The History of "Snake Oil," the One-Step Cure for All Diseases

In an era of fake news and lack of trust in the media, the story of snake oil can shed some light on how you should be feeling about who to believe.

So, before snake oil was a playful euphemism to describe actions and products as "miracle-cures," snake oil was real medicine that actually worked. Chinese migrant workers brought oil extracted from the Chinese watersnake with them to America during the early 1900s to aid them with chronic pain and aches caused by arthritis and repetitive motion injuries. 

Watersnake oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which actually decreases inflammation and helps reduce pain and stiffness in joints. After long days of working in mines and fields, Chinese migrant workers would apply the oil to their joints to help their bodies decompress and get prepared for the next day of work. 

Eventually, Americans caught onto the concept and twisted it in a way that completely ruined the whole purpose of the medicinal oil forever. 

American salespersons (not doctors, mind you) began marketing and selling "snake oil" as a cure-all for any specific ailment, from colds, to lesions, and even alcoholism. 

Salespeople urged their customers that true "snake oil" could completely change their lives if they tried it, and because the American people were not the most medically intelligent in the late 1800s, the general public fell for it head over heels. 

Although the salespeople weren't using actual snake oil, and the substances they were utilizing served no actual medical purpose (jojoba oil, olive oil, safflower oil, etc), people were making money hand over fist.

The same problem remains today in diet pills and "fluoride decalcifiers" that run rampant on the market. Unregulated "medicines" that provide no actual results are extremely dangerous for the public. However, if people are willingly letting independent salesmen trick them into purchasing something that isn't real, that is a societal conundrum that cannot simply be addressed by regulating the sale of untested products.

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