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Episode Info: Welcome to **Interesting If True**, the podcast that slithers right into your ear holes and fills them with the wonders of yee-oldie medical stuff. I’m your host this week, Aaron, and with me are: I’m Shea, and this week I learned that when you wear a mask with a big beard you look like an underwear ad from the 70’2 I’m Steve, and I’ve learned that the only place where I’m considered “essential” is at work, during a pandemic, so I can fix people’s computers, so they can keep shopping on Amazon… etc, etc, etc. ### There Be Oil In Them Thar Snakes! Today’s show will slither in under the bar I’m sure… because it’s snake oil! I’m a funny. Snake Oil really has two histories. One of moderate efficacy in a better-than-nothing sense. And another of screwing people out of money, health, and often life with fake cure-alls. The history of snake oil is a miss-mash of nonsense that’s impossible to put into a straight line, but in general, it goes something like this: 1. Boil stuff, maybe a snake, 2. … 3. Profit. So, let’s begin with, you guessed it, yee-oldie terrible doctors. The records are, of course, a bit of a mess and my research was not helped by my inability to read Chinese. Snake Oil seems to have two origins. One with folks like Pliny The Elder, and another in Traditional Chinese Medicine. I should differentiate Traditional Chinese Medicine from TCM as it’s now known. Today’s TCM was created largely during the Great Leap Forward when people were dying by the millions and there was no real help for them so the Chinese government basically just made some nonsense up to placate the suffering. On the other hand are curatives that were used, traditionally, by the Chinese for hundreds of years. Much like yee-oldie western medicine most of this was rubbing dirt on you then hoping your dick doesn’t fall off. Before we dive into oils and how to apply them, what was Pliny’s cure for blindness? That’s right, pickled snake skins! And for extra bad cases of not being able to see reduce the remainder of the snake to ash, mix that with the skin oil then rub that in your eyes daily until well visoned. So, snake oil. Despite its common meaning today O.G. snake oil was actually better than nothing. Made from the oils released when boil-rendering a Chinese Water Snake, snake oil was rich in omega-3 acids that can reduce inflammation. 1 A Californian psychiatrist with a background in neurophysiology, Richard Kunin, analyzed snake oil from San Francisco’s Chinatown, and the oil of two rattlesnakes he bought. His findings were published in the 1989 Western Journal of Medicine, this write up being from a Scientific American 2 article. He found that Chinese water-snake oil contains 20 percent eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), one of the two types of omega-3 fatty acids most readily used by our bodies. “Snakes and fish share one thing, they’re both cold-blooded animals,” Kunin says of Omega-3 fatty acids found in snakes and s...
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