Kills germs on surfaces – so we should definitely drink it!

“If it’s not accepted as medicine, it will cure you!”

This seems to be the mentality of many folk who extol the virtues of bizarre home remedies.  These people are the most confusing to me.  I can kind of understand where you’re coming from if you want to avoid pharmaceuticals, pesticides, toxic cleansers, and so on.  Many people are trying to live a “natural” life, and while that may be a  fantasy in some ways, it does make sense to eat whole foods, avoid unnecessary drugs, limit exposure to pesticides, plasticizers, and other chemicals that may cause problems for our bodies or our environment, and even to use home-grown herbs to treat the symptoms of mild, self-limiting diseases.  Hell, I can even understand the use of homeopathy to an extent – it’s billed as a mild, side-effect-free to make sure the body is working at its best.  It was specifically formulated as an alternative to toxic and dangerous treatments used in the 18th century.  People like to think that there’s something more natural, that won’t cause bad side effects, that they can use to cure themselves.  That’s understandable.

But then there’s this subset of people who seem to latch on to a particular cure which isn’t herbal or natural in any way.  It may be the product of standard industrial processes or pharmaceutical research.  But the key to this woo is that the substance not be used as intended by mainstream science.

The most extreme case I can think of is bleach.  Bleach is a very mainstream product.  It’s manufactured by big companies.  It’s corrosive.  It’s a substance often avoided by crunchy people due to its potential to harm humans and the environment.  Bleach has been shown to be very effective at killing microbes on surfaces however.  It’s recommended for cleaning in the home for HIV patients because it kills bugs so well.  Bleach disinfection is even promoted as a stopgap method of killing HIV in heroin syringes if no clean needles can be obtained.

Somehow people have extrapolated all that microbe-killing power to a notion that ingesting bleach can cure diseases in the body.  “If bleach kills HIV in a syringe, it will kill HIV in my bloodstream” is how the thinking goes.  It almost makes sense, if you ignore the fact that drinking bleach will cause major burns in your esophagus, stomach, and intestines, and will kill you long before it would provide any theoretical benefit.

Similarly, silver can be used as an antiseptic and is used in topical application to prevent infection.  Some cranks have made the “if it’s good topically, it must be great ingested” leap and advocate ingestion of colloidal silver to cure, well, everything.  However, there’s no evidence showing ingestion of colloidal silver treats any disease or condition.  It’s probably not as bad as drinking bleach as far as immediate injury, but colloidal silver can cause kidney damage and seizures.  Far more entertaining is its celebrated, non-toxic side effect, argyria.  It turns your skin and mucous membranes gray-blue.  So if you want to get no benefits whatsoever, risk major organ damage, and wind up looking like a sick smurf, colloidal silver is for you!

Here’s a quick list of other products of good old toxin-laden, money-driven, factory-produced technology, that are hailed as cures for things that science doesn’t use them for:

Dichloroacetate, allegedly a cure-all for cancer, in reality a substance that might fight cancer, but may be too toxic for use in the body.

Laetrile, another cancer “cure.”

F***ing Magnets, how do they work?  They don’t.

Vicks on your feet to stop a cough.

Tagamet for warts.

Aspirin dissolved on a sore tooth, rather than ingested.

Milk of Magnesia for acne.

Listerine for everything.

I won’t pretend to understand all the psychology underlying this behavior of off-label use as alternative medicine.  But it seems to me that a large part is just desperation – when the doctor only has difficult, complex, or slow-working answers, these remedies can make people feel like they’re fixing the problem.  And certainly the idea of getting one over on The Man is appealing.  The medical-industrial complex may want to charge you a lot of money for a treatment that might or might not work, but you can show them up by just rubbing Listerine on [body part] and fixing yourself!  That sense of control is really appealing.

And ultimately, I think Mark Crislip has a large part of the answer:

As I have discussed before, users of alternative therapies are not comfortable with nuance and subtlety, and,  I think, prefer black and white binary approaches.  Mercury in one form is toxic, so all forms of mercury are toxic.  Some forms of silver are beneficial, so all forms of silver of benefit, including colloidal silver. The inability to deal with shades of gray is a hallmark of many forms of alternative therapy.

Advertisements

About Christine

I'm a full-time mother to two kids, an ex-lawyer, a breastfeeding counselor, a skeptic, and (to steal a phase from Penn & Teller) a "science cheerleader." You can reach me through my Facebook page.

Posted on November 29, 2011, in Health, Pseudoscience and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. *shudder* It really amazes me how terrifying of choices some people make. You’re right — MY goal in avoiding pharmaceuticals unless necessary is to try to work with my body and keep it healthy through things like good diet, lack of potentially problematic lab-created chemicals, and so on.

    But yes, there is a complete lack of grey area. I put a lot of effort into studying mercury for vaccine discussions to combat the “If you have to evacuate when a mercury lightbulb breaks, why would you put it in your body?!” argument. Not shockingly, there are many forms of mercury, that work in many different ways. But that explanation for some reason is something some people cover their ears to. No, I don’t like ethyl-mercury in my vaccinations either, but it’s sure better than elemental mercury!

  2. Homeopathy is safe because it contains no active ingredient (at least anything over about 3C or 4C dilution). Whether those ingredients are “natural” or not is a moot point.

    I certainly wouldn’t group the pseudoscience of homeopathy with other “natural” living ideas. Homeopathy relies purely on magic.

  3. Arline Vollbrecht

    Milk of magnesia does offer some results as an acne cure. This substance may be employed as a topical anti acne solution and works well for people with oily skin. Milk of magnesia is primarily of alkaline nature. Applying this to your skin helps remove over the top oils from the skin surface. It must be observed that it is over the top sebum that is the root cause of acne. Thus, milk of magnesia deals with the first cause of acne and controls those breakouts. What’s more, milk of magnesia also has antibacterial properties and works as a disinfectant also. It helps destroy acne causing organisms known as P acne. It also forestalls the infection from extending to other areas on the face while also limiting it from further irritating the skin. The substance also helps fade minor scarring and reduces the appearance of acne scars and blemishes too…

    Very latest write-up produced by our very own blog site
    <i="http://www.healthmedicinecentral.com/menstrual-cycle-symptoms/

  4. Ever eat with silverware? but yet it’s probably all stainless steel ware now. Guess why they called it silverware? The same reason most of you chalices were made out of silver for thousands of years, (see: Jewish Temple treasure from the Bible) This again is why for many centuries a silver coin was placed in the bottom of a glass, to dispel bacteria and therefore disease. But hey the FDA that regulates everything and allows aspartame and your lovely pharmaceuticals with all there side effects … yet still on the market … no worries though … cause in a few years a lawyer will have a commercial about how you can get money if you took a pill and are now brain dead.all that medication for ADD/ADHD … a mother’s got to love it … cause it’s FDA approved.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: