Allopathic medicine, or allopathy, refers to science-based, modern medicine. There are regional variations in usage of the term. In the United States, the term is used to contrast with osteopathic medicine, especially in the field of medical education. The terms were coined in 1810 by the inventor of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann. It was originally used by 19th-century homeopaths as a derogatory term for heroic medicine, the traditional European medicine of the time and a precursor to modern medicine that did not rely on evidence of effectiveness.
Heroic medicine was based on the belief that disease is caused by imbalance among the four “humors” and sought to treat disease symptoms by correcting that imbalance, using “harsh and abusive” methods.
The practice of medicine in both Europe and North America during the early 19th century is sometimes referred to as heroic medicine because of the extreme measures (such as bloodletting) sometimes employed in an effort to treat diseases. The term allopath was used by Hahnemann and other early homeopaths to highlight the difference they perceived between homeopathy and the “conventional” heroic medicine of their time. With the term allopathy (meaning “other than the disease”), Hahnemann intended to point out how physicians with conventional training employed therapeutic approaches that, in his view, merely treated symptoms and failed to address the disharmony produced by underlying disease.
The term is used in the modern era to differentiate between two types of US medical schools (both of which teach aspects of science-based medicine and neither of which teach homeopathy): Allopathic (granting the MD title) and Osteopathic (granting the DO title).