Herbalism: Open Source Medicine

Herbalism is a low-cost, accessible, community-powered, patent-free form of medicine. It’s also under threat from the patent-driven pharmaceutical business. Could the values and struggles of open-source software proponents have much in common with herbalists?

In his article that likens herbalism to open source software, Thierry Gagnon draws on the many parallels that exist between the world of coding and the world of medicine. Both have a very strong business model that is based on patents and on limiting what others can do with ideas and processes. Both also have a strong and growing movement that counters this exclusivity and demonstrates that good effects can be had with openness and inclusion, with a world where knowledge is not hoarded for profit and where applications can be developed by anyone able to do so.

As I said in a comment to the article

“Herbalism (and nutrition, including supplements) are the open source “poor cousins” of pharmaceutical medicine.

Like the open source and free software movement in computering, herbalism and nutrition will be taking over from their more closed (and generally much more expensive) alternatives in the years to come.

As a matter of fact, there is nothing keeping us from speculating that in the future, openness may become the standard where today, intellectual property reigns pretty much supreme.”

You can read the article at Herbalism: Open Source Medicine


1 Comment Herbalism: Open Source Medicine

  1. Lori

    The world of herbal supplements certainly makes use of intellectual property. How many such products have the verbiage “proprietary blend of…” in their “ingredients lists?” The health food store can also be something of a salesmanship zone. So it is no mystery that the health food industry has often been leading the charge for deregulation. Allopathic medicine, of course, has completely sold out to business. I’m assuming you’re lauding herbal medicine primarily as a body of knowledge rather than as an industry. But I think there is also a baby in the bathwater of allopathic medicine, consisting of honorable traditions like peer review, evidence-based medicine, public-ation of findings, etc. I also worry that people (under pressure from less generous employee benefits, and a new normal in which individuals are expected to eat more risk, for example) may be using herbal products as a cheap substitute for science-based medicine, which might in some cases lead to compromised health status.

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