Patents and Traditional Knowledge

Though I am not a medical doctor, I have studied many approaches to healing that are rarely taught in medical schools, schools that are often as not funded by corporate giants who tend to denigrate anything they cannot patent.

I don't know whether or not herbs can be patented. When I read of rain forest shamans journeying to Washington, D.C. to protest legislation that would give a pharmaceutical company proprietary interests in an herb, I am both dismayed and excited. I am upset that someone representing a tradition as foreign as traditional or indigenous medicine should have to lock horns with bureaucrats, and I am thrilled that the trek is getting some media coverage.

There cannot be anything more offensive than greed operating at the expense of health and well-being. This has to be the most anti-humanitarian, heartless, soul tormenting evil imaginable. To deny anyone a humane solution to their life and death issues is unconscionable . . . and it would be just as unconscionable to purport to have a cure when one is merely a passionate proponent of a particular modality that is worthless.

The issues of who knows best are not new. I found them in 17th century writings that resemble the AMA vs. Hoxsey propaganda of the 20th century. Though I confess to having read dozens of books exposing the ulterior motives of those who attempt to suppress alternative treatments, I do not regard it as my function to restate what can be found in those books. All I wish to say is that because someone has refused to investigate a method does not mean that the method is without merit. It just means it hasn't been rigorously investigated by anyone willing to spend the money . . . and the reason the money will not be allocated to these studies is that, in all probability, the products that are used are not unique enough to be awarded a patent.

Cancer: Historic and Modern

As I write today, I'm 59 years old with no possibility ever of retiring, and I have no heirs except those people who might benefit by my efforts. I am convinced that many of the people whose work I studied were actually curing cancer or at least treating it successfully. Because it has been fashionable to regard cancer as incurable, these people were sometimes ridiculed and reviled by their peers and, often as not, celebrated by their patients. However, Hildegard of Bingen was not such a person. She was consulted by popes and royalty as well as common people.

A few of those whose work I probed were so outstanding in one way or another that I was motivated to attempt to replicate their formulas. When this page was first posted some years ago, I spoke ever so tentatively about how we don't really know enough to estimate the worth of the products in today's world. I said this because I share the belief held by many others that cancer is actually many diseases and that a disease caused by mutation may change from one generation to the next. Moreover, as a sort of amateur anthropologist, I have held forth the possibility (1) that what was called cancer in the 12th century may not be what we today call cancer, (2) that the stressors affecting disease have shifted somewhat from predominantly biological to chemical and electromagnetic carcinogens, and finally (3) that diets in earlier times were 100% natural and organic whereas today, it is a rare person who can claim to eat completely wholesome food and then to prepare that food without the risks of microwaves and perhaps even electric heat.

This said, I believe I erred on the part of caution, only to obstruct not only my own confidence but that of patients who require far higher levels of assurance before experimenting with lesser known protocols. Now, in the late summer of 2001, I wish to say that while the challenges faced by inhabitants on this planet have indeed changed, they are not as different as first appearances might seem.

While sanitation may have improved, air quality, water, and food have surely deteriorated. The centuries of herbal wisdom that I researched for my book included the hundreds of years of the Plague as well as the Inquisition. The threats to existence were major so even if Europeans of the early and later Renaissance were not subjected to the media blitzes and propaganda of the present millennium, they were definitely surrounded by survival fears that most probably were even more conscious than is suspected today. In other words, while I think there might be more schism between mind and matter in present times, I think there was less hope to prop up diseased individuals when pharmaceutical companies and their Madison Avenue cronies were not polluting air waves with sound bytes about the miracles we are all to rely upon when illness appears in our lives.

I used to be naive, but I am not a child any longer. I know how the system sustains itself; I just do not understand why anyone would risk his soul for the power conferred by money.


Here is the original disclaimer, the one posted when the replicas of the historic products were first launched:

We urge users to consider these factors:

1. None of the formulae meet current academic or governmental standards. They are "traditional" and "experimental," not proven.

2. Users who opt for these remedies should do so on the basis of their appeal both to common sense and their own particular preferences, not on the grounds of science.

3. Patients as well as friends and family should recognize that our commitment is to the quality of our herbs and integrity of our production. We are in no position at all to perform the sorts of clinical trials that universities and pharmaceutical companies carry out in well-financed institutions.




Historic Re-creations of Herbal Products


Much of the material on this site is historic or ethnobotanical in origin. The information presented is not intended to replace the services of a qualified health care professional. All products discussed on this site are best used under the guidance of an experienced practitioner.

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Sacred Medicine Sanctuary
Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2000, 2001, 2005


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