snake oil


useless medicine

STATISTICS

IN THE PRESS

“Unsubstantiated health claims for COVID-19 infections are led by cannabidiol: return of SNAKE OIL medicine”

Allan Tran et al. (2021) - National Library of Medicine

Did you
know?

snake oil
noun (informal), mainly North American

- a substance with no real medicinal value sold as a remedy for all diseases

Lexico


ORIGIN

By 1858, snake oil as a product was available as a folk remedy for rheumatism and gout* in Georgia and as a cure for deafness in Pennsylvania.

*gout = die Gicht

Professional pharmacy journals began to condemn snake oil products in the early 20th century, not because they were ineffective, but because such products had no real snake oil in them.

THE RATTLE-SNAKE KING

Clark Stanley, the self-styled “Rattlesnake King”, started marketing snake oil in 1879 after supposedly learning the “secrets of snake oil” from a Hopi medicine man. With the help of a Boston druggist he began marketing his product at Western medicine shows. In 1893 he and his rattlesnakes gained attention at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. Later he went on to establish production facilities in Beverly, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island.

Following the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, Stanley’s concoction was examined and found to be of no value. It was found to contain mineral oil, beef fat, red pepper, and turpentine. Stanley was fined only $20 for the violation of the Pure Food and Drug Act due to the misbranding of his product, he then quickly slipped away from the annals of history a wealthy man.

Snake oil has been used since to mean any “miracle product" that miraculously only fills a seller’s pockets with money.


ORIGINAL SNAKE OIL RECIPE

Make your own snake oil medicine with this original recipe by Juan de Loeches in "Tyrocinium Pharmaceticum", printed in Spain 1719-1751:

“The viper oil of Mesues: Take 2 pounds of live snakes and 2 pounds 3 ounces of sesame oil. Cook slowly, covered in a glazed pot, until meat pulls away from bone. Strain and store. USES: Cleans the skin, removes pimples, impetigo and other defects.”


SYNONYMS (a fraudulent scheme or ruse)

fraud, swindle, con, scam, flimflam, hustle, sham, fiddle, racket, shakedown, chicanery, swizzle, bamboozlement, hoodwinking, monkey business, monkeyshine, SNAKE OIL, rip-off, con trick, double-dealing, shell game, funny business, dirty deeds, fast shuffle, smoke and mirrors, fast one, snow job, dirty pool, kidology, whitewash, shenanigan, baloney, masquerade, crooked deal, hogwash, pork pie, malarkey, skullduggery


SMUGGLE OWAD into a conversation today, say something like:

“SNAKE OIL remedies are very common in developing countries where they may well serve a useful placebo purpose.”


THANKS to Raimund for suggesting today’s OWAD.


HERZLICHEN DANK to all readers helping me keep OWAD alive with single or monthly donations at:

https://donorbox.org/please-become-a-friend-of-owad-3

Paul Smith

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