Herbal woo

Sometimes, when people are in poor health, they become desperate for any help or relief.  When they’re really desperate, and when they feel that mainstream medicine isn’t doing it for them, some will turn to prayer, some to faith healers, and some to ‘natural’ remedies.  And it’s big business.  It seems that Chinese herbalists and healthfood shops promising all manner of cures and pick me ups are turning up on high streets and shopping malls all over the country.

It’s not just on high streets; I’ve attended enough green events to know that chakra readers, reiki therapists and crystal healers haunt the periphery of the environmental movement – and earn a living.

I also know a couple of people who swear by natural remedies and claim they have been helped.   However, anecdotal testimony isn’t the same as evidence of efficacy, and emotion can play a large part in the perception of the effectiveness of a treatment.  The case of a woman who was prescribed such a remedy by a Chinese herbalist should give those who rely on such interventions a serious cause to reconsider their ‘treatment’.

Most herbal ‘medicine’ has no evidence to support the claims of those who sell them to the desperate, unwitting, and those who should know better, and is often sold by people who are clueless to what they are pushing on people.  I say often, but we just don’t know.  In this case it was poison.  What is even more striking is that the woman responsible, Ying “Susan” Wu, was let off by the judge for being ignorant of what she was doing.  So much for ignorance being no excuse.

Mrs Wu gets to go home.  Her victim gets dialysis.

The problem isn’t regulation; the problem is that our legal system and society allows unqualified people to give medical advice and treatments.  If you want to fix a central heating system, you have to be certified.  If you want to sell financial advice on mortgages, pensions and insurance, you have to be qualified.  Yet to give medicinal advice you just have to prove, well, nothing at all, and know equally as little.

Perhaps at least we should bring back tarring and feathering for these snake oil salesmen?


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