“Originally published in Homeopathy Today Fall 2022, issue: HomeopathyCenter.org.”
Sane Asylums: The Success of Homeopathy before Psychiatry Lost Its Mind
by Jerry M. Kantor L.Ac., CCH, MMHS
Healing Arts Press, 2022, paperback, 288 pages with 25 black-and-white illustrations.
$24.99 (CAN $31.50). Also available as an e-book.
Jerry Kantor masterfully describes newly uncovered history about compassionate care given to mentally ill patients by homeopathic doctors and nurses at many long forgotten homeopathic asylums. This book will interest homeopathy consumers and practitioners alike, especially history buffs.
The author, Jerry Kantor, L.Ac., CCH, MMHS, is a faculty member of the Ontario College of Homeopathic Medicine and owner of Vital Force Health Care, LLC, a Boston-area homeopathy and acupuncture practice.
Homeopathy’s historical heyday
Sane Asylums details the half-century “heyday” when homeopathic institutions in the United States grew and thrived. Between 1875, right after the Civil War, to 1930 more than 100 homeopathic hospitals, 1,000-plus homeopathic pharmacies, and 22 homeopathic medical schools were in existence.
This showcases homeopathy’s popularity and the hopeful, spiritual social movement that had swept the country then. The medical history in this book includes ample homeopathic clinical reference material on the treatment of mental illness as written and successfully used by prominent homeopaths of that time.
In the book, Kantor focuses on Dr. Selden Talcott—superintendent of Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital for the Insane, who is remembered for his seminal Mental Diseases and their Modern Treatment, the first systematic book about asylum-based homeopathic care—and his assistant, Clara Barrus, M.D., who served as professor of psychiatry at Women’s College of New York City and wrote Nursing the Insane. In asylums, nurses were charged with administering the remedies prescribed by the physicians and carrying out the treatment care plans.
Middleton Hospital in Middleton, NY, was modeled after progressive, state-funded European asylums. “Compared with the barbaric physical restraints and moralistically inspired torments on tap within other asylums of the time, Middletown was a hospital where nutritious diet, compassionate caring, and sophisticated, side effect-free homeopathic prescriptions produced cures for a range of ills.”
An exciting part of homeopathic history is revealed with the story of Abraham Lincoln’s widow, Mary Todd Lincoln, and her descent into madness following the loss of her husband and two sons. Kantor presents “new and compelling evidence that she recovered from mental illness through homeopathy, and evidence that Abraham Lincoln himself was a lifelong user of homeopathic medicine.”
While reading the book, I was outraged to learn that although homeopathic physicians were successful in their work of evaluating, stabilizing, and curing thousands of “insane” people, they frequently did not include remedy names in their documentation to avoid attracting the attention of allopathic colleagues, during this precarious time of overlapping systems of medicine.
Mental health reference
Kantor generously quotes from American Institute of Homeopathy journals published during this historical time and includes an extensive appendix and glossary of terms and psychiatric jargon, which can help familiarize homeopaths untrained in psychiatrics with the subject.
Samuel Hahnemann’s “Mental Health Aphorisms” were new to me and are included in Appendix 3. To enlighten us further, Kantor includes “Exemplifying Nanomedicine: The Research of Dr. Iris Bell” in Sane Asylum’s Appendix 2.
Times have really changed in the mental illness “industry”—with psychopharmacology substituting in an unsatisfying and dangerous way for what pioneers of compassionate “asylum” care created. Asylums were dismantled and no longer exist as the utopian institutions found at the turn of the century. Jerry Kantor invites us to forge a new path forward in the care and treatment of the mentally ill and invest in a dream of enlightened mental health care for the future.