathy”. He conjoined allos “opposite” and pathos “suffering” to refer to harsh medical practices of his era, which included bleeding, purging, vomiting, and the administration of highly toxic drugs.

At this time, physicians following the Hippocratic tradition attempted to balance the “humors” by treating symptoms with “opposites.” For instance, fever (hot) was believed due to excess blood because patients were flushed; therefore, balance was sought by bloodletting in order to “cool” the patient.

Wikipedia reports Hahnemann is considered the “father of homoeopathy”, and based on his doctrine of like cures like. He claimed, “A substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people.”

A bloodletting patient in the 1800s.

However over the past 200 years, homeopathy has never been shown to work. As Wikipedia writes, “Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to the scientific method. A field, practice, or body of knowledge can reasonably be called pseudoscientific when it is presented as consistent with the norms of scientific research, but it demonstrably fails to meet these norms.”

Further, as Quora.com elaborates, “Homeopathy is based on notions which make no sense, proposes no credible method of action and has never been shown to do anything more than act as a placebo.” Dr. Liang-Hai Sie, retired general internist and former intensive care physician notes, “Placebo effect can be as high as 60%, and many illnesses have a natural history where symptoms spontaneously abate after some time has passed, with or without homeopathic treatment.”

The World Health Organization warns against using homeopathy to treat severe diseases such as HIV and malaria. Although homeopathy is popular in India and some European countries such as France and Italy, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the United Kingdom’s House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, and the Swiss Federal Health Office all have concluded that homeopathy is ineffective and recommends against funding any further research.

As of this year, the Russian Academy of Sciences issued a memorandum that declared “homeopathy has no scientific basis,” and said that attempts to verify success of homeopathy treatment have failed for over 200 years. In the United States, there is no license offered to professionals to practice homeopathy, with the exception of the three states, Arizona, Nevada and Connecticut: they will license MDs and DOs (Osteopathic physicians) to practice homeopathy.

According to Wikipedia, it was not until the 19th century that the germ theory of disease led to cures for many infectious diseases. During WW I, military doctors advanced the methods of trauma treatment and surgery. In the 19th century, public health measures were developed especially as the rapid growth of cities required systematic sanitary measures. “The mid-20th century was characterized by new biological treatments, such as antibiotics. These advancements, along with developments in chemistry, genetics, and lab technology (such as the x-ray) led to modern medicine…the 21st century is characterized by highly advanced research involving numerous fields of science.”

Misuse and Abuse

Today, some medical schools and organizations, to define “modern” or “conventional” medicine, use the term “allopathy” in a neutral way, to distinguish doctors of medicine from others such as naturopathic and chiropractic doctors. However, certain people toss the word “allopathic” out like it was a curse or an insult. More than once a reader has commented that “all allopathic medicine is profit-driven.” Don’t homeopathic, naturopathic, chiropractic, and other non-medical practitioners ask for and receive payment for their experience, education, and services? Are the supplements, treatments, and salves provided for free?

Another reader commented, “For thousands of years mankind avoided modern day diseases without drugs, surgery, and modern modalities of medics, chiefly by fresh whole foods, exercise (hard work and walking), fresh air, adequate sleep, and peace with his fellowman and Maker.”

Well, gee. That’s wishful thinking, but certainly naïve. Not that lifestyle isn’t critical to good health. But those little viruses have a way of sneaking up on you.

Stable of quacks.

In 17th century England life expectancy was only about 35 years, and infant and child mortality was high. In Colonial Virginia, 40% died before reaching adulthood.

But, people ate “naturally”, worked hard, got plenty of fresh air, and in the U.S., the Pilgrims surely slept well, knowing that at last they could practice their religion without persecution.

Since 1900, the global average life expectancy has more than doubled and is now approaching 70 years. As reported by Our World in Data, “No country in the world has a lower life expectancy than those countries with the highest life expectancy in 1800.”

Today the Japanese rank number highest in life expectancy, male and female combined average 83.7 years. The U.S is ranked 31st at 79.3 years, and Ecuador is tied with Jamaica for 51st spot, at 76.2 years. We’ve come a long way.

Modern medicine has increased human lifespans. According to the National Institute on Aging, “The dramatic increase in average life expectancy during the 20th century ranks as one of society’s greatest achievements. The victories against infectious and parasitic diseases are a triumph for public health projects of the 20th century, which immunized millions of people against smallpox, polio, and major childhood killers like measles.”

The NIA also notes that although developed countries continue to experience steady increases in lifespan, life expectancy has fallen in parts of Africa, due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and Ebola, and the lack of effective vaccines.

But in East Asia, life expectancy has almost doubled, from 45 years in 1950 to more than 74 years today, greatly aided by immunization against smallpox, polio, and major childhood killers like measles.

And it’s not just vaccines that have led to this phenomenon.  Better living standards, especially more nutritious diets and cleaner drinking water, also had a positive impact, preventing serious infections and childhood death.

Knowledge about the health effects of smoking, innovations in medical procedures and new pharmaceuticals have had a major effect, particularly on reduced mortality from cardiovascular disease.

Pseudoscience Threatens Progress

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports each and ever year how vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability, death and inequality worldwide.

Article continues below graphic.

But they report, “Paradoxically, a vociferous antivaccine lobby thrives today in spite of the undeniable success of vaccination programmes against formerly fearsome diseases that are now rare in developed countries.”

Today, vaccines have an excellent safety record and most “vaccine scares” have been debunked. Misguided safety concerns in some countries have led to a fall in vaccination coverage, causing the re-emergence of mumps and measles, most recently in Texas. Read more here.

As Keith Veronese, PhD chemist writes, “The same vaccines that allowed civilization to flourish in the twentieth century have become a political hot button in the twenty-first. What changed? It’s possible that a whole generation grew up without witnessing firsthand the horrors of deadly contagious disease on children, and so they never understood the value of vaccination.”

Next week I’ll continue in this thread with my column about how non-communicable diseases are the biggest threat to mankind, and how in the U.S. and other westernized countries including Ecuador, we may be losing life expectancy instead of gaining.


io9.gizmodo.com. How Vaccines Saved the World. http://io9.gizmodo.com/5840419/how-vaccines-saved-the-world

National Center for Homeopathy. Practicing Homeopathy. http://www.homeopathycenter.org/practicing-homeopathy

Our World in Data. Life Expectancy. https://ourworldindata.org/life-expectancy/#rising-life-expectancy-around-the-world

The Independent. Russia Academy of Sciences says homeopathy is dangerous “pseudoscience’ that does not work. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-academy-of-sciences-homeopathy-treaments-pseudoscience-does-not-work-par-magic-a7566406.html

WHO.org. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. Vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability, death and inequality worldwide. http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/86/2/07-040089/en/

WHO.org. Six common misconceptions about immunization. http://www.who.int/vaccine_safety/initiative/detection/immunization_misconceptions/en/index2.html

Wikipedia.com. Homeopathy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathy

Wikipedia.com. Life expectancy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy

Wikipedia.com. Medieval Medicine of Western Europe. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_medicine_of_Western_Europe


  • Greg Caton

    This article reads like a propaganda piece for the American Medical Association, which has been spewing nonsense since it was founded in 1848 to the benefit of its stakeholders. The problem with most allopathic treatments is that they treat symptoms instead of people because it’s a more lucrative business model. Allopaths think in reductionist terms, and not holistically. If allopathy was so great, why do the editors of its leading journals complain about having to publish so many bogus studies? Why is medical news an extension of fake news? And why is iatrogenesis (doctor screw up) the leading cause of death? See :

    The most offense part of the article is the laudation of vaccines. As Andrew Wakefield, M.D. has so thoroughly documented, vaccines take credit for the passing of epidemics that would have passed on their own in the absence of vaccinations. Susan apparently doesn’t know her epidemiology or a no-spin version of medical history. The issue is somewhat personal for me because my one and only nephew, born perfectly normal, took a series of vaccinations prior to his second birthday, that induced autism — a phenomenon which has exploded with the use of increasingly more invasive infant vaccination programs.

    And I just love how the apologists of modernity think we’re all living longer, happier lives, thanks to modern medicine. This harkens back to Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan . . . that without the medical industrial complex, we’d all be living lives that were “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” It’s rubbish. Ancient records are full of reports of centenarians, even before the age of Hippocrates, and even I have met cohorts in the Amazon who are happy, healthy, and long-lived — all without allopathic intervention. Sure, we’re living better than those urbanites who lived at the advent of the industrial age, but so what? Why compare ourselves or our conditions to one of the most ignoble periods in human history?

    Fortunately — speaking more macroscopically — modernity is coming to a end, as we’re losing 200 species per day, due to government and NGO institutional policies that are nothing short a declaration of war on carbon-based life forms. The insanity can’t continue, no matter how much propaganda they put out. I was stunned two years ago when they gave Elizabeth Kolbert the Pulitzer for “The Sixth Extinction,” due to its frankness. We’re seeing habitat collapse all over the world because our planet has been guided by the very same principles that undergird allopathy.

    Modern medicine is an extension of a much deeper and all-pervasive disease. Neither I, nor the planet, will be sad to see it go . . . or the cheerleaders who, in their astonishing ignorance, have been its biggest supporters.

    • Ken

      Amazing to me Greg – that you translate All Modern Medicine on the planet to be Nonsense? Stakeholders? It Treats Symptoms? And you prefer treating . . . without symptoms?
      Medical News is Fake News?
      And you obviously have information to dispute the numbers on effectiveness of Vaccines? I’m certain you do! . . . . . From Websites like the one you mention – – – that happen to promote YOU personally – – – as what? . . . An “Herbalist?” You have far too many things for sale on this website for us to take you seriously even for one second. You are the one benefiting as a Stakeholder!
      Mix me up a potion will ya Greg. Don’t worry . . . I’ll drink it without any double blind study as to it’s effectiveness. 🙂 Bottoms Up! Cheers!
      Ahhh! I Feel Better Already! (But then I didn’t have any symptoms anyway.)

      • Greg Caton


        ( 1 ) So glad to hear you’re amazed.
        ( 2 ) By definition allopathy treats symptoms, yes. It certainly doesn’t address the underlying etiologies. Even Louis Pasteur recognized this on his deathbed, when he acknowledged that Dr. Antoine Beauchamp was right. “It’s about the terrain.” An average American walks about with five out of eight herpes strains running through their veins. How many of those have symptoms? Just a fraction.

        ( 3 ) The extant literature on the disastrous effects of vaccines is vast and readable on the internet. It’s not my job to give you an education. You’ll have to do that for yourself.
        ( 4 ) Reference to Link. Altcancer is an information site that’s a repository of my work for the past 27 years — and, yes, I’ve written articles on that site throughout the years that I reference. You can’t buy anything on that site. You just wanted to flame without even checking, didn’t you?
        ( 5 ) “Make me up a potion.” Not on your life.

        • Ken

          Greg – your referenced web site – (which happens to be your own) – is selling so many useless ‘cures’ it may as well be called, “The Shameless Commerce Division of Quacks and Herbalists”
          I just love when people follow up a comment with, It’s not my job to give you an education. You’ll have to do that for yourself.” = to “Do your Research!”
          (I’m not doing your homework for you unless you give me 1/2 of your allowance.) 🙂
          Appears it’s time for Greg Caton to write the next health or nutrition article for CHL so we don’t have to listen to your ridiculous comments here. Don’t forget to list your credentials at the end of your article so we can all have a good laugh!

        • Jason Faulkner

          ” By definition allopathy treats symptoms, yes. It certainly doesn’t address the underlying etiologies.”

          By definition, homeopathy also treats symptoms. In fact, the entire basis of homeopathy is to give minute quantities of a substance that are supposed to mimic the symptoms of a disease; the old “like cures like”.

          But you’re wrong. We do not treat symptoms, we treat diseases. If you have appendicitis, I remove your appendix. That is treating the underlying etiology of what would, left to its own devices, progress into a fatal case of peritonitis. When I prescribe a medication to lower your blood sugar so that chronic hyperglycemia does not destroy your kidneys or make you blind, I am treating the disease. The fact that I don’t have a single treatment that will make your pancreas function properly or modify your immune system to keep it from attacking your own insulin doesn’t mean I’m treating a symptom. If I prescribe an antibiotic to kill the bacteria that are raging through your bloodstream invading all your organs, I’m not treating a symptom.

          Your posts sound like rote memorization of pseudoscience websites and you repeat this nonsense with all the fervor of a religious zealot. Reality doesn’t care about your beliefs. Either you can demonstrate the efficacy of a treatment using the scientific method or it’s bogus. There is no such thing as “alternative medicine”. Any medicine that works is just called medicine.

    • Devon_Nullman

      Were you trained in any type of medicine at any medical school? – I think not.

      Your “miracle” escharotic salve has disfigured people, and if I am not mistaken, that salve and other things (firearm possession with prior felonies, fraud, and FDA violations) landed you a prison term. You then fled the country and were extradited back for additional incarceration.

      You’ll have to forgive me if I take your words with a grain of salt. A very large grain, more like a 20 pound salt lick.

      • Greg Caton

        Devon, I don’t care how you take my words.
        I don’t post for people who are incorrigibly impervious to real data that hasn’t been tampered with. As for escharotic salves, as I note in Meditopia (which you will never read because you probably couldn’t understand it anyway), they have been used for centuries, long before I was born. It is not my “miracle” anything. It is but one tool among many that naturopaths use the world over — lesions of healers with whom I have no connection.

        And — please — do enjoy that 20 pound salt lick. Yum!

        • Ken

          Devon – He “forgot” to answer your question about his Medical Training. Certainly he’ll get back to you after he finishes with this next patient!
          (Lesions of healers? That’s sounds itchy.)

        • Devon_Nullman

          So you are not just a criminal and a charlatan, but an insufferable, pompous (redacted due to censorship) as well.

          I am having difficulty understanding the part about the “lesions of healers” – can you explain that in simple terms please?

        • Jason Faulkner

          Bloodletting was used for centuries. So was mercury. So? An appeal to antiquity is no substitute for actual evidence of efficacy.

    • Andrew Wakefield is no longer an M.D. He is a disgrace. His medical license was revoked because he is a fraud, his research that linked the MMR vaccine to autism was fraudulent. You can read the report that is published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry: “In 1998, Andrew Wakefield and 12 of his colleagues[1] published a case series in the Lancet, which suggested that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine may predispose to behavioral regression and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Despite the small sample size (n=12), the uncontrolled design, and the speculative nature of the conclusions, the paper received wide publicity, and MMR vaccination rates began to drop because parents were concerned about the risk of autism after vaccination.[2]

      Almost immediately afterward, epidemiological studies were conducted and published, refuting the posited link between MMR vaccination and autism.[3,4] The logic that the MMR vaccine may trigger autism was also questioned because a temporal link between the two is almost predestined: both events, by design (MMR vaccine) or definition (autism), occur in early childhood.

      The next episode in the saga was a short retraction of the interpretation of the original data by 10 of the 12 co-authors of the paper. According to the retraction, “no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient”.[5] This was accompanied by an admission by the Lancet that Wakefield et al.[1] had failed to disclose financial interests (e.g., Wakefield had been funded by lawyers who had been engaged by parents in lawsuits against vaccine-producing companies). However, the Lancet exonerated Wakefield and his colleagues from charges of ethical violations and scientific misconduct.[6]

      The Lancet completely retracted the Wakefield et al.[1] paper in February 2010, admitting that several elements in the paper were incorrect, contrary to the findings of the earlier investigation.[7] Wakefield et al.[1] were held guilty of ethical violations (they had conducted invasive investigations on the children without obtaining the necessary ethical clearances) and scientific misrepresentation (they reported that their sampling was consecutive when, in fact, it was selective). This retraction was published as a small, anonymous paragraph in the journal, on behalf of the editors.[8]

      The final episode in the saga is the revelation that Wakefield et al.[1] were guilty of deliberate fraud (they picked and chose data that suited their case; they falsified facts).[9] The British Medical Journal has published a series of articles on the exposure of the fraud, which appears to have taken place for financial gain.[10–13] It is a matter of concern that the exposé was a result of journalistic investigation, rather than academic vigilance followed by the institution of corrective measures. Readers may be interested to learn that the journalist on the Wakefield case, Brian Deer, had earlier reported on the false implication of thiomersal (in vaccines) in the etiology of autism.[14] However, Deer had not played an investigative role in that report.[14]

      The systematic failures which permitted the Wakefield fraud were discussed by Opel et al.[15]”

      Further, as the NY Times reports, it’s people like you who continue to spread this fraudulent misinformation and is leading to a resurgence of preventable diseases. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/02/us/a-discredited-vaccine-studys-continuing-impact-on-public-health.html

      • Jason Faulkner

        Wakefield has a lot of blood on his hands.

    • Jason Faulkner

      Wow. Too much pseudoscience and ideology in that comment to even know where to begin. Andrew Wakefield? Seriously? Do you have any idea who you’re citing?

    • Jason Faulkner

      I didn’t realize it was you, Greg. Now your comment makes perfect sense. A lifelong conman and convicted felon who bilked people out of cash selling snake oil to gullible rubes. Yours isn’t even motivated cognition. It’s just a hustle.

  • not quite

    A couple of not insignificant things:

    Profit is a good thing, a fundamental bit of feedback. But cartelized “medicine,” allopathy, does not earn profits. It collects, extracts, exacts, economic rents. ER’s are a bad thing. A very bad thing.

    In the U.S. heart disease, cancer, & iatrogenesis are the top 3 killers. But that last one doesn’t include hospital acquired infections – an accounting fraud – which, when added back in, increases the kill rate by perhaps as much as 40x. I’ve read that. But it has touched me personally, too. It has touched most people personally, i should think.

    Cartelization is barbarism, albeit typically contrived by Brooks Brothers bag suits. (Clothes do not make the woman.) Thus is allopathic medicine barbaric.

    And survivorship is a blindside bias.

    • Anthony Castiglia

      If modern medicine is so great and the US spends more money on medical care why is it ranked 33 in the world for health care. Studies have shown and reported in the NEJM that only 15% of medical treatments are actually efficacious. Homeopathy does work but doctors try to use it like they would in allopathic medicine in which case it DOES not work. Your ignorance about the above topic is incredible. You need to stay on a topic which you might be knowledgeable in and that is diet. Even in that vein I doubt if your advice is credible!!

      • Ken

        Please reference your claim from the NEJM:
        “Studies have shown and reported in the NEJM that only 15% of medical treatments are actually efficacious.”
        I’m waiting . . . . .

      • Devon_Nullman

        You mean this, right:

        Efficacy of a Device to Narrow the Coronary Sinus in Refractory Angina

        The study was designed to have 80% power to test the two-sided hypothesis, at a type I error level of 0.05, that 40% of the participants assigned to the treatment group would have an improvement of two or more CCS angina classes, as compared with 15% of the participants assigned to the control group. A 10% rate of study withdrawal or loss to follow-up was assumed because of uncertainties about deliverability of the device. On the basis of these assumptions, we calculated that we would need to enroll 124 participants in the study. Owing to the longer-than-expected time to complete enrollment and the lower-than-expected rate of withdrawal or loss to follow-up, the sponsor elected to stop enrollment after 104 patients had undergone randomization. The sponsor had no knowledge of the unblinded end-point data when the decision to stop enrollment was made; the randomization code was held by the contract research organization.

      • Jason Faulkner

        Only 15% of medical treatments are actually efficacious?

        Only 3% of statistics cited on the internet without a source are based on actual studies.

  • BDev

    I suspect taht the vast majority of improvement in morbidity and mortality stats is due to 1) better nutrition, 2) cleaner water, 3) sanitation.
    Medicine is a minor player.

  • Jason Faulkner

    I’m a physician, a Doctor of Medicine, an evidence-based practitioner, but never an allopath. It pains me to see some physicians and even institutions taking on this absurd label coined by a charlatan.

    • Ya, Jason! That’s a sentiment that I’ve seen shared by other MDs. The reason I wrote this column is because I’ve been the target of slurs, as if by calling me “allopathic” I am somehow in cahoots with some vast conspiracy of medical practitioners who are all operating in lockstep, poisoning their patients with “modern medicine.” Here’s a what one doctor said back in 1998. “When Did I Become an “Allopath”?
      Katherine E. Gundling, MD
      Arch Intern Med. 1998;158(20):2185-2186. doi:10.1001/archinte.158.20.2185

      JUST WHEN did I become an allopath? I am hearing and reading this term more and more lately.1- 6 It is likely used to distinguish doctors of medicine from naturopaths, homeopaths, osteopaths, and myriad others who are interested in helping patients, but its recent embrace by the medical profession is concerning. Perhaps we should think twice about using it uncritically.”

      • Jason Faulkner

        I always enjoy your columns, Susan. I’m from one of the early generations of medical students way back in the 90s who had to choose sides between evidence-based medicine and the long-held beliefs of our professors. It basically boiled down to all my professors under 50 versus all my professors over 50. It really was a cultural battle at the time. It seems quaint now, but there was a time when “in my experience” was considered valid reasoning when deciding on a treatment. In my short time as an educator, and whenever I’m on rounds, I always remind medical students and residents that “in my experience” are the three most dangerous words in medicine (stolen from Dr. Mark Crislip; check out his podcasts). Mammary artery ligation is my go-to example. Data always trumps confirmation bias.

        I’m always amused when I’m attacked by all these woo practitioners claiming I’m only in it for money. With the exception of one year in a public hospital and 2 years in private practice (in Mexico, no less), I’ve worked my entire career as a volunteer in developing countries for various NGOs and national health systems. The last time I received any monetary compensation for medical services was 2007, though I did receive a hen from a grateful patient in Nicaragua in 2009. It became a pet as I couldn’t find it in my heart to do the butchering. Once you name it, it’s no longer food.

        Meanwhile, these quacks are selling useless salves and freeze-dried peas at 10,000% markups, all the while claiming they can cure everything from cancer to traumatic brain injury. The mark of any charlatan is that they immediately accuse anyone who disputes them as being part of some vast international conspiracy to harm people (especially children) in exchange for money. It’s sad we even have to have these discussions anymore given the clear logical fallacies in their arguments, but it’s clear that all those education cuts Reagan made in the 80s are paying dividends in the form of a scientifically illiterate populace.

  • Jason Faulkner

    Hardly. While all those public health interventions indeed play a major role, it is acute illness that has killed most people in human history. Infections, trauma, heart attacks, all used to be one-time events that spelled the end of most human lives. Now you can experience all of them multiple times over your lifetime and still end up dying at a ripe-old age. For that matter, most humans who were ever born died in infancy and childhood. Dying young now is a rarity. Aside from improving quality of life, modern medicine means you get a second, third, maybe even 10th chance at life.