Tue, Apr 3, 2012
I'm developing somewhat of a facination with quack medicine (strange practices mostly during the 18th and 19th centuries). After reading about some of the stranger practices, it's easy to gather that many worked only because of a "placebo effect." Wiki describes the placebo effect as follows: "a simulated or otherwise medically ineffectual treatment for a disease or other medical condition intended to deceive the recipient. Sometimes patients given a placebo treatment will have a perceived or actual improvement in a medical condition, a phenomenon commonly called the placebo effect."
How does the placebo effect work? Patients are given an inert pill/treatment. The unsuspecting fellow is not told that the treatment is a hoax. Again, from QuackWatch.org, "Such an intervention may cause the patient to believe the treatment will change his/her condition; and this belief may produce a subjective perception of a therapeutic effect, causing the patient to feel their condition has improved — or an actual improvement in their condition."
Studies have shown that the color pill given,bright or pastel, as well as the form, capsule or tablet, have an effect on the perceived cure delivered by the miracle drug. As ridiculous as it seems, it's certainly a testimony to the power of the mind and leads me to think some issues are truly mind over matter.
Evidence of the phenomenon exists today in many homeopathic treatments. According to the highly esteemed QuackWatch.org, oscillococcinum seems to be bogus. The supplement is found in a variety of over-the-counter products deemed safe for children. I'm no expert, but after reading what I found today, I'm confident that the herbal remedy is incredibly safe. And ineffective. I've assigned this remedy to the category of "quack medicine."
What is oscillococcinum? Here's an excerpt from QuackWatch.org: "It's intended 'for the relief of colds and flu-like symptoms,' involves 'dilutions' that are even more far-fetched. Its 'active ingredient' is prepared by incubating small amounts of a freshly killed duck's liver and heart for 40 days. The resultant solution is then filtered, freeze-dried, rehydrated, repeatedly diluted, and impregnated into sugar granules. If a single molecule of the duck's heart or liver were to survive the dilution, its concentration would be 1 in 100200. This huge number, which has 400 zeroes, is vastly greater than the estimated number of molecules in the universe (about one googol, which is a 1 followed by 100 zeroes). In its February 17, 1997, issue, U.S. News & World Report noted that only one duck per year is needed to manufacture the product, which had total sales of $20 million in 1996. The magazine dubbed that unlucky bird "the $20-million duck."
Once upon a time, women suffering from pretty much any type of mental illness were lumped together as victims of hysteria. In my journey to discover wierdo treatments, I found a ridiculous cure for feminine mental illness. According to Hippocrates, the root cause was a "wandering womb."
10 Mind-Boggling Psychiatric Treaments on Neatorama.com explains the condition. He (Hippocrates) claimed that is the uterus 'remains unfruitful long beyond its proper time, it gets discontented and angry and wanders in every direction through the body, closes up the passages of breath, and, by obstructing respiration, drives women to extremity.'"
The article goes on to explain the treatment. "Consequently, cures for hysteria involved finding a way to 'calm down' the uterus. And while there was no dearth of methods for doing this (including holding foul-smelling substances under the patient’s nose to drive the uterus away from the chest), Plato believed that the only sure-fire way to solve the problem was to get married and have babies. After all, the uterus always ended up in the right place when it came time to bear a child."
If you ask me, the children developed in my womb caused a great level of hysteria. Hippocrates missed the boat on this one. Children are the cause, not the cure. Wiki describes hysteria to be "unmanageable emotional excesses." Based on that definition, the condition must be contagious. Maybe my children were exposed to hysteria while they developed in my womb, and I delivered hysteria into the world as my children (perfect carriers for craziness) were born, therefore exposing myself to bouts of insanity. Blast you, wandering womb.