Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Your pal and mine, Herb.

In addition to writing wonderful novels that will make you forget all those other, lesser novelists, I have spent a good deal of my career working on copy for health publications. These days an awful lot of that awful stuff is spent on alternative medicine. I'm sorry to say that I am sick and tired of alternative medicine.

I hate to put it that way because alternative medicine is a very broad field and there is some fine work being done in it. There are also raving lunatics at play in it. I'd say you know who you are, but you don't, not really. People who have completely lost it really don't know that they're crazy.

Herbal medication is one of my bugaboos. Now, you can jump on me right away, and thanks! No, I mean, you can get on my case about the known medicinal qualities of herbs, how herbs and other food items are the basis of many over-the-counter and prescription medications that we use today, and how I'm a big fat jerk and I don't know anything. And I won't deny any of that.

But here are the problems:

1. I know that a lot of great medications started off as herbal medications. But the clever scientists at the labs took the good stuff, learned how it worked, and isolated it, tested it, measured it, codified it, and left out the rest. Why chew a hunk of willow when you can take two aspirin? You want splinters in your mouth along with your headache?

2. There's a boneheaded idea that natural = safe. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bacteria, viruses, belladonna, arsenic, UVA rays, tsunamis, brown recluse spiders, blizzards, large comets, and lightning are all natural as all get-out. They all can do a pretty darn good job of making you personally extinct.

3. I am sick to vomiting over hearing about traditional medication, especially Chinese medicine, as if it magically gets a pass because no one you know speaks the language. You know what traditional medicine includes? Sawing off rhinoceros horns and sucking out the bile of caged moon bears. And it's all natural, too!

4. The FDA will not allow a drug company to make any claims for what its medication does without massive amounts of disclaimers and warnings, but if you sell an herbal remedy and make the most outrageous claims you can get away with it forever -- or at least until the sclerotic agency turns away from honest drug companies and looks at you with your arginine pills that promise to boost strength, grow hair, add wick to your candlestick, and basically do everything plus the windows. In other words, if your drug actually does something and has proven to do it without deadly effects in one huge and expensive trial after another, you may have the privilege of selling it if you warn everybody about everything (including every single symptom reported by every single hypochondriac in every single expensive trial: "May turn knees blue"), BUT if you throw some dried plants in a bottle and claim it will fight cancer, end diabetes, shrink your prostate, and end the pain of PMS, you can get away with it if you include a little disclaimer that the FDA has not verified your preposterous claims.

These make you French!
And people buy it because it's all natural so it couldn't hurt, and nothing else has put hope in your rope, so why not?

I swear I'm in the wrong business. I should start picking weeds and selling them as medication. My lawn alone could provide a fortune in Digitaria --- proven in clinical studies (that I will pay some schmuck to mock up) to burn fat, cure COPD, focus attention-deficit kids, and treat housemaid's knee. It's the AMAZING SECRET that the BIG DRUG COMPANIES DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT. Only $39.99 a 2-oz. bottle. Be careful it doesn't make you too healthy. BUY PANASEEYA TODAY!

UPDATE: Worse than I thought: “Three out of six herbal products at Target — ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort and valerian root, a sleep aid — tested negative for the herbs on their labels." So the nonworking herbs aren't even in the herbal supplements. 

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