Documenting Traditional Medical Knowledge

Ryan Abbot, M.D., J.D., M.T.O.M has prepared an interesting 52 page document titled Documenting Traditional Medical Knowledge.

From the Executive Summary:

Many problems associated with the protection of traditional medical knowledge lack clear solutions.  In attempting to protect traditional medicine, traditional knowledge holders are confronted by a confusing and diverse group of national and international policies, regulatory systems designed primarily to accommodate pharmaceutical medicines, safety and efficacy concerns, and challenges to ownership.

This text is designed to assist traditional medical knowledge holders, government representatives and third-party collaborators to think about issues of intellectual property law specifically related to traditional medical knowledge. It is not intended to provide legal advice, but rather to help stimulate thinking about traditional knowledge and to provide illustrative case studies.

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On Disease


Diseases, except where they are very dangerous, should not be irritated by drugs. For every disease has a structure that resembles in a certain manner the nature of living creatures. For the composition of these living creatures has prescribed periods of life for the species as a whole.  It is the same with the constitution of diseases; whenever anyone destroys this by drugs, contrary to the allotted period of time, many serious diseases are wont to arise from those that are few and slight. Consequently, so far as leisure permits, one should control all such diseases by regimen, instead of irritating a troublesome evil by administering drugs.  — Plato

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Adaptogens Questioned


Very simply, adaptogens are nontoxic, produce a nonspecific defensive response to stress and have a normalizing influence on the body. As defined, adaptogens constitute a new class of natural, homeostatic metabolic regulator. — David Winston and Steven Maimes

Paul Bergner has a very interesting slide presentation titled the Dark Side of Adaptogens.  Unfortunately this paper does not appear to be available online anymore, but it still available as part of the Fatigue: Pathophysiology, Natural Therapeutics, and Adaptogens course.

The subtitle to this talk on the Dark Side of Adaptogens is “How the indiscriminate use of tonic herbs can promote burnout and deep injury to the endocrine system”.

One of the parts I found most interesting about this talk was questioning the need for an adaptogenic approach when tonic herbs already have a well defined role within the traditional systems of health.  Tonic herbs are used in very careful ways at the appropriate times with the appropriate indications.  The modern usage of adaptogens as a silver bullet, in isolation, and without a holistic consideration or the backing of a well assessed health restoration plan can do more harm than good.

Tonifying herbs strengthen the processes of the body, including the pathogenic processes. Thus tonifying herbs should not be prescribed in cases where there are still signs of an exterior disorder. If they are, the exterior disorder will linger on. — Bensky and Gamble (Chinese Materia Medica)

We have a thread started on our discussion forums to discuss adaptogens.

Abuse of Health


When the abuse of health is carried so far that sickness results, the sufferer can often do for himself what no one else can do for him. The first thing to be done is to ascertain the true character of the sickness and then go to work intelligently to remove the cause. If the harmonious working of the system has become unbalanced by overwork, overeating, or other irregularities, do not endeavor to adjust the difficulties by adding a burden of poisonous medicines. — Ellen G. White

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