For many centuries, the Chinese used snake oil as a treatment for joint pain, arthritis, and bursitis. They brought this folk remedy with them when they began arriving in the mid-1800’s to build the transcontinental railroad.

It was back breaking work to say the least and synthetic pain-killers such as aspirin were not yet readily available. And like many natural treatments, when the Chinese offered their Snake Oil remedy to Westerners, it was perceived to be a “primitive” form of “quackery” by medical experts of that time. This resulted of course in many people needlessly suffering at the suggestions of “medical experts”. The term “snake oil” would then become associated with many forms of natural treatments and adopted a negative connotation.

Harvey Lillard, First Chiropractic Patient

Harvey Lillard, First Chiropractic Patient

It’s also worth noting that Chiropractic care was perceived as “quackery” and Chiropractors were often looked at as Snake Oil Salesman. This last Friday marked 120 years of Chiropractic care. And in a timely Gallup poll just released this month, Americans perceptions about Chiropractic shows the United States is accepting Chiropractic Care as a major healthcare delivery system. The first chiropractic adjustment was delivered on September 18, 1895 to Harvey Lillard for deafness in one ear. Yep, for deafness!!! What most people don’t know is that chiropractic was discovered because someone’s hearing was restored; it had nothing to do with neck pain or back pain.

What’s ironic, is that the modern pharmaceutical “snake oil” i.e. petrochemically derived and patented synthetic chemicals aka Prescription drugs, have been demonstrated to have considerably less value than placebo, and in certain cases they’re considerably worse for your health than actual snake oil.

To prove this point, I’ve listed four remarkable studies, as cited on the National Library of Medicine's bibliographic database known as Medline, referring to the potential therapeutic properties of sea snake and boa constrictor lipids — snake oil (Hahaha!) for inflammation and infection:

  1. Boa constrictor oil has potent anti-inflammatory and significant antimicrobial activity against S. aureus and S. pyrogenes. Pubmed Data : 1: Acta Pol Pharm. 2008 Jul-Aug;65(4):477-80. Article Published Date : Jul 01, 2008
  2. Erabu sea snake oil has a beneficial effect on plasma glucose in diabetic mice. Pubmed Data : 1: Ann Nutr Metab. 2006;50(5):425-32. Epub 2006 Jul 17. Article Published Date : Jan 01, 2006
  3. Erabu sea snake oil improves the swimming endurance of aged mice by attenuating lactate production and enhancing lactate clearance. Pubmed Data : 1: J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2007 Dec;53(6):476-81. Article Published Date : Dec 01, 2007
  4. The fat from the boa constrictor has an inhibitor effect on keloid and normal dermal fibroblasts, which may contribute to the inhibition of scarring. Pubmed Data : 1: Br J Plast Surg. 1990 Mar;43(2):183-6. Article Published Date : Mar 01, 1990

Of course I’m not advocating the consumption of snake oil when other powerful, natural, and far more accessible anti-inflammatory fats are available such as Omega 3 fats, Coconut Oil and flax seed. I’m also not saying that all prescription drugs are bad and should never be used.

My point is that we all too often throw “snake-oil” “quackery” and just plain ignorance towards those advocating natural approaches to healing by those who would claim synthetic chemicals (prescription drugs) are the only “real” or evidence-based alternatives, the “insult” itself reveals a subconscious acknowledgement that practically all things produced by Nature have medicinal value.

For 120 years, Chiropractors have been helping people achieve health without drugs or surgery. And while I thank God every day for the ER doctors who save lives; I am in awe at how many people choose to get medicated for their problems rather than actually fix them. Still, people say they “don’t believe” in chiropractors. I chuckle inside every time I hear this because it’s like saying you don’t believe in gravity. You’ll fall nonetheless.

So which one is actually the “snake-oil” or true “quackery”?

Synthetic chemicals created by a vast petrochemical-medical-industrial complex, and re-purposed and re-packaged with billions more spent on marketing to the consumer (YOU)? Or, natural substances and organisms traditionally used as food-medicines, sometimes for thousands of years before the advent of modern, drug-driven medicine?

Just for the record, I won't be consuming Boa constrictor fat anytime soon, but given the choice between a chemical, with no biological or evolutionary precedent in my body, and a sip of actual snake oil, I will gladly choose the latter because nature historically knows better than man.