Sunday, September 23, 2012

Why we need more Open Source Medicines

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".'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.

Patent 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 
This post was originally published on
It has also been republished at

Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Are You Looking Healthy, or Looking Sick?

One of the systemic problems with our 'health systems' is the 'sick view'.

Go to your public library and check out the books on 'health'.  In general, you will see the following simple recommendations: eat a healthy diet, exercise, get lots of sleep, etc. But you will also notice that most of the content in the so called 'health book' is how to avoid disease. How to avoid obesity, how to avoid heart disease, how to avoid illness. 

Merriam-Webster defines health as "the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit;especially : freedom from physical disease or pain".  By that definition, health starts, in the above image, at the heels of the doctor - and studies of health go no farther towards the green. There are many studies of health that look, like the doctor - towards illness.  Precious few that look towards healthiness.

The World Health Organization takes a different view, in theory: "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." In their definition, HEALTH only exists at the far left of the above diagram, where there is "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being". 

But the World Health Organization (commonly known as WHO), does not use this theoretical definition in practice. In practice, they publish statistics of 'health', that are based entirely in illness and infirmity. Their global health indicators are: life expectancy and mortality, cause specific mortality and morbidity, selected infectious diseases, health service coverage, risk factors, health workforce (doctors, nurses, etc, eg - medical workforce) - infrastructure and essential medicines, health expenditures (they mean illness expenditures), health inequities (medical inequities), demographic and socioeconomic statistics, health information systems (medical information systems) and data availability.  There are no WHO statistics about health - because WHO uses the medical view, and they can't see what is behind the doctor. 

This medical view, this 'health blindness' has serious consequences for our health. If you are not sick, you are healthy.  Anything that doesn't make you 'sick' according to a doctor, is 'safe', and thus 'healthy'. 

There are a large number of 'health controversies' that fall prey to this blindness.  Is aspartame 'healthy'?  No one cares. We measure if it causes illness - and if no direct indications are found - we stop measuring.  No one measures the effect of aspartame on healthiness.  Is fluoride healthy? Does it increase your healthiness? We theorize that fluoride prevents tooth decay - and the research stops.  No one bothers to measure if fluoride is healthy. 

We have no way to measure healthiness. 

Once you reach the doctor's heels, moving towards the green - measurement stops.  We can measure 'strength' and possibly 'fitness', but not healthiness.  Healthiness is not defined, not studied and not measured. 

It's time to begin the study of healthicine. The study of health and healthiness. We cannot attain health freedom without information - healthy information.

I believe the study of healthicine is so important, that I have started a website and blog, dedicated to health: 

This is a turning point for this blog.  A fork in the road.  From now on I will dedicate my inquiries and my writing in two different, overlapping directions.  Sometimes, I will write about healthiness - in the Healthicine blog.  Sometimes I will write about Health Freedom in this, the Personal Health Freedom blog.  Sometimes, I expect I will post the same, or very similar content - on both sites, because there is so much overlap between the two concepts.  Healthicine is about the theory of health.  But when theory meets practice - we need freedom to ensure access to information, and freedom to ensure that we can make our own choices. Everyone has a right to live, liberty, and the pursuit of healthiness. 

to your health,

Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Books Worth Reading: Health and Healing: The Philosophy of Integrative Medicine and Optimum Health, by Andrew T. Weil MD

There are, as near as I can determine, no books about health, although there are many titles claiming to be about health – on books about medicines and illness.  We might count books that aren't really about health, like many exercise books.  There are no diet books about health – they are all about illness.

If you want to learn about health, there are a few books worth reading.  Some of them will change your understanding of health and medicine. This is one, although it is not a book about health.

I listened to the audio book in my car as I drove from place to place – a very effective way to read a good book, although repeating specific passages of interest can be a bit tedious – and referencing them afterwards even more challenging.  This book is a comprehensive review of conventional (he uses the word allopathic) and various alternative medical systems.  It is fascinating, well written and full of interesting ideas.  Dr Weil gives an intelligent review, albeit his personal opinion, of each of the fields of medicine.

Andrew Weil has worked and studied in and with many different fields of medicine, gaining a lot of experience over the years. He provides a very scientific and interesting view of different schools of medicine.  He reviews allopathic (traditional Western) medicine, homeopathic, naturopathic, osteopathic, and chiropractic; acupuncture, holistic medicine, shamanism, faith healing, and psychic healing.

His discussion of placebos is a powerful document on the weaknesses of allopathic medicine. He points out many inconsistencies in the way conventional medicine treats placebos and the placebo concept. Specifically, they do not treat placebos scientifically. However, he neglects to discuss the concept of regression to the mean, which is an important factor in the placebo effect.  Not surprising, as this aspect of placebos is seldom recognized or discussed in medical research.  In simplest terms, regression to the mean is the tendency of things that are ‘out of balance’, or away from the ‘mean’ on first measurement, to regress to towards the mean on subsequent measurements.  To a statistician, regression is a statistical fact that has nothing to do with cures or placebos, it is simply a fact of statistics and how they work. To medical researchers, regression to the mean is easily mistaken for the placebo effect of placebos, or the placebo effect of drugs.  And it is very difficult to separate from the placebo effect, especially in cursory analysis. 

I loved the section of healing of warts – where he demonstrated beyond doubt that none of the so called ‘healers’ has a scientific approach to illness. None can heal warts effectively although all agree that warts can be healed, sometimes by the strangest of techniques; a clear demonstration of the failure of so called ‘medical science’ and of 'alternative medicine' as well.

Unfortunately, although Dr. Weil put the word ‘health’ in the title, the book would more accurately be named ‘Sick and Healing’, or perhaps ‘Medicine and Healing”. Of course it would have sold fewer copies with a more accurate title.  Dr. Weil seldom makes any true references to health except in the binary mode (you are healthy, or you are not healthy).There is no discussion of healthicine in any detail, only of medicine. 

Andrew Weil clearly demonstrates the case that medicine, as studied today is an incomplete and unscientific field of study. He has also demonstrated that the different fields of medicine are adversarial and thus weaker and less scientific than we might hope.

It is unfortunate that he does not take the next step – to suggest a study of healthicine (of which medicine is a small subset). We can hardly blame him – healthicine is not in the dictionary.

Andrew Weil has written many other books, and although I have seen a few of them, I don't think any others have real value in the field of health (as opposed to the field of medicine). He often uses the phrase 'optimal health', but completely ignores many aspects of healthiness, focusing instead on illness.  For example, his book: "Natural Health, Natural Medicine: The Complete Guide to Wellness and Self-Care for Optimum Health by Andrew Weil (Dec 9, 2004)", which might appear from the title to be about health, is according to the introduction: "a complete guide to preventative health maintenance" (whatever that might actually mean is beyond my comprehension).  It has a chapter on diet, one on exercise, one on connections - but the content could as easily have been written by anyone with a bit of common sense. That is to say - they could have been written by any normal person with a bit of knowledge and head full of some right ideas and some nonsense. It has more chapters on medicine than on health - and he even puts supplemental vitamins and minerals in the 'treatment' section of the book. You can't judge a book by it's cover.

Andrew Weil has a website where he promotes his ideas and concepts of health and medicine with the tagline "Your Trusted Health Advisor". Unfortunately the items on his website are remarkably predictable,  and not really about healthiness in any depth. The website has a clear 'medical' focus as opposed to a health focus and repeats many common misconceptions about health.

to your health, tracy 
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: