. . . Friday May 28, 2004

Drinking the Snake Oil

Back in the day, traveling salesmen used to visit a town, sell a few bottles of a natural and miraculous cure-all and the then pull-out of there before the townspeople realized that they’ve been duped.

Today, we have Walgreens and Rite-Aid.

While there is often no solid evidence that so-called natural cures (from echinacea and ginkgo baloney to chiropractors and biofeedbackists) have any real impact – and while there is little evidence that some of these products are even safe – Americans are still buying it all up schnook, spine and sinker.

Part of it is a predisposed need to try something, anthing, when you’re feeling lousy. I have never had a good experience at a chiropractor and everything I’ve read on the subject (along with the cracking sound) leads be to believe it’s a bad idea. But when my back goes out, I’ll try anything. Maybe the next chiropractor will have the key. I have likewise never felt any discernible impact from taking echinacea at the onset of a cold and no study that I know of has ever confirmed that echinacea does anything. But if I sniffle, I still put a few drops into a tall glass of water. It’s worth a try…

Maybe the snake-oil salesmen never needed to leave town in the first place. They could’ve just set up a permanent store. The consumer’s goal was never to prove them wrong. We want to believe. First item didn’t work, well this time Dr. Snake-oil has the perfect solution.

Most people would eat a plate of dirt if someone convinced them that it would make their cold go away faster.


Concentration is important!