Drugs in disguise?

The study of medicine has been around in some form probably for as long as we have been recognizably human, however, ideas of how to ensure the quality and efficacy of medicines have only evolved very recently. In prescientific cultures, it was the norm to accept unconditionally what the ‘traditional authority’ had to say about healing. Whether medical knowledge came from a respected group of elders, a mysterious shaman, or the church, it was the final word and wasn’t open to inquiry. Often, medical systems were more an artifact of each group’s cultural history than they were a useful collection of knowledge about medicinally active plants to be found in the local environment.

The major shift in thinking came around 1400 to 1700, during what we now call the Medical Renaissance. Thanks to the reformation of the church and a decline in conservatism, the shackles were finally removed from medical science, and a much needed rebirth was allowed to happen. Physicians like Andreas Vesalius, Ambroise Paré, and William Harvey began to question ‘traditional authority’, disproving many of its theories, and discovering that many of its treatments were useless, even downright dangerous. For the first time, students of medicine were encouraged to check their findings so that they could better understand the human body, and ensure the safety and efficacy of treatments.

The initial spark for this huge shift in medical thinking didn’t come from a new freedom of inquiry, but from tragedy, one of the greatest to ever befall mankind: the Black Plague, when 45–50% of the European population was wiped out during a four-year period.(1) With the shortcomings of contemporary medical knowledge so glaringly evident, people became frustrated with the old, stagnant ways of thinking about health. If half of your friends and loved ones died from an unknown disease, you would probably question the state of medical knowledge too.

Unfortunately, it has always taken tragedy to catalyze medical reform, and historically, the development of drug regulation has been no different – its history is written on tombstones. In 1937, the improperly prepared sulfanilamide medicine, Elixir Sulfanilamide, caused the death of over 100 people. Harold Watkins, the chief pharmacist and chemist at the company that manufactured the drug, was unaware that the solvent they were using was poisonous to humans, and at the time there were no regulations requiring premarket safety testing of new drugs.(2) When pressed to admit wrongdoing, the owner of the company infamously stated, “We have been supplying a legitimate professional demand and not once could have foreseen the unlooked-for results. I do not feel that there was any responsibility on our part.”(3) Evidently Watkins had enough guilt for the two of them, as he promptly committed suicide. Following the crisis, Congress enacted the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, giving the FDA the authority to oversee the safety of drugs and to outlaw misbranded and adulterated drugs.(4) However, it took another, much worse tragedy to truly give the FDA the authority to decide which drugs made it to the market. This time, the drug responsible was thalidomide. Initially hailed as a “wonder drug”, it was primarily intended as a sedative and hypnotic, but was also used to alleviate morning sickness in pregnant women. Shortly after the drug went to market, 10,000 cases of phocomelia (malformed limbs) in infants were reported throughout Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Approximately 50 percent of the woman who had given birth to deformed children had taken thalidomide during the first trimester of pregnancy. In response, US Congress passed the Kefauver-Harris Drug Amendments. For the first time, drug manufactures were required to prove the efficacy of their drugs before they could sell them.(5) These disasters, among many others, prompted the introduction of tougher regulations for the testing and licensing of drugs worldwide, and increased awareness of the risk of negative side effects.

What is a Drug?

No medicine is completely safe. If something has active ingredients of any kind, there is the potential for adverse side effects in a high enough dose. Even after safety and efficacy has been established, it takes special training, access to necessary information, and an understanding of that information to know how much of which drug is required for a specific indication, and then you have to understand how different drugs interact within the body – an almost impossibly complicated task when dealing with more than two drugs. Thus, there is an inherent risk to all drugs, and they must be treated with extreme care. This is why it is crucial to understand what qualifies as a drug, and what doesn’t.

Strictly speaking, there is no single accepted definition of the word “drug”, as the word has different meanings in different contexts. However, this isn’t a question of semantics. Legal and colloquial usages aside, the simplest, biochemical definition is: anything that has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body.(6) Your body doesn’t distinguish between things that are intended to be used as drugs, and things that behave like drugs but aren’t putatively regarded as such. Drugs can come in many forms, such as ointments, injections, pills, or powders. Even the line between drugs and food can be blurry. Eating certain foods can trigger the release of the same chemicals in the brain involved in addiction and withdrawal, and can effect the absorption of prescription drugs, altering their effects.(7) It is irrelevant where something comes from, or what form it takes. As far as you body is concerned, a drug is a drug.

Drugs in Disguise

Drugs aren’t like ordinary consumer products, because people’s lives hang in the balance. The way that they used to be sold boggles the mind; anyone could set up shop, and they were under no obligation to prove that their products did what they were supposed to and weren’t going to cause harm. In this unregulated market, drugs had unknown safety and efficacy at best, and killed people at worst. Thankfully, we are now protected from ineffective, potentially dangerous drugs. Or are we?

Having managed to position themselves ambiguously between medical and food manufacturers, “nutritional supplement” manufacturers bypass the regulations that drugs are subjected to. However, drugs are what they are selling, in all but name.(8) By rallying their troops, they have forcefully acquired an exorbitant privilege: virtual immunity against regulation. Taking advantage of the widespread climate of distrust and disillusionment toward government caused by events like the Vietnam War and Watergate, they convinced their customers that the government was trying to take away their goodies, warned retailers that they would be put out of business, and portrayed health regulators as selfish conspirators who were in bed with the medical profession and big pharma. In this way, they have been able to overturn every attempt by regulatory bodies to regulate their products as drugs.

During the 1970s, when the FDA tried to limit false claims and require warning labels on potentially dangerous supplements, angry supplement consumers and sellers persuaded congress to pass the Proxmire Amendments, which prohibited the FDA from setting standards to limit the potency of supplements and regulate them as drugs based on their potency.(9) In the early 1990s, Congress was considering two bills that would have given federal agencies greater power to combat health frauds. One would have harshened the penalties for violating the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The other would have made it illegal to advertise nutritional or therapeutic claims that would not be permissible on supplement labels. During the same period, the FDA was also considering tightening regulations for these labels. Alarmed, the supplement industry and its supporters generated an avalanche of complaints to Congress. The end result was the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, appropriately nicknamed the “snake oil protection act” by the New Yorke Times.(10) The DSHEA made “dietary supplements” a separate regulatory category, and expanded the types of products that could be marketed under this category. It went far beyond the usual definition of “dietary supplements”, and included things like herbs, amino acids, hormones, as well as any preparation, combination, or constituent of those ingredients. The DSHEA made it nearly impossible for regulatory bodies like the FDA to regulate anything that fits into this overly inclusive category.(11)

Today, supplement manufacturers are supposed to indicate their new product is safe and effective prior to introduction. However, they can use anything that they want for evidence. To date, the FDA does not have any standards for what the evidence must contain, or how trustworthy it must be. It is left entirely up to the manufacturer submitting the premarket notification to choose what information provides the basis for their conclusion that their product is safe and effective.(12) It’s an empty gesture, superficially making it seem like some effort has been made to ensure safety and efficacy. The truth is, supplement manufacturers and distributors are still living in a time where anyone can sell anything they want. They just have to jump through a couple of hoops first. As a result of this leniency, useless and dangerous ingredients are being allowed on the market all the time. The FDA has to wait until after a product is released to find out whether it is truly safe, through reports of adverse events. Until enough people get hurt for a noticeable pattern to emerge, there is nothing to protect consumers from dangerous supplements. In other words, tragedies have to happen before these products can be taken off the market…shouldn’t we be beyond that by now?

The False Dichotomy

Why do people fall for the false dichotomy between prescription drugs and herbal remedies? They instinctively draw a line between “artificial” drugs created by pharmaceutical companies, and “natural”, herbal remedies. They reason that herbal remedies must be safe because they are “natural”; must be effective because they have been used for thousands of years; and must be something other than drugs because they aren’t produced artificially. Additionally, they often believe that herbal remedies are created by small, “mom and pop” businesses who actually want to heal you, whereas pharmaceutical companies only want to temporarily treat your symptoms so that you’ll come back for more. I think that is a fair, non-straw-man summary of a common set of beliefs.

Claim 1: “Herbs are natural, therefore safe.”

This leap of logic stems from the notoriously naive naturalistic fallacy. It’s absurdity would be amusing if it wasn’t taken so seriously by so many. The fact that people fall for it just goes to show how separated they really are from nature: in reality, nature is a dangerous place where one must fight constantly to survive, and if something isn’t trying to kill you, there’s a good chance you’re trying to kill it. For now, let’s just ignore that fallacious premise, and go straight to the conclusion that herbs are safe. It is demonstrably false. Adverse side effects from so called “natural” remedies are well documented. Between 1983 and 2004, 1.3 million reports of adverse reactions to supplements, vitamins, and minerals were reported to poison control centers in the United States, and 175,268 required hospitalization. In 2012, it was estimated by the FDA that 50,000 adverse reactions occurred every year.(13) As herbs have become all the rage, and are more readily available thanks to globalization, more toxic effects are being observed. Compounding the problem is the fact that, once exotic herbs reach the west, they aren’t necessarily being prepared or used in the same way as their traditional counterparts. The traditional way isn’t always best, but there is an undeniable risk in randomly altering dosage and preparation without any kind of safety testing. For example, Mahuang, an herb found in relatively small doses in Chinese medicines, is used in far higher concentrations in the West. This has resulted in a number of cases of sudden cardiac death, many of which occurred in young adults who used ephedra, a concoction that contains Mahuang, and didn’t even stray from the recommended dosage.(14)

Here is a list of common, natural herbs which have a potential for unwanted side effects:

Blue cohosh: neonatal heart failure.(15)
Valerian: hepatitis, insomnia (ironic, considering one of the things it is meant to treat is insomnia).(16)
Kava: liver damage.(17)
Nutmeg: hallucinations (one side effect which may actually be desired).(18)
Wormwood: seizures.(19)
Stevia leaves: in high doses, possible decreased fertility.(20)
Concentrated green tea extracts: liver damage.(21)
Thujone (found in absinthe): neurological damage.(22)
Concentrated garlic: increased risk of bleeding.(23)

It’s not just the supplements themselves that can be harmful, but what’s contaminating them. Herbal remedies exported from overseas are sometimes contaminated with lead and other heavy metals. In 2004, researchers at Harvard Medical School found that 20 percent of Ayurvedic remedies obtained from shops near Boston’s City Hall contained potentially harmful levels of lead, mercury, and arsenic.(24)

Claim 2: “Herbs have been used for thousands of years, so they must work.”

Many age old herbal remedies have proven to be useful, and have therefore been assimilated into modern medicine. Indeed, there may be a correlation between an herbs traditional use and its actual usefulness. However, it does not logically follow that something “must” be useful because it has been used for a long time. Nonetheless, people use this fallacious appeal to antiquity to continue to cling to a herb even after double blinded, placebo-controlled trials have shown it to be no more useful than placebo.

The appeal to antiquity is especially disingenuous when applied to medicinal claims, because nearly all pre-scientific systems used for deciding whether something had medicinal properties were based on “vitalism”, an illogical superstition which fails to grasp mechanistic concepts that are absolutely integral to the study of medicine. Vitalism claims that living things are infused with an essence. Essentially, it is a form of begging the question, because it attempts to explain something by invoking a circular concept that says nothing new about the thing it is attempting to explain. Historically, this has attracted the ire of many famous intellectuals. Molière parodied it in Le Malade imaginaire, where a vitalist “answers” the question, “Why does opium cause sleep?”, with “because of its soporific power”, Thomas Huxley compared vitalism to stating that water behaves the way it does because of its “aquosity”, and his grandson Julian Huxley compared vitalism to explaining how a railroad locomotive works by saying that it has “locomotive force”.(25) An example of a vitalistic system used in pre-scientific medicine is the “Doctrine of Signatures”, which states that herbs that resemble parts of the human body can cure ailments that affect that part of the body, because they seem to share similar qualities. This lead William Coles, a 17th-century botanist and herbalist, to believe that walnut could cure headaches because, in his opinion, they resembled heads.(26)

Back in the day, many considered this way of thinking quite profound. Today, it is interesting, but clearly wrong. Yet herbs that have been traditionally used for a long time usually have their roots in bizarre, unscientific methodologies like this. Is that really something to brag about? Modern pharmacology has its roots in herbalism, and many drugs are still derived from herbs (ephedrine, warfarin, digitalin, aspirin etc.). However, herbs didn’t evolve specifically to heal us. When they have useful properties, that is just a happy accident. Modern biotechnology allows us to isolate their useful ingredients, and improve upon them so that they can be targeted towards specific processes and have fewer negative side-effects. This should be celebrated, not feared.

Claim 3: “Herbs aren’t drugs.”

This one is rather easy, because in showing that herbs have the potential for unwanted side effects, I have already proved it wrong. Like I said, a drug is anything that causes a physiological effect when introduced into the body, and herbs contain pharmacological active ingredients that have physiological effects on the human body. These ingredients exist in unpredictable doses, are often not well understood, and sometimes haven’t even been identified. Just like conventional drugs, herbal remedies can interfere with other drugs. For example, St. John’s Wort can increase the rate at which the liver metabolizes other drugs. The only thing that separates herbs from prescription drugs is that they are sold deceptively as “dietary supplements.”

Claim 4: “Manufacturers of herbal remedies want to cure you, Big Pharma wants to keep you sick.”

This is an incredibly popular conspiracy theory, and it will probably be around for as long as peddlers of alternative medicine find it useful to depict themselves as the only alternative to a corrupt tyrant. It relies solely upon the “cui bono” fallacy: whichever party gains the most from an event must be the cause of that event (ironically, I came dangerously close to committing this fallacy in the last sentence). The same logic is used by those who reason that 9/11 was an inside job, because the Bush administration gained from going to war in the Middle East. Just like 9/11 “truthers”, Big Pharma conspiracists offer this line of reasoning as if it constitutes real evidence. One common charge is that the cure for cancer is being withheld so that Big Pharma can continue to profit from treating it’s symptoms. Ridiculous. Big Pharma isn’t a single monolithic entity, it consists of doctors, universities, health organizations, research laboratories, private companies, and government agencies, competing with each other to make scientific discoveries. There is no organized plot to keep people sick. If one of them discovers the cure for some debilitating disease, they jump on it. Yes, Big Pharma is driven by money. But why would Big Pharma want to make us all sick? Just like the alternative-medicine industry, it is easier for them to profit from making us think we’re sick, by pathologizing normal biological and social variation. That is why, if you watched too many TV ads, you could be led to believe that high cholesterol is a disease, when it is really just a risk factor. However, alt-med practitioners are arguably even more guilty than Big Pharma when it comes to disease mongering: chiropractic subluxations, chronic lyme disease, full body PH imbalances resulting from modern diets, morgellons disease, and heavy metal poisoning resulting from vaccines are all imaginary ailments that alt-med companies capitalize on.


I will leave you with an excellent quote from Paul Offit, one of my skeptical heroes. In a single paragraph, he sums it up perfectly.

Although conventional therapies can be disappointing, alternative therapies shouldn’t be given a free pass…. All therapies should be held to the same high standard of proof; otherwise we’ll continue to be hoodwinked by healers who ask us to believe in them rather than in the science that fails to support their claims. And it’ll happen when we’re most vulnerable, most willing to spend whatever it takes for the promise of a cure. 

-Paul Offit, Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine


 1. Wear, Andrew, Roger Kenneth French, and Iain M. Lonie. The Medical Renaissance of the Sixteenth Century. Cambridge University press, 1985. eBook. <http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=tlM9AAAAIAAJ&lpg=PR8&ots=PMBXh-lp6K&dq=medical renaissance&lr&pg=PR8

 2. Akst, Jef. “The Elixir Tragedy, 1937.” Scientist. 06 2013: Web. 26 Nov. 2013. <http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/35714/title/The-Elixir-Tragedy–1937/>.

3. Ballentine, Carol. “Sulfanilamide Disaster.” FDA Consumer magazine. 06 1981: Web. 26 Nov. 2013. <http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/WhatWeDo/History/ProductRegulation/SulfanilamideDisaster/>.

4. United States. Food and Drug Administration. FDA History – Part II. 2012. Web. <http://www.fda.gov/aboutFDA/WhatWeDo/History/origin/ucm054826.htm>.

5. Fintel, Bara, Athena T. Samaras, and Edson Carias. ” The Thalidomide Tragedy: Lessons for Drug Safety and Regulation.” Science in Society. 28 06 2009: Web. 26 Nov. 2013. <http://scienceinsociety.northwestern.edu/content/articles/2009/research-digest/thalidomide/title-tba>.

6. Ophardt, Charles. “Drug Activity.” Chemwiki. <http://chemwiki.ucdavis.edu/Biological_Chemistry/Drug_Activity>.

7. Edlund, Mattthew J. “Is that a food or drug?.” Psychology Today. 05 05 2011: Web. 26 Nov. 2013. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-rest/201105/is-food-or-drug>.

8. Novella, Steven. “Herbs Are Drugs.” Skeptical Inquirer. 37.2. (2013): Web. 26 Nov. 2013. <http://www.csicop.org/si/show/herbs_are_drugs/>.

9. United States. Food and Drug Administration. This Week In FDA History – April 22, 1976. Web. <http://www.fda.gov/food/dietarysupplements/ucm109764.htm>.

10. “The 1993 Snake Oil Protection Act.” New York Times 05 10 1993, Web. 26 Nov. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/1993/10/05/opinion/the-1993-snake-oil-protection-act.html>.

11. Barrett, Stephen. “How the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 Weakened the FDA .” Quackwatch. N.p., 02 02 2007. Web. 26 Nov 2013. <http://www.quackwatch.com/02ConsumerProtection/dshea.html>.

12. United States. Food and Drug Administration. New Dietary Ingredients in Dietary Supplements – Background for Industry. Web. <http://www.fda.gov/food/dietarysupplements/ucm109764.htm>.

13. Offit, Paul. Do You Believe In Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine. Harper, 2013. Print; excerpt from: Groopman, Jerome. “The Quackish Cult of Alternative Medicine – Dr. Paul Offit’s battle against charlatanism .” New Republic. 19 10 2013: Web. 26 Nov. 2013. <http://www.newrepublic.com/article/114899/paul-offits-do-you-believe-magic-reviewed-dangers>.

14. Wikipedia contributors. “Ephedra.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 12th November 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephedra>.

15. Jones TK, , and Lawsom MB. “Profound neonatal congestive heart failure caused by maternal consumption of blue cohosh herbal medication..” PubMed. (1998): Web. 26 Nov. 2013. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9544922>.

16. Hepatoxicity: MacGregor FB, Abernethy VE, Dahabra S, Cobden I, Hayes PC (1989). “Hepatotoxicity of herbal remedies”. British Medical Journal; Insomnia: United States. National Institutes of Health. MedlinePlus. Web. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/870.html>.

17. Clough AR, , Bailie RS, and Bailie RS. n. page. Web. 26 Nov. 2013. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14677792>.

18. Brenner, N, O S Frank, and E Knight. “Chronic Nutmeg Psychosis.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 86.3 (1993): 179-180. Web. 26 Nov. 2013. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1293919/?page=1>.

19. “Wormwood Side Effects and Safety.” WebMD. Web. <http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-729-WORMWOOD.aspx?activeIngredientId=729&activeIngredientName=WORMWOOD>.

20. Melis, MS. “Effects of chronic administration of Stevia rebaudiana on fertility in rats..” Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 67.2 (1999): 157-61.. Web. 26 Nov. 2013. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10619379>.

21. “Green Tea Polyphenols May Cause Liver Damage In High Doses.” Medical News Today. 26 02 2006: Web. 26 Nov. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/38399.php>.

22. “Public statement on the use of herbal medicinal products containing thujone.” European Medicines Agency. Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products , 22 05 2012. Web. 26 Nov 2013. <http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Scientific_guideline/2012/02/WC500123136.pdf>.

23. “GARLIC Side Effects & Safety.” WebMD. N.p.. Web. 26 Nov 2013. <http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-300-GARLIC.aspx?activeIngredientId=300&activeIngredientName=GARLIC>.

24. Saper, RB, SN Kales, J Paquin , MJ Burns, DM Eisenberg, RB Davis , and RS Phillips. “Heavy metal content of ayurvedic herbal medicine products..” Journal of the American Medical Association. (2004): Web. 26 Nov. 2013. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15598918>.

25. Wikipedia contributors. “Vitalism.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 21 November 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitalism>.

26. Wikipedia contributors. “Doctrine of signatures.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 18 November 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctrine_of_signatures>.

Further Reading:


About Josh Weed

Hello, my name is Josh and I live in Victoria, British Columbia. When I was 17, I realized that I was completely full of crap, and I'm still trying to make up for it. I consider an intellectually honest pursuit of the truth to be a noble goal and an ultimate virtue. My hobbies include writing, guitar, and arguing with brick walls.
This entry was posted in Alternative Medicine, Cool Stuff, Health, History, Pseudoscience, Science, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Drugs in disguise?

  1. Bilb says:

    Your name is “Weed.”

    Nuff said.


  2. Karolyn says:

    Sad that so much power is already given to the FDA. Granted, there does need to be some oversight; however, too much power is never good. People need to be responsible for their own health. With the internet, everything can be investigated. Too many rely on the word of the FDA and not their own research. Many pharmaceutical companies have testing labs on their payrolls that will fudge results. Supplements are under attack by the government; and people are rightfully upset. I would ask the writer to research how many people have been killed by pharmaceuticals and how many by herbs and supplements. We are supposed to be free people, and as such, should be able to judge for ourselves what is good for our own bodies. Case in point is the Amish family on the news this morning that went into hiding to keep their daughter from being treated with chemo for her leukemia. She is apparently doing well after limited chemo and alternative treatment, but the powers that be want to continue the chemical onslaught. There are many stories like this, with children doing well on alternate treatments but being taken away from their parents so that allopathic care can be implemented. We do not need so much Big Brother. All we need is knowledge. Education is key. There are too many people taking too many drugs, and now the cholesterol guidelines have changed, giving rise to more profit in Big Pharma’s pockets. These days I feel like the outcast going to the doctor without a bag of pills in possession.

    I am grateful on this Thanksgiving day that I have the brains to treat my body with the respect it is due and not partake of chemical treatment of hepatitis C. After 12 years, I am healthier than I was when diagnosed because I changed my diet and started paying attention and started using herbs and supplements. At 66 years old, I’ve been around long enough to know what is best for me and to be able to advise others.

    There will always be predators and prey. It doesn’t matter if it’s “natural” or “chemical.” To some, the main issue is profit over people. I am not a big conspiracy person; however, I have no doubt that there is much going on behind the scenes that we don’t know. How about the usefulness of cannabis? A company has patented a THC-based medicine for MS (Sativex). With the slowness of the FDA and the government’s fear of cannabis, it will take forever for the US to get around to approving this new treatment. Why do we in the US have to wait years after other countries have found merit in many treatments?

  3. Bilb says:

    Your herbs and supplements are composed entirely from chemicals.

    Everything in the world is composed of chemicals.

    You are, in fact, using chemical treatments to control your symptoms.

    If you had coffee this morning, you drank a big cup of chemicals.

    If you are currently breathing, you are inhaling a massive amount of chemical substances — not chemtrails, but oxygen, nitrogen, helium, hydrogen… all natural chemicals. Everything is chemicals. To elevate your single anecdotal experience above “chemical” treatments is simply willful ignorance.

    I’m happy it’s working for you, though. Keep on seeing your licensed medical professional for real medical advice.

    • Karolyn says:

      I’m not as stupid as you might think. Duh, of course, everything is made up of chemicals.

      I can get just as much information online on my own as I can from my doctor. As a matter of fact, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had doctors who are more aware and applaud and support my methods (other than the gastroenterologist). More and more people are gravitating away from what Dr. God is telling them and seeking their own methods like my friend who had borderline cholesterol; and rather than suffer the side effects of the drug prescribed, used natural spices and herbs and brought her level down.

      • Christian says:

        Random websites, especially of the sort that you read, are not ‘information’, they are just a marketing campaign for quack medicine.

      • Bilb says:

        Yeah, I think you’re as stupid as I think. You conflate your “natural herbs and supplements” as something other than “Big Pharma’s Chemical Poison.” You are as meaningless and pointless as any other Alex Jones / Cindy Crawford dumbnut proclaiming that a mother knows best and the underdog somehow knows more than the elitist idiocracy.

        If you truly used logic and common sense, you would know that since EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD is made of CHEMICALS, the issue is not CHEMICAL CONTENT but rather DOSAGE.

        Everything is poisonous in the correct dosage. Many things are therapeutic and even beneficial in the correct dosage. All the things that you THINK are helping you are composed of the correct CHEMICALS in the CORRECT DOSAGES to alleviate your symptoms. None of them are helping because they are NATURAL or HERBAL in any way. You could create the same biological conditions in your body with your herbs or with synthetic CHEMICALS without any deviance.

        In other words, SHUT THE HELL UP. You are a failure of science, logic, and anecdotal evidence. Nobody believes you. You are a meaningless datoid blip in the extraordinary pantheon of science and data. NOBODY BELIEVES YOU. Stop posting and live your life.

        • Karolyn says:

          Wow! Is that how you get your jollies? Insulting people? Great way to advance your “cause.” The only reason people put down others is to build themselves up. Those of us secure and confident in who we are have no need to behave in such a manner.

          • Christian says:

            Agreed . I tried to comment earlier but it did not work. Karolyn, you mean well, but you are deluded and totally wrong. Bilb, what you said was correct, but you cheapened the message by being an ass about it.

          • Karolyn says:

            I would think that “deluded” is a bit harsh.

          • Christian says:

            It is literally true. You are very sincere and mean well, but your bias skews the burden of proof you require from traditional as opposed to alternative sources. As I said, being rude to you is, well, rude. But, despite your sincerity, you are mistaken. and you are mistaken because of misinformation, hence deluded. You have been conned.

          • Karolyn says:

            In your opinion. I do not believe every fly-by-night, and I have been studying alternate methods for 12 years. I always like to listen to both sides of a story and use my own good judgment. Sometimes, a leap of faith is necessary in discovering new truths. There is corruption in scientific research on both sides of the coin. For example, former employees of pharmaceutical companies doing “unbiased” research. It all depends on who has the most money to spend. Why would a pharmaceutical company be interested in a treatment method that brings in less money? Their main interest is the bottom line.

          • Christian says:

            A leap of faith is the opposite of science. It’s the opposite of how truth is found in the real world. If a treatment heals people, why would it make less money ? If it cured diseases, big pharma could charge what it liked. 12 years of studying nonsense obviously robs you of the ability to consider anything but the thing you’ve invested so much time in, that’s precisely my point.

          • Karolyn says:

            If the cure is so simple it does not cost anything much to produce, the company would not make as much money as it does on its elaborate chemical concoctions. Science does not have all the answers and never will.

          • Christian says:

            And where such cures exist, such as aspirin, medicine found them long ago. I will accept any cure, from any source, that can be verified by double blind testing. Any cure that refuses such a test, already knows it does not work.

            Science will never have all the answers. By definition, as it continues to learn, it has all the answers that we know, today.

  4. DragonLady says:

    CYA: read all the labels with a dictionary at hand. Know for sure what you are putting in your mouth before even unwrapping it. Does anyone remember the news about cabbage and coumadin (blood thinner)? Too much cabbage when you take coumadin and you can bleed to death from a paper cut.

    Don’t trust the adds: add are to get you to buy, not to inform you or to benefit you or to keep you healthy. And don’t get suckered into the: if a little is good, more is better gambit. Does anyone remember the melatonin brownies that can kill children?

    As Karolyn has said: there are predators out there. Don’t be prey.

    It once again comes back to taking charge of your own life, health, and welfare.

    • Karolyn says:

      Amen! One of the main reasons drugs are so expensive is because of all the advertising money spent, and gullible people are easily influenced. I am so tired or drug ads! I used to be a Prevention magazine reader years ago, but since they sold our to Big Pharma, I have not touched it. Every couple of pages is a drug ad. How can a magazine be called “Prevention” and advertise pharmaceuticals?

    • Christian says:


      Of course, the link I am posting might be wrong, and you may be right ( although I doubht it ). The point is, choosing to believe every bizarre claim on the internet is not the same as being well informed.

    • Christian says:


      This is a random link I found on the internet. Is this true ?


      This one says cabbage cures cancer (seriously). Is that then true ?

      You can invent any story you like and probably find a web page that supports it. That’s why you should talk to your doctor instead of thinking you are ‘informed’ because you type stuff in to google and blindly believe any result that doesn’t tell you to take medicine or trust doctors.

      • Karolyn says:

        Why can’t it be true that cabbage has properties that could cure cancer? What about cannabinoids? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0psJhQHk_GI (more specifically, hemp oil). Did you see my post about Sativex, a cannabinoid medication for MS sufferers? It’s OK, as long as a pharmaceutical company sells it and charges huge amounts of money for it? But – If a mere mortal tries to help people with the same thing, he is a criminal?

        • Christian says:

          So, big pharma is looking everywhere to make money on curing cancer, but they didn’t bother to investigate an old wives tale that also happens to be true ? That is unlikely. Also, I am sure the people spreading this stuff are ‘trying to help’. Until there’s a double blind study that proves it, or even a study that shows lower cancer rates in societies that eat a lot of cabbage, I won’t believe it’s true because it sounds nice and I read it on the internet.

      • Karolyn says:

        Oh, and, yes, I do communicate with my Dr. – on a level playing field – not like patient to “god”. My doctors have been informed and enlightened and are happy with my choices (which my current doctor often suggests before I get the chance to tell her I’m already using that particular method). When I was diagnosed with HCV, my doctors were residents and very well educated about treating patients holistically, using alternative methods as well as allopathic.

        • Christian says:

          Your doctors sound like morons. ‘Holistically’ is a buzz word for ‘uses things that don’t work because they feel nice’. Alternative methods are alternative because they don’t work. If they did, they would just be ‘medicine’, Asprin comes from tree bark, the drug companies investigate these things and use them if they work. I don’t regard my doctor as God. Nor do I regard my mechanic as God. I go to my doctor because he knows more about medicine than me, and my mechanic because he knows more than me about cars. I fix my own computers, and I write my own computer programs. I suspect the issue is people who are not good at any one thing, and so can’t live with the idea of dealing with people who happen to be good at something else. I don’t feel inferior because I know more about programming than my doctor and he knows more about medicine. If he didn’t, I wouldn’t bother going to him.

          • Karolyn says:

            I would venture to guess my doctors have had a lot more schooling than you, and they have
            been excellent. My current one has been practicing for 30 years all over the world. You still don’t believe what I said about medical schools teaching more than “medicine” these days? So you will go along with whatever your doctor says without doing your own research? I think not. That’s what I mean about “gods”. Most people treat doctors like they are, and whatever they say goes. My doctor works for me, not vice versa, and she has respect for and trusts my views. After all, I’ve had an excellent track record.

          • Christian says:

            *sigh* I keep promising myself to avoid fighting with you. I get it. Your doctor knows more about medicine than me. I said that already. And yet, you expect to second guess him based on things you found with google, this is my point. You do not have the means to do ‘research’, grabbing internet articles at random is not research because you don’t know enough about medicine to spot what is obviously fake, or even to spot what is a reputable source. Your posts here make clear you accept the stories that fit your worldview and accept personal anecdote as evidence. Your doctor is probably very smart, and well educated, but also knows that to keep making his car payments, he needs to suffer fools like you. Or he’s in the small group of doctors who, because they share your uncritical worldview when it comes to the misused word ‘natural’, also take an interest in medicine that does not work, and choose to believe when they prescribe real medicine AND fakes like homeopathic solutions, that it’s the latter that was effective. None of this proves anything. You’re making a simple logical fallacy, a ‘call to authority’. That a doctor believes in homeopathy does not make it effective, it makes that doctor mistaken ( for example ).

          • Karolyn says:

            Sigh- Do you even know what homeopathy is? I generally have not used that form of treatment, although I might in the future. My doctor works for a nonprofit practice in a lower socio-economic area, so that shoots down that premise. Most of HER patients want as many prescriptions as they can get because they have fallen prey to all the advertising. Ever heard of Dr. Weil? He is a very well-respected and known MD who espouses alternative methods.

            I really resent your belief that anyone who trusts alternative methods is stupid and uneducated. Like you think I just google something and, presto(!) I get my facts. I have been in this game for a long time and have been doing my research for 12 years. I do not go along with any Tom, Dick or Harry who comes along. One of the problems with skeptics is the fact that they do not allow for any wiggle room. Science does not have all the answers and never will. I’m sure DaVinci had his share of skeptics.

            And you know what else? Prayer heals! 🙂

          • Christian says:

            And, of course, the mechanations of capitalism means that so long as there’s people with money demanding doctors who also practice ‘alternative’ medicine, there will be doctors who do that, and schools who teach them how. That does not mean that it works. Did you read the articles several people linked you to on the farce that is ‘traditional chinese medicine’ ? Or do you only read links you agree with, unless you’re looking for an argument ? Don’t worry, that’s what most people do, as I’ve said ,that’s what’s wrong with the internet, it’s a stupidity reinforcement engine.

          • Christian says:

            Well, like I said, some doctors just plain are deluded, despite their training. The point is, being a doctor, does not make them right if they believe something wrong.

            Yes, homopathy is a practise where someone invented a theory that is patently false, whereby ‘like cures like’, which is based in a small way on how vaccinations work, but in this case, it presumes that, for example, walnuts look like brains and can therefore cure brain cancer. It further supposes that the ‘essence’ of a walnut can be concentrated, by diluting the water it was put in. So you get a small amount of walnut, put it in water, then dilute it until there is literally not one molecule of walnut left in the water, and claim the essence of walnut is there, although the essence of everything else that water has passed through is not. Then you drop the (pure, filtered) water on to a tablet and sell it as medicine. It is the epitomy of quackery, a made up story assumed to be true based on no evidence, with no plausable chain of causality, utterly failing every test that it’s been subjected to, and clung to by blind faith.

            I allow for plenty of wiggle room. Science works by finding out that it’s wrong and self correcting. What we think we know, may turn out to be wrong. That’s different to saying ‘what we can prove is wrong, so I’ll believe made up stories that defy any sort of rational belief’ ( which is what homeopathy is, for one ).

  5. tomwelsh3 says:

    The word is “therefore.”

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