Published on December 14th, 2014 | by Rayne4
My visit to a woo store, a story about the absence of science
My local shopping centre (shopping mall for my American readers) has recently completed a multi-million dollar upgrade. It has opened 100+ new stores (including a my favourite bookstore and new favourite sushi train) which unfortunately includes what I like to refer to as a “woo store”. A woo store is one of those stores people may refer to as a “health food” store, they typically sell protein powder and supplements. They’ll have vegan friendly ice cream and books on “healthy living”. For those of you who have never been into a woo store before, the stores are big proponents of pseudoscience and quackery and sell (for large amounts of money) items that are glorified placebos or just plain bullshit.
“One of nature’s Super Foods, Healthy Essentials Chlorophyll is packed with vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It promotes optimal balance and overall vitality through cleansing, detoxifying and nourishing the body, whilst also restoring our natural alkaline state so commonly disrupted by processed foods.
Chlorophyll is the bio-molecule that gives plants their green colour and is responsible for Photosynthesis, a process that allows plants to convert sunlight into energy and therefore vital in sustaining all plant life. Vegetarian & Vegan Friendly Formula.”
I cannot even begin to mention how incorrect this is. People are actually buying this stuff, although it does serve as a good indicator of people who have failed basic high school biology. Let’s rehash what I’ve already said about the topic.
The statement calls Chlorophyll a “bio-molecule”, a biomolecule is a molecule that is present in living organism. It’s a molecule that’s all they needed to say. Chlorophyll is the molecule that absorbs sunlight and uses the its energy to synthesise carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water using the process of photosynthesis. Basically chlorophyll converts light energy into chemical energy to help in creating the plant version of food.
This process produces oxygen as a waste product. Chlorophyll is found in the chloroplasts of green plants. The basic structure of the chlorophyll molecule is quite similar to the heme group found in hemoglobin (the oxygen transport system found in red blood cells), the difference being the central atom of heme is iron and the central atom of chlorophyll is magnesium, however the functions of chlorophyll and red blood cells are completely different. Chlorophyll converts light energy into chemical energy – red blood cells transport oxygen around the body. Two entirely different functions.
Also what does Chlorophyll being “vital in sustaining all plant life” have to do with humans? We’re mammals not bloody plants.
The company is also claiming that chlorophyll can cleanse and purify the blood – claims that chlorophyll can kill bacteria (among other things) are based on research performed well before antibiotics were readily available. While there is evidence that Chlorophyll can kill certain types of bacteria in very large concentrations, it promotes the growth of others. That point aside, the early studies would not have met the rigorous standards demanded of medical research in the modern age. It’s hardly a cure-all for bacteria considering you would need to know what particular type of bacteria you had vs the types of bacteria chlorophyll can kill.
Chlorophyll also cannot oxygenate the blood. Chlorophyll is not absorbed into the bloodstream, nor can it bind or transport oxygen. As mentioned before oxygen is the waste product created from the process of photosynthesis. The process of photosynthesis needs sunlight to work – there is no sunlight in your body. If there was, please see a doctor or an exorcist. Eating plants to create oxygen to oxygenate your blood simply cannot happen. Also having too much oxygen in your system can be potentially fatal.
The company also states that chlorophyll can alkalise the human body. I’ve also spoken about this before. Foods cannot alkalise the body for several reasons:
1. The body has different pH levels for different organ systems (including your mouth, urine and blood), therefore testing only one systems pH would not give you an indication of your bodies pH – simply because the body does not have one pH level.
2. The pH level of those different systems are tightly regulated by the body because
3. If you go somehow went outside those tight restrictions, you would die.
Key Health Benefits:
Eliminates toxins, Eliminates heavy metals, Purifies the blood, Promotes healthy circulatory function, Promotes healthy digestive function, Promotes healthy immune function, Cleanse, Detoxify, Alkalise.
This high potency formula means you need to take less but get more: Each 5mL dose contains 100 mg of Chlorophyll
Free From: (this is just clever marketing for chemphobes)
Gluten, Lactose, Artificial Colours, Artificial Flavours, Aftificial Sweeteners, Yeast, Starch, Dairy, Corn, Egg, Nuts, Soy, Salt.
Chlorophyll has been naturally flavoured with Spearmint (How do you naturally flavour something?)
5 – 15mL (1-3 teaspoons) every morning, preferably before food
Can be taken straight or diluted in water
Available Packsizes & RRP: (From the website)
500mL bottle – $22.95
Bach’s Rescue Remedies! I fucking love these things. For those of you who don’t know, Bach’s Rescue Remedies are not quite homeopathic remedies (but are very similar) that are created from the result of boiled flowers. They are not really designed to treat illnesses or diseases but designed to treat emotions. It’s not quite homeopathy because there’s no smacking the remedy against a hard surface (succession) and the remedy may actually contain molecules from the flower. I’ve always suspected the company is “rescuing” their buyers money from their wallets. They come in sprays, balms, drops and you can get them for adults, kids and pets. Above is a photo of the book you can use to find which remedy will suit the feeling you want to get rid of.
I like to point out that the founder of Bach’s Rescue Remedies (Dr Edward Bach) was in fact a medical doctor in the early 1900’s. A time blood-letting was still a thing. Because medicine had not yet established the scientific method of clinical trials and was still submerged in supernatural thinking – the ineffectiveness of early medicine allowed this kind of thinking and products to be created. Now that we have evidence based medicine and the scientific method, both of these things have not only debunked Bach’s Rescue Remedies as nothing more than a placebo but we also have better, safer ways of treating illnesses and diseases.
From the website (bold is mine):
“They gently restore the balance between mind and body by casting out negative emotions such as fear, worry, hatred and indecision which interfere with the equilibrium of the being as a whole. The Bach Flower Remedies allow peace and happiness to return to the sufferer so that the body is free to heal itself.
The Bach Flower Remedies are made from wild flowers and are safe for the whole family including pets.
The remedies are preserved in grape based brandy and are gluten free.”
The idea is that the flowers have “energy” at a certain undisclosed frequency, which is the same energy as a specific negative human emotion. This equal energy between the human and flower somehow cancels out the specific negative human emotion. The way the flowers were actually chosen was that Bach wandered the hills of his home seeing how the dew from particular flowers made him feel (source). That’s fucking it.
HOW TO PREPARE THE FLOWERS:
You pick flowers and steep them in a bowl of water and brandy under sunlight or you can boil the flowers. This makes the “essence”, which is then diluted at 2 drops per 30mL into “stock bottles,”. To prepare the “Medicine Strength” remedy, you will need to dilute a further 2 drops of the “stock bottle” solution per 30mL into “dosage bottles”, which are then sold at a startling at $15 per bottle (source). Some bottles are only hold 10ml. Basically it is flower juice and alcohol. Delicious alcohol. You can also buy alcohol-free versions of the flower juice. The alcohol-free version for kids is preserved in vegetable-glycerine.
The Bach’s Rescue Remedies website sells the alcohol-free version from a site called: directlyfromnature.com and the remedies start at $19.95 for 10ml and have the hilarious note attached: “Also please note that the exp. date vary from a few months to a couple of years.”
The main idea around ear candling is that by placing the ear candle in your ear and lighting it on fire, it is meant to create a suction effect and draw any wax out of your ear, except peddlers of expensive cone-shaped beeswax conveniently forget to tell you that:
1. The amount of suction needed to pulled out wax would perforate your eardrum and
2. The residue at the bottom of the ear candle when the procedure is complete is not ear wax like they want you to think, it is the melted beeswax of the candle itself.
The woo is strong with this one as you will see shortly, many of the arguments for ear candling are simply a mix of the Appeal to Tradition (also known as argumentum ad antiquitatem or appeal to antiquity) and the Appeal to Wisdom.
Having a quick look around the Internet, ear candling has been described as follows:
Yourenergiesinharmony describes the process of ear candles as such: “When lit, the ear candle generates a gentle heat which, when combined with the therapeutic oils, produces a circulation of concentrated air and a light suction action. This is known as the chimney principle, and works by drawing impurities gently to the surface, where they can be removed. The rising air inside the ear sets up a vibration which gently massages the eardrum. This might help to regulate the pressures involved inside the ear. Secretion flow is gently stimulated and the vapour collects and removes impurities or deposits. Most of these are carried away through the candle “chimney”, although some of them can be found in the condensed candle wax residue after removal from the ear, or they can even work their way out of the ear canal up to 24-48 hours after the treatment. From an esoteric point of view, the cleansing fire carries away negative vibrations from the fine metabolic energy fields and harmonises the energy status”
Positive Health Online has an interesting take on ear candling. More evidence that the world of woo is evolving – Positive Health Online states that ear candling cannot work how it is typically marketed. Duh. However the site also states that ear candling does work – just on an unspecified “energy” level which isn’t something that can be proven by scientific means. This is a good way immunise themselves against skeptics while still pandering to wooists who want to part with their money.
“Ear candling is a very effective and safe method to improve your health, but we need to realize that it works only on an energetic level. This makes it even more powerful and allows for a much wider range of beneficial effects. It works every time; only the physical effects depend on the energetic state of the person, and this means that the real imbalances are not always obvious on a physical level. In simple terms, one could say that ear candling adds a lot of extra energy to the system, which the system will then use to the best of its ability, wherever it is needed the most”
Quackwatch has a done a great article on debunking ear candles. Below is a short video also debunking ear candles.
1. It has been proven to work.
2. It actually works in the way it is described to work.
It just simply means that the concept has managed to survive throughout the decades because we didn’t know any better. For example, many people like to say homeopathy works because it can elicit a placebo effect in the user. Homeopathy doesn’t work – the placebo effect does. Homeopathy cannot work in the way it is described to work because it violates the basic laws of chemistry and physics. The remedies don’t work because there is no physiological change within a person and it also doesn’t work because the idea of homeopathy itself cannot work.
Shark cartilage has been promoted throughout the years as a cure for cancer because of the idea that sharks don’t get cancer. This apparently means (get your magical thinking hats on) the cartilage in their bodies specifically will cure cancer. The idea that sharks don’t get cancer is – you guessed it – false. Sharks do indeed get cancer. Shark cartilage joins a long line of quack Chinese medicines that use random parts of animals bodies (which can lead to a dramatic decrease in the population of the animal) for unproven, untested, unscientific reasons. Way to kill animals to peddle your bullshit.
From the website:
Each tablet contains extracts equivalent to dry:
- Inula helenium (Elecampane) root 500mg
- Marrubium vulgare (White Horehound) herb 470mg
- Pinellia ternate rhizome 450mg
- Aster tataricus root & rhizome 300mg
- Houttuynia cordata herb 300mg
- Platycodon grandiflorus root 300mg
- Stemona japonica root 280mg
- Glycyrrhiza uralensis (Licorice) root & stolen190mg
- Plus Thyme Oil 100%10mg
Cough Lung Tonic is a tonic made from the above listed flowers and roots as a placebo for the flu. I generally don’t have any issues with placebos even $49.95 ones, if people want to part with nearly $50 of their money for a placebo – that’s their choice. It’s when people turn others away from proven medicine that shits me. Having a quick read of the website, it’s clear the tonic has nothing to do with medicine or science:
Relieves coughs and spasms associated with colds, flu, bronchitis and other upper respiratory tract infections
Contains expectorant herbs traditionally used to help clear mucus from the lungs, dissolve and clear phlegm and relieve bronchial congestion
Also helps relieve dry, hacking coughs, ease spasmodic coughing spells, and soothe the bronchial airways
Specially formulated according to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine to help maintain Lung health and support respiratory function
Immune-supporting formula to help fight upper respiratory infections and aid recuperation
How it works:
In traditional Chinese medicine, the Lung organ-meridian system encompasses not just the lungs themselves but also the sinuses, throat, mouth and skin. Together, these tissues play a vital role in immunity by helping to disperse Defensive Qi (a specific form of vital energy or Qi that helps you fend off disease) throughout your body. According to Chinese philosophy, it is natural for the Lung Qi to disperse in a descending direction. However, when you’re affected by an upper respiratory infection such as a cold, flu or bronchitis, your Lung Qi may accumulate and eventually move upwards instead of downwards, triggering a cough.
Fusion Health Cough Lung Tonic™ contains the Chinese herbs Pinellia, which has traditionally been used to promote the descent of Lung Qi and Balloon Flower, which aids its dispersion in the body. Also present are a synergistic blend of Chinese and Western herbs that have traditionally been used to relieve both wet and dry coughs and promote the expulsion of mucus, including Aster, Licorice, Elecampane and White Horehound.
You heard it here first, fellow Science Warriors, the Lung Cough Tonic uses flowers and roots to helps fix coughs by the way of affecting the supernatural unproven Qi. Something that hasn’t never been found in all the years of x-rays and CT scans and surgery that Western medicine has done. Tim Minchin said it best “You know what they call alternative medicine that has been proven to work? Medicine“, as an addition to that statement, you know what they call alternative medicine that hasn’t been proven to work? Lucrative. There is a big money in alternative medicine especially since a lot of the population seems to lack critical thinking skills in favour of supernatural or magical thinking.
By the way, Robitussin is sold for $12 at a pharmacy or supermarket and it does the some thing which having the handy added bonus of being tested a for effectiveness and safety.
$20.80 for 20ml of diluted Australian bush flowers that apparently get rid of negative emotions. I wonder what it tastes like? Do people really need to spray diluted flowers into their mouths into order to feel self-love or acceptance? That seems like cheating. I get it, self-confidence and self-esteem are very hard to maintain especially in today’s world – especially for women. Women are bombarded with messages designed to get kick our self-esteem out the door so we feel bad and buy products to help with our “flaws”. Loving and accepting oneself is hard but a spray on the tongue is outright exploitation of a persons insecurities. It looks like a harmless placebo designed to make magically thinking people feel better but what happens when it stops working? People are going to crash and burn. You can cheat or you can do the hard emotional work and work through your issues and problems to create a stable long-term set of solutions.
Second point: The whole “natural care” thing. We all know that pseudoscience and woo loves the Appeal to Nature fallacy. Proponents of woo parrot it all the time “Nature equals good, chemical equals bad“. The one failing of pseudoscience is the ignorance of the fact that even if something is natural – it is still comprised of chemicals.
Let’s look at some of the ingredients:
Sodium Bicarbonate: (sodium hydrogen carbonate) is a chemical compound with the formula NaHCO3. 1 atom of Sodium, 1 atom of Hydrogen, 1 atom of Carbon and 3 atoms of Oxygen.
Keys things to remember about chemicals:
1. An atom is the smallest form of matter.
2. Atoms are made up of protons, neutrons and electrons.
3. Matter is anything that has mass and occupies space.
4. Elements are formed from atoms and have the same number of protons and neutrons. They cannot be broken down into simpler substances. An element can have different isotopes or ions. An isotope is the same element but with a different number neutrons to protons. An ion is the same element but with a different number of electrons to protons.
5. Two atoms of the same element will form a molecule – two nitrogen atoms form a nitrogen molecule.
6. Two different atoms from different elements form a compound. A compound can be broken down into simpler substances. Water is a compound which is made up of 2 Hydrogen atoms and 1 Oxygen atom. Water can be broken down into Hydrogen and Oxygen.
Sodium Chloride: (NaCl) 1 atom of Sodium, 1 atom of Chlorine. Sodium is a silver-colored metal which is very soft, soft enough to cut with a knife. Chlorine is a poisonous, yellow-green gas, used in warfare in World War 2. Both of which is dangerous when used seperately. Together they make Sodium Choride: Salt.
Here is a great video demonstrating how to make salt: (Do not try this at home)
Alcohol: (CH3CH2OH) also know as Ethanol. It is produced by the fermentation of sugars by yeasts. It is 6 atoms of Hydrogen, 2 atoms of Carbon and 1 atom of Oxygen. It is a neurotoxic (causes damage to the nervous system by altering its normal activity), psychoactive drug (a substance that creates a temporary change in behaviour, mood and perception by fucking with your central nervous system) and can cause alcohol intoxication when consumed depending upon the quantity consumed. Alcohol is a great example of the statement “the dose make the poison” and an excellent refutation to Food Babe’s idea that a substance cannot be used for human consumption if it is used as more than one thing. Ethanol is used as a solvent, an antiseptic, and as fuel.
My work sells acai berry smoothies, they taste pretty fucking neat kind of like chocolate mixed with berries. The Acia berry is sourced from the Acai palm which is located in South America. Acai berries have been marketed as a “superfood” that can help you lose weight and assist in keeping your healthy. Now there is a lot of good stuff about acai berries – they’re a good sourced antioxidants, omega fatty acids, well as proteins and vitamins A, B, C and E but they aren’t going to assist you in losing weight. Especially if you are eating them on their own without a diet high in fruits and vegetables with regular exercise. Largely acai berries are an unfortunate victim of marketing hype designed to promote certain foods as “superfoods” (there is no such thing) – a food that has miraculous properties that allows you to be healthy and free of illness without having to do anything more than swallow a few tablets or drink a cup of its juice.
Acai berries taste awesome and the smoothies are pretty neat but don’t play into the hype that the fruit is anything more than a fruit.
Silver is number 47 on the periodic table and is a soft transition metal and has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal. Silver has no known biological role in the human body – we have no dietary requirements for silver nor is silver deficiency a known illness – and chronic ingestion or inhalation of silver compounds can lead to argyria – a greyish pigmentation of the skin and mucous membrane. There is current no evidence to support any of the claims the ingested suspended silver particles will treat illnesses nor is there evidence that silvers microbacterial properties will work inside the human body. The Federal Drug Administration in America has concluded “Silver is present in the environment, and therefore people are normally exposed to it. However, silver is a nonessential mineral that has no known physiological functions or benefits when taken orally”.
The Therapuatic Goods Administration in Australia has released a regulatory decision notice:
“Following an investigation by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the CMEC recommended that the NDPSC be advised that there are no current legitimate uses of colloidal silver and that the Surveillance Section of the TGA be requested to investigate the illegal availability of colloidal silver products because of concerns about their significant toxicity. The reasons for the recommendation were that:
- there is little evidence to support therapeutic claims made for colloidal silver products;
- the risk to consumers of silver toxicity outweighs the value of trying an unsubstantiated treatment, and bacterial resistance to silver can occur; and
- efforts should be made to curb the illegal availability of colloidal silver products, which is a significant public health issue.
Ongoing concerns over the safety of colloidal silver led the CMEC to recommend that action be taken by the TGA in regard to the safety risk posed by illegal or potentially illegal products containing colloidal silver. The Surveillance Section of the TGA subsequently advised that it was not able to take any action against colloidal silver products regardless of whether such products make therapeutic claims or not”
They concluded that:
“As of 20 December 2002, colloidal products which make therapeutic claims are classified as therapeutic goods under the Act. To date, the TGA has not approved any colloidal silver products for use as therapeutic goods in Australia. The TGA will take action to stop the supply of any unapproved colloidal silver products which make therapeutic claims.”