The majority of alternative health articles you find on the internet are written by enthusiast, or paid writers, with little to no actual experience using alternative medicine. A lack of clinical experience and understanding of how to read medical journal articles, combined with a little financial incentive from advertising (which profits from sensational claims) and we are left with the sad reality that 99% of the articles on natural medicine passed around on social media are mostly, or entirely wrong.
There are so many crappy articles on the intrawebs making ridiculous claims about supplements and herbs it’s hard to know where to start with the debunking, but, if it’s not challenged, it’s perceived to be true. If you see any outrageous articles that need to be debunked feel free to email me a link – bullshit at eclecticschoolofherbalmedicine.com
Bias disclosure: I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I have seen things that defy logic numerous times. I don’t believe that science has it all figured out. My biggest pet peeve is using pseudoscience and “sciency” language to promote herbs and supplements, where the science hasn’t actually confirmed the stated conclusions or products. If you want to write about how colloidal silver cured your infection, I’d love to read about your experience. I’d be really happy if in sharing that experience you included the diagnostic test or differentials used to determine your diagnosis, other treatments you tried before colloidal silver, concurrent therapies you used with colloidal silver…in short, I’d love to see a semi-formal relatively objective case history of your experience. What I have a problem with is saying “science shows colloidal silver cures ebola”, because — it doesn’t.
I cover many of my concerns with sensationalist pseudo-scientific BS in The War in the Natural Health World. That might be a good primer for you use when evaluating health claims.
Without further ado — Let the naming of BS begin
MMS – Miracle Mineral Supplement
MMS is a solution of 28% sodium chlorite that degrades into chlorine dioxide when administered as directed by Jim Humble, MMS’s foremost proponent. The effects of chlorine dioxide are identical to ingesting bleach, which include nausea, vomiting, even death. Yep, people have actually died from this stuff. Humble went so far as to fake a video of MMS curing malaria in Africa, so he could sell more “training” lessons. I guess technically if you poured clorox into a petri dish of Plasmodium, it would kill them. What works in a petri dish often doesn’t translate to humans. You could pour gasoline into the same petri dish and it would kill the buggers also.
Synopsis: Don’t drink Clorox, MMS, or gasoline.
For a more technical debunking check out the following:
Grapefruit Seed Extract
Another myth I see frequently is the idea that grapefruit seed extract is a “natural” antimicrobial agent. It’s not the grapefruit seed that has antimicrobial properties, but a chemical they use to extract it called benzethonium chloride, which has the antimicrobial action. GSE not processed with benzethonium chloride isn’t anti-microbial. So, this isn’t a natural product at all. Here are a couple of well-written pieces on this issue
This isn’t new news
The American Botanical council summed the research up in a 2012 paper:
“A significant amount, and possibly a majority, of ingredients, dietary supplements and/or cosmetics labeled as or containing grapefruit seed extract (GFSE) is adulterated, and any observed antimicrobial activity is due to synthetic additives, not the grapefruit seed extract itself. Tests conducted in multiple laboratories over almost 20 years indicated that all commercial GFSE preparations that exhibited antimicrobial activity contained one or more synthetic microbicides/disinfectants, while freshly-prepared extracts of grapefruit seeds made with a variety of extraction solvents neither exhibited antimicrobial activity nor contained the antimicrobial synthetic compounds found in the commercial ingredient materials. Furthermore, over the course of the 18 years covered by the various analyses, the actual antimicrobial compounds found in the putative grapefruit seed extracts changed from triclosan and methyl p-hydroxybenzoate in early samples to benzethonium chloride in the middle years to mixtures of benzalkonium and/or alkonium chlorides in more recent years. The suggestion on a commercial website that these antimicrobial compounds are formed from the phenolic compounds naturally occurring in grapefruit seed and pulp by heating them with water, ammonium chloride, and hydrochloric acid is not supported by chemical evidence, or any known organic chemistry pathway. None of these compounds could be formed from flavonoids like naringenin, the most abundant flavonoid in grapefruit seeds, pulp, and peel, or other grapefruit seed constituents (e.g., limonoids) and ammonium chloride; the alkyl chains and substituent arrays found in the antimicrobial adulterants are not naturally present in grapefruit seed and cannot be prepared from those materials. The fact that the antimicrobial components found in GFSE changed from 1991 to 2008 not only argues against such in situ synthesis (i.e., occurring naturally or synthesized in the processing of grapefruit seed material itself), but is suggestive of efforts by manufacturers of these commercial materials to stay one step ahead of analytical methods to detect adulteration.”
3 Mineral Waters That Remove Aluminum from the Brain
Next up, an article about miracle water that removes aluminium from the brain from RealFarmacy (a website generally full of questionable information)
There are three premises of the article.
1. aluminum is evil
2. drinking bottled mineral water can remove aluminum from the brain
3. doing so can reverse Autism and Alzheimer disease
In short, this article is a mixture of unverified, unreferenced claims, and appeals to emotion.
Lets look at the claims:
1. Aluminum is evil. When consumed in excess, I agree. We probably get more aluminum in our lives than ever before. There have been correlative links to elevated aluminum, but not causation, proved for several diseases. I’m not a fan of aluminum cookware or antiperspirants. We should try to minimize exposure to aluminum. They quote professor Chris Exley extensively in their article. He is one of the head researchers on aluminum toxicity, well published, with lots of credentials.
2. Drinking bottled mineral water can remove aluminum from the brain. Dr. Exley supports drinking mineral waters high in silica to remove aluminum. He ran a test on 16 people with Alzheimer’s, using a water containing 35mg of silica, and found urinary excretion of aluminum was higher with the mineral water. The full article can be found here.
Problems with the study. The water company he used gave him £20,000, a clear conflict of interest. No analysis of the aluminum content of the water can be found. It’s not been reproduced. It’s a small study. The water contained 35mg/L of silica, and 1 liter a day was given. Oats contain 595mg of silica per 100g. Why didn’t they test oats, or any of the other foods high in silica?
I don’t know that I’m ready to call the benefits of a high silica intake BS yet. But, replication of the research, and demonstrating a correlation with a reduction in Alzheimer’s symptoms has yet to be done. Until then, advocating people drink bottled water for Alzheimer’s is premature, illogical (based on their theorized mechanism of action) and an ecological disaster.
I’ll try to update this post regularly. Stay tuned for more debunkings.
If you can’t wait I suggest checking out Todd Caldecott’s excellent two part series: