Saturday, December 21, 2019

Damn Near Magic

Last week, I wrote about the ludicrous medical theory that suggested that disease was caused by an imbalance of humors, a fallacious theory that persisted for millennia for the simple reason that it was easy concept for people to grasp.   It was only after a couple of dozen centuries of bleeding people to death that physicians decided that, perhaps—just perhaps—it was healthier to stop bleeding rather than to encourage it.

Several recent television commercials now has me convinced that popular understanding of medical science has slid backwards.  While medicine has made great strides forward—popular understanding of these breakthroughs probably hasn’t changed much in centuries.

How does anyone seriously believe that copper bracelets will cure arthritis?  But, while watching the commercials accompanying the evening news, I discovered that I can get copper infused gloves, underwear, and socks.  While I’m not exactly sure what “copper infused” means, I suspect that the only possible medical benefit might be free electroshock treatments if you wear this crap during a thunderstorm.

If you type “copper cures” into Google, almost instantly the search engine will suggest links to cure cancer, arthritis, heart disease, gray hair, vitiligo, and the common cold.  Since copper miners must live forever, someone in Mexico should turn one of the old copper mines into a fancy health resort to cure cancer.  Patients could cough up—so to speak—huge sums for the privilege of laboring in mine shafts until they are well.

Copper is an essential trace element, but the operative word is “trace”.  It is almost impossible not to get the essential amount of copper needed for health, as simply drinking a single cup of water out of a copper cup will meet your needs for a month.  It is hard to imagine how anyone who uses modern plumbing doesn’t meet the minimal copper requirements for health, but if you want to cure your arthritis with shiny bracelets, you should go for it.  The rest of society will be able to identify the morons among us.

Have you seen the idiotic ad that promises to prevent and cure baldness with a baseball cap that has “laser lights” inside the cap?  There are several companies selling this crap and one even offers what looks like half a football helmet with “282 medical grade lasers and L.E.D. lights” for the low, low price of only $1,200.  The happy couple sits side-by-side watching television while he cures his baldness with a dufus helmet that uses “light technology”.

What exactly is a “medical grade laser light”?

If you search on Amazon for “medical magnets”, you’ll find that you should be wearing them on just about every single square inch of your body, including a couple of pounds of them in your shoes.  This will cure—I’m serious about this—everything from scoliosis to halitosis.  Naturally, most of the advertisers are offering “medical grade” magnets. 

I propose a scientific test.  Place three subjects, one wearing copper underwear, one outfitted with about twenty pounds of assorted medical magnets, and the last test subject wearing his light show moron helmet in a vacant field during a thunder storm while we wait to see which idiot is fried first.  Admittedly, this test won’t advance our knowledge of medical science, but it will almost certainly be funny as hell.

I spent a half hour searching for bullshit medical treatments and some are really funny.  What the hell is “medical grade Manuka honey” and why does all of it come from Australia?  Who wants a boric acid suppository?  I thought boric acid was used to kill cockroaches.  Do you shove them up a cockroach or do you use them on yourself if you have caught a bug?

Arthur C. Clarke famously said that, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  Obviously, medical science today is far too advanced for the common man (or woman).  I’ve seen this first hand.  My mother was a wise woman from West Texas who grew up on a poor farm during the Great Depression, thus depriving her of any chance of a real education. 

As a child, I complained to her that my life was not nearly as exciting as the books I was reading. I asked her, “Where are the mysteries and adventures?”  My mother patiently explained to me that there were more adventures in our backyard than I could handle, if I would only look for them.  This was intelligent advice I have never forgotten.

Though obviously wise, when it came to medicine, my mother was an incredible medical quack.  Relax, the word comes from the Dutch:  a kwakzalver is one who cures with home remedies—a perfect description of my mother, who had only a vague idea of how the human body worked.  Her home remedies bordered on—and sometimes galloped into—the bizarre.

For reasons that only my mother understood, she believed that a great antiseptic for minor cuts and scrapes was a household cleaner (one that surprisingly is still available in a somewhat diluted form) that consisted mainly of a little soap and a lot of sulphuric acid.  As a household cleaner it was fantastic, especially on dried calcium or rust stains.  As a medical ointment…well, it is difficult to describe.  Have you heard of those mathematical savants who see certain numbers in colors?  Well, sulphuric acid on a scraped knee will have you seeing pain in waves of new colors, though it will be hard to focus on them for all the screaming.

My mother was convinced that it was effective, because on contact with flesh, it foamed and bubbled kind of like hydrogen peroxide.  This was because it was dissolving my skin. 

The other half of my mother’s go-to emergency medical cabinet was a large bottle of paregoric, an over-the-counter opioid that tasted like flaming battery acid.  It certainly worked miracles, as shortly after taking it, you no longer cared if you were sick.  Why someone thought that allowing parents to buy a powerful narcotic for unsupervised use is a mystery.  I hope today you would need both a prescription and a court order to obtain a bottle of the vile nostrum. 

Still, my mother’s version of medical care was educational, since it taught me that if I somehow managed to sever a leg, I should pick it up and hop off to safety.   I had to be powerful sick before I would admit a single symptom to my mother.  If only she had known about medical grade magnets…

I suppose it is too much to ask that, if someone offers us a miracle cure, we would first check it out with our physician—obviously we are already too busy asking whether all the medications advertised on television are “right for you…”  There is a simple rule that we can all adopt to verify the accuracy of advertisements, news stories, and preposterous magazine articles—It is a quick one-step solution for separating the wheat from the chaff:

Extraordinary claims need extraordinary proof.

And endorsements by paid actors don’t qualify.  Be skeptical of everyone and everything—especially this blog.

1 comment:

  1. I test various products sold on Amazon. I'm brutally honest so if they get a good review from me they count their blessings. I was invited to try a copper bracelet with magnets embedded in the bracelet so it had both copper and magnets going for it. I am a huge skeptic. I constantly warn my wife not to watch those "this one fruit will kill you" videos with the picture of the banana as a hook.

    So I figured I'd have a good time trying out the free bracelet and making fun of them on my Amazon review. I had carpal tunnel syndrome going for me big time. My hands would go numb while I was sleeping. There was a deep ache in my hands and wrist which for a writer is not good at all. So expecting failure I agreed to try them out.

    To my utter astonishment my carpal tunnel pain went away after 3 days. I don't know if it was the magnets, the copper or the pressure of the copper band on my wrists, but despite the fact that I was certain it was all baloney and my determination to prove it was all baloney, the carpal tunnel pain has all but gone (unless I lose my bracelet for a few days which has happened). The damned thing may be voodoo, horse crap or snake oil flummery, but I can write without pain and my hands don't cease to function after a good night's sleep.

    I've tried other things since then - supplements and medically prescribed knee braces (Only very marginally successful at reducing knee pain - about the weight loss benefit I got from garcinia cambogia which was this side of diddly squat). Nothing worked, probably because in experimenting with this stuff my ADHD kept me from focusing on the health benefits I was supposed to get from these witch doctor prescriptions. Most of it doesn't work so far as I can tell.

    Only one other treatment that helped was one I got from a little Jewish guy we had staying with us in an senior day rehabilitation program. He observed me limping around in the early stages of knee deterioration and pulled me aside. Aloe Vera juice he whispered conspiratorially. Half a cup in OJ every day. You'll be able to tell in 3 days. I tried it because Leo was such a tight-fisted guy, he would never use something he didn't come out ahead on.

    To my utter surprise, after 3 days I could sleep through the night without being wakened by knee pain. My limp went away. If I stop doing the Aloe Vera juice the pain comes back. I've tried stopping many times because the stuff was like 6-8 dollars a gallon, it works for some reason.

    Generally I agree with you on 99% of the snake oil crap it see out there on the web. I'm still waiting for the research to come in on some things but I don't mind participating as an occasional highly skeptical researcher. So far it's the copper-magnet bracelet for carpal tunnel and Aloe Vera for joint pain (chondroiton proved useless). I'll let you know if anything else works for me.