I’m Calling Fake News on ‘Natural’ Remedies: More Than Just a Stupid Con

“You don’t need to take those, you know,” my doctor friend says disapprovingly over his glasses as I take a vitamin C tablet. “It’s all bullshit.”

I roll my eyes. “It’s vitamin C, not homeopathy.”

“Unless you are an 18th century sailor, the chances of that stuff actually doing you any good are slim. Your body gets rid of any you don’t use anyway.”

I trust his opinion as he’s been practising medicine longer than I’ve been alive.

Of course, there’s nothing too harmful in taking the odd tablet (I’d need to drastically overdose to cause a problem) the level of ‘fake medicine’ is a little disturbing.

I should point out I have absolutely no problem with you choosing to use lavender oil to go to sleep. I similarly have very little issue with you believing that ginger will cure your cold (it won’t). What I have a problem with is people profiting off scams where they market ‘natural’ medicine that causes real harm.

They play on people’s ignorance or superstitions to manipulate them into handing over money and avoiding medicine that actually works. We all have a small level of superstition about health: even top doctors. The problem is when that is engulfed by ignorance.

Poor, elderly people with a low level of education are prone to manipulation by scams. They often face health problems that frighten them or come from a tradition where doctors were scary. Pleasant sounding, slick marketing about ‘natural herbs’ and ‘home remedies’ is more attractive than daptomycin prescribed by the GP.

Of course, if you have a serious bacterial infection then it doesn’t matter how much rose oil you use, it’s not going to clear up. This aversion to chemical sounding words is dangerous.

This is incredibly frightening when combined with life threatening health problems. I read about unfortunate TB victims who tried to cure their illness with fruits and herbs regularly. These people were nothing short of murdered.

TB is a chronic infectious disease caused by bacteria.

Eating copper tablets, grapefruits or homeopathic fluid was never going to work. The idiots who sell this stuff know that. Placebo is not a cure and it must not be seen as such in serious conditions.

These individuals are victims of desperation and scams as much as of their illness.

Shout about ‘big pharma’ all you want: the real enemies are ignorance, superstition and scams.


Anthropologist, Liberally Jewish, Cat enthusiast, Nuance extremist.

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