Home Nature and technologyMedicineSnake Oil: When Made-in-China Remedy goes West
Snake Oil: When Made-in-China Remedy goes West

Snake Oil: When Made-in-China Remedy goes West

Whenever hearing the term “snake oil”, we think about the fake medicine. And if you are old enough, you are likely to watch the cowboy movies when a man calling himself a doctor traveling into the town on wagon. This doctor would quack about his medicine promising to cure any illness.

The man kept quacking and the people living in the town gathering around him. And as the plot, a man who was paid in advance would step forward and yelled at the top of his lung that he had used this magic medicine and he no longer felt any pain. And he would recommend people to buy the medicine for the sake of the health.

And in the movies, the salesman was a quack or simply a “snake-oil salesman” – a false doctor. And by the time the customers felt no relief from the pain, they realized it was a hoax. And the salesman got away with their money.

Snake oil presented by the doctors to fool the cowboys
Quack! Quack! Quack! Quacking doctor boasting about his medicine

This renders us to believe that buying oil snake is pointless or even illegal. If you do so, you are mistaken. You can buy oil snake originally made from snake which turns out to worth your money. Because scientists prove it helpful in curing joint pain.

But before ponying up your hard-earned money to get some oil, it’s important to distinguish the difference.

The original made-in-China snake oil

The oil from snake has been a real medicine for hundreds of years.

The original recipe to make snake oil came from China. The Chinese used their water snake to make the snake oil as their traditional treatment for joint pains. Generally, the historians agreed that the Chinese medicine reached America in the time of Gold Rush (mid 1800s).

Historians agreed that this magical Snake Oil reached America circa 1800s when the Chinese immigrated to America
Historians agreed that this magical medicine reached America circa 1800s when the Chinese immigrated to America

The scientists studied the oil full of fat from water snake in 1980s. It was the time when microscope enabled them to observe the microbial efficiency of the treatment. The result turned out that, the oil was full of omga-3 fatty acids. And common knowledge in this day and age is that the omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the inflammation which leads to joint pain. It also prevents blood pressure, heart problem, and improve sleep.

Other studies with Japanese snake show the similar result. The Japanese Erabu sea snakes. The Erabu sea snakes are similar to the Chinese water snakes as they have a great source of omega-3 in their fat. In 2007, Japanese researchers reported that the mice consuming real snake oil from Erabu snake performed better than those consuming lards only.

But why Snake Oil is now “useless or ineffective”

Oxford Dictionary explains “snake oil” as:

The definition of "snake oil" according to Oxford Dictionary
The definition of “snake oil” according to Oxford Dictionary

The term “snake-oil salesman” evokes the image of a cunning man exploiting the innocent cowboys by selling false medicine. Some people use “snake-oil” as “a hoax”. For example, in 2008, the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund denounced Bush’s plan to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as “100% snake oil”.

The problem lies in the percentage of the omega-3 fat in this medicine. While the original Chinese oil had a high percentage of the real snake fat. This is scientifically proven.

However, the quacking doctors could have lowered the percentage of fat in the recipe to the extent that it no longer had the pain-relieving effect.

Other possibility was that they expanded the definition of “snake oil” as their will. Specifically, they changed the water snake to the rattlesnake or other American snakes. So they would make up a new medicine instead of following the original one. And of course, it didn’t work.

The last possibility was that there was no fat from water snake. The quacking doctors could have used no snake-related extract to make this Chinese medicine.

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