As you know we don’t have a high opinion of “alternative medicine”. That often includes things that are classified as “natural” or “traditional” medicine. We tend to deride them as unproven claptrap. In the famous quote “When traditional medical claims are shown to be effective, they become simply medicine”. Traditional Medicine is simply wannabe treatment at best and outright dangerous, at worse.
Well, in an odd confluence of aims, Australia has added proof to the dangers of ‘traditional Chinese medicine” although I would not limit this to Chinese but any ‘traditional or natural’ medicine. In an effort to show the power and efficacy of a new DNA reading technique, a team of scientists tested samples of traditional Chinese medicine to find out what was really in them.
The technique itself is well tested, what the researchers were trying to do was show the cost effectiveness of using this method compared to other methods. The actual results were both secondary and illuminating.
Now if you are a devotee of traditional Chinese medicine you may find this interesting and… perhaps disturbing. What they saw I must confess did not surprise me. A number of the ‘concoctions’ included endangered or threatened species such as the “Asiatic black bear” and the “Black Rhino” .
This is not surprising because a major tenant of Chinese or any traditional medicine is based on the pre-civilized idea of sympathetic magic. That is if your junk’s in a funk, you ingest the essence…be it the genitalia or heart…of a powerful creature…like a rhino, bear or lion…you will absorb that creature’s power. Forgive my bluntness, but that is stupid thinking. IF you believe this I remind you that plutonium is the most powerful of elements, ingest some and tell me if you theory works.
Okay, back to the traditional medicine. As I said, it is sad but not unexpected that some simple minded people will kill or exterminate a species based upon such ‘bad thinking’ however there was more to this story than what we as ‘good’ skeptics often harp upon.
It turns out that those who create such concoctions are not the most ethical people in the world. DNA testing showed that pure “Saiga antelope” also contained goat and sheep parts. Some items included, but not listed on the ‘ingredient’ label were things like cow DNA or pork….for those of a religious bent; it seems you may have inadvertently bought a one-way ticket to purgatory. That is, a number of religions prohibit ingestion of cow or pork or what have you…yet it seems some of these compounds have them in stealth mode. As a Dawkian Antitheist though, I really don’t care about this part.
What is more important to everyone is some of the ingredients are toxic. For example Ephedra has been banned in Canada for almost a decade because it can cause heart attacks; these among other toxins were found to be contained in this traditional medicine.
Cure ya or kill ya, I guess.
So, what is our takeaway?
Well, first, as we have mentioned Ad nauseam, if it’s not MEDICINE, don’t take. You have no idea what it may “really be” or its efficacy….which is likely placebo strength. Even if you “believe” in the woo, this should show you that those who ‘dispense’ these cures don’t really believe…to them you’re just a bundle of dollars.
Grab some skepticism and stop being their patsy; if you feel the need to some woo, grab a bottle of water and remember that almost every animal on earth has had that molecule in its body at some point…if you think power can be transferred via ‘woo’ let that be your connection. It’s better for conservation, safer for you and will not make you feel like a fool when you buy the elk penis and find outs its only pig ear.