Two thousand five hundred years ago, Hippocrates said “Let food by thy medicine, and let medicine be your food.” The concept of “open source” had not been invented, but Hippocrates was talking about “open source medicines”.
Opensource.com’s blog by Bryan Behrenshausen says “Open source is like sharing a recipe.” I will apply his ‘loaf of bread’ metaphor to medicine to explain, using mostly, his exact words. I will use the word ‘food’ for ‘medicine’ in the way of Hippocrates.
Imagine that you have created something for your friends, a food, that can actually improve healthiness. By sharing this food with your friends, you not only give them something that sustains them, but also strengthens their health, and thus their relationships with each other and with you.
But what if you share more than the food? Suppose that in addition to sharing this wonderful food, you also share the recipe for that food. Now you have given them something much more valuable: the power to reproduce the gift you’ve given them, and the opportunity to improve the lives of others as you’ve improved theirs.
If your friends lives and heathinesses are improved by the food you’ve made, they can make more of it for themselves and their friends. If they prefer a food with slightly different ingredients, they can modify your recipe, creating foods that suit their tastes and needs. Maybe some of your friends have dietary restrictions and want to know precisely what has been put in the food you’ve given them, lest the very thing meant to help them might actually harm them. Possessing the recipe means they can now make a more informed decision about whether to consume what you’ve made.
And now that your friends have the recipe for your food, they can work with you to produce more of it, increasing the number of people exposed to your creation. Sharing the recipe also means that you and your friends can cook together, strengthening your relationships, and potentially drawing others into the bond you share—because you now possess a common tool – sharing – for collaboration.
Sharing a recipe isn’t like sharing food itself. When you share a recipe, you haven’t lost anything; both you and your friends can work with and enjoy the same knowledge at the same time, passing it on without consequence—unlike a food that’s already been cooked, which effectively disappears when you’ve given it up or eaten it.
My grandfather was fond of saying “You can’t return a favour. Pass it on, and it will work its way back to me.” Open source is like that.
Open source foods can be open source medicines. Let food be your medicines.
Today, most of our medicines are ‘patent medicines’. In simplest terms, this means they are illegal, unless you have explicit permission from the patent holder. Patent holders can withhold the ingredients, and the recipe for making the medicine, as a ‘commercial secret’. Patent holders can restrict other people from creating the same medicine, effectively withholding the medicines from people who might need them.
If you need a patent medicine, you must jump through some legal hoops, before you are even allowed to purchase it.
First, you must qualify, by being diagnosed. You cannot diagnose yourself. Your neighbor friend, brother or mother cannot diagnose you. You must be diagnosed by someone who is an active member, in good standing, of the medical union – e.g. a Doctor of Medicine.
Second, the doctor who diagnoses you must prescribe the patent medicine. If the doctor who diagnoses you does not wish to prescribe ‘this specific patent medicine’ – you are not allowed to purchase it. If the doctor prescribes a different patent medicine, then that is the only patent medicine you are allowed to purchase. Many will say “you should trust your doctor”, but that argument is specious: the argument looks good, until you ask for a second diagnosis, by a second doctor and get a different prescription. Which doctor should you trust?
You must purchase the patent medicine from a pharmacist. The pharmacist ensures that you have a valid prescription, from a certified Doctor of Medicine. The pharmacist cannot ‘create’ the patent medicine for you – even if he knows the recipe. That would be illegal. He must purchase the medicine from a patent holder, and then resell it to you.
Once you jump through all the hoops, you don’t own the medicine. If you don’t use it all, you are not supposed to save some of it, and you are definitely not allowed to sell – or even give it away, to someone else, that would be illegal.
Patent medicines are preferred by people who want to make money from their medicines. Having a patent has no bearing on the effectiveness or healthiness of the medicine.
Patent medicines are usually designed to be powerful and fast acting. They are created from concentrated chemicals or chemical extracts, that are then diluted with exacting precision to a prescribed dosage. Consumption over the prescribed dose can cause serious health problems – in fact, in many cases, consumption AT THE PRESCRIBED DOSE can lead to serious health problems, up to and including death in some cases.
Patent medicines usually tackle illness by decreasing healthiness in some way, in the hope that you will be able to recover from the ‘different unhealthiness’ more easily. That is why all drugs have side effects.
Open Source Medicines
What are open source medicines? Open source medicines are medicines that are not patented. You can create them or buy them yourself. In many cases, you can diagnose yourself and prescribe them for yourself as well.
Because open source medicines are closer to food, like taking chicken soup for a cold, or for the soul, they are usually low in toxicity. Open source medicines are usually slow acting because they are not concentrated like patent medicines. As a result, they are safer. Some ‘open source medicines’ are true ‘healthicines‘. That is to say, they are not ‘drugs’ – and they do not have ‘side effects’. If you are deficient in folate, and you buy Folic Acid to supplement your diet – you will not experience side effects – although you might experience health effects – but we don’t often recognize the symptoms of healthiness.
Increasing healthiness is not something that happens in a moment, or a day. It takes time to increase healthiness.
Open source medicines are also ‘richer’ than patent medicines. When an inventor creates a patent medicine, they attempt to extract and concentrate the ‘active ingredient’, or to re-create it in a laboratory. An open source medicine, made from a food, may contain many active ingredients that work together. Identification and extraction of each one, measurement of their interactions, and creation of the ‘most effective’ patent medicine is extremely difficult and typically not attempted. The open source medicine may be more effective as a result – especially when it comes to increasing healthiness.
Open source medicines are powerful tools to increase healthiness. I believe in personal health freedom. I believe that everyone has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of healthiness. I believe in open source medicines.
GreenMedInfo is a site that promotes open source medicines. They don’t call them open source medicines (yet, maybe they will someday). Open source medicines are Green Medicines. GreenMedInfo provides published information about research into open source medicines, and how they can be used to treat illness. At this time, GreeenMedInfo does not provide recipes – maybe that’s not their role.
Today, GreenMedInfo doesn’t specifically identify any medicines as healthicines. That could be due to the fact that no-one studies healthicines yet. There are no research papers on healthicines – so there is nothing for GreenMedInfo to publish about healthicines. What is a heathicine? A healthicine is something that increases healthiness. I believe that, when Hippocrates was talking about foods and medicines, many of his medicines were healthicines, although the word had not yet been coined.
I am proud to be a Sponsor of GreenMedInfo and their work. I hope others will pick up the banner for open source medicines – so that we can all be healthier.
Open Source Medicines vs Patent Medicines
Which is better? Open source medicines, or patent medicines? It makes no sense to say that one is better than the other.
There are many situations where the power and immediacy of a specific patent medicine save lives, money, or both. Patent medicines make sense. Sometimes, patent medicines are the best alternative. Sometimes not.
There are many situations where the healthiness of specific open source medicines is the most appropriate treatment. Open source medicines make sense too. Sometimes, open source medicines are the best alternative. Sometimes not. Unfortunately, they open source medicines don’t have the ‘bling’ of patent medicines.
We need more open source medicines. We need more open research into, and more honest evaluations of the effectiveness and healthiness of every healthicine.
One of the reasons we don’t have good access to open source medicines, is because we don’t have many health freedoms. If we are to build the best systems for health, to create a system that promotes continual health improvement, we need to improve the health freedoms of choice and information. I believe we should always look for an open source medicine first, because it is more likely to tackle the true cause. Patent medicines, by design, almost never tackle the cause of illness.
Everyone has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of healthiness.
to your health, tracy