Therapeutic Disease: a Concept of XIX and XX Century Medicine


  • Andrea Bellelli Department of Biochemical Sciences “A. Rossi Fanelli” School of Medicine and Pharmacy, University of Rome “Sapienza”


Antagonistic diseases, Malaria-therapy, Homeopathy, Psychoanalysis, Hypnosis, Magnetism, Electro-convulsive therapy


The concept of therapeutic disease, i.e. a disease that interrupts or cures another and then spontaneously heals, had an ephemeral success in the XIX century and the first decades of the XX century. In the long run, the concept proved of limited value and reduced applicability. The full theoretical development of this concept in a systematic form, and its intentional application to therapy reached its height in two medical theories developed by German speaking authors: Hahnemann’s homeopathy and Freud’s psychoanalysis. A third theoretical elaboration can be found in the writings of some French hypnotists, although hypnosis is the heir of Mesmer’s magnetism. At the beginning of the XX century effective therapies based on the same concept were devised on a purely empirical basis: e.g. Wagner Jauregg’s malaria therapy for syphilis, and the several shock therapies for major psychoses, of which only the electro-convulsive therapy of Cerletti and Bini has survived.