This one will be much shorter than usual, mainly because I was out late last night for a dinner function at which I was on a panel of breast cancer experts. I must admit, even after having been an attending surgeon for 15 years, it never ceases to make me feel a bit weird to be presented as a “breast cancer expert”—or an expert at anything, for that matter. It’s rather like how I sometimes feel a bit weird that skeptic groups still invite me to give talks. Ten years ago, I sucked at public speaking. Now I’m apparently good enough that people want to hear me. Go figure.
In any event, I hate to harp on everyone’s favorite New World Order conspiracy mongering quack, Mike Adams (a.k.a. the Health Ranger, or, more appropriately, the Health Danger), but regular readers might remember that a little over a month ago one of Adams’ blogging minions posted a bit on using homeopathy to treat Ebola virus. True to the precepts of homeopathy, the homeopath, Ken Oftedal, recommended finding the blood or bodily fluids of someone suffering from Ebola and then diluting it homeopathically to 30C, which, as you recall, is basically so many dilutions that nothing is left. Of course, aside from the fact that homeopathy is quackery, it was astoundingly irresponsible and stupid of Oftedal to recommend coming into contact with bodily fluids of Ebola victims, given that that’s how the virus is spread. Any homeopath (or person, given that Oftedal gave an explicit recipe for how to make his homeopathic Ebola remedy) who did this and didn’t have the proper protective gear, not to mention the training necessary on how to handle infectious blood and bodily fluids properly, would be at high risk of infecting himself and possibly others, particularly during the shaking of each serial dilution. In any case, this was something too quacky even for Mike Adams, and he took it down in horror, no doubt fearing lawsuits if some hapless and stupid homeopath actually tried to do what Oftedal recommended or if someone actually tried to rely on such a remedy to prevent or treat Ebola.
At the time, some of you thought that perhaps I was being too easy on Adams. The suggestion was that he hadn’t taken down Oftedal’s post because he cared that it was not just quackery but highly dangerous quackery, but rather because it was competition. Back then, I pooh-poohed those suggestions, mainly because Adams has a long track record of quackery and I’m always a bit leery of pulling the “shill gambit” even on a quack like Adams because of how often it’s been aimed at me. It’s a form of ad hominem attack, poisoning the well. Now I have to admit that today I learned that you, my readers, might have been right. Today, Adams posted an article entitled Pandemic Preparedness: The world’s most powerful antiviral herbs and natural medicines revealed in free audio recording, which is basically a post touting another Adams project, BioDefense, specifically, an episode of an online “pandemic preparedness” course Adams has put together: Episode 6: Antiviral herbal medicines vs. Ebola and other viral pandemics.
Now, I must admit, I haven’t listened to the whole thing. There’s only so much of Adams smug droning I can take. However, there’s a pretty good summary at the links. In particular, Adams starts right out by saying that “nothing on the planet is proven to treat Ebola.” This is sort of true, if you mean nothing has yet been proven to treat or prevent the disease at its cause: The virus. However, we do know that excellent supportive care can greatly decrease the death rate from Ebola, although unfortunately that death rate, even with the best science-based medical care, remains hovering around 50% or more.
Here’s the part at the beginning of the audio that got me though. Adams goes on and on about how everything he is about to discuss is “experimental” because “nothing on the planet” has yet been proven to treat or prevent Ebola. I nearly choked on my coffee as I heard this. Basically, he’s not-so-subtly implying (OK, he’s basically beating his audience over the head with it) that because science-based medicine doesn’t yet have an effective drug for Ebola and all its currently existing drugs are experimental the “herbal antivirals” that he’s going to talk about are the same: experimental. “Experimental.” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means, Mr. Adams.
Next up: The argument from antiquity. Adams claims that there is an herbal preparation in traditional Chinese medicine that’s thousands of years old and was used by a practitioner to save “thousands of lives” from a pandemic that was sweeping through China. This reminds me very much of the claim that homeopaths were very successful treating victims of the Spanish flu during the pandemic of 1918; i.e., it’s not very convincing. For one thing, thousands of years ago, no one back then knew what viruses were or even how such diseases spread. In any case, while it is true that there are antiviral drugs that have been derived from plants, it does not follow that using herbs will treat Ebola, which is what Adams is claiming despite all his quack Miranda warnings that that’s not what he is doing.
One herbal preparation he’s real high on is Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang, or the “blood heat formula,” which was developed by Sun Simiao. He’s written about it before. One notes that Sun Simiao speaks of “ymptoms of both excess heat and deficient yin (because the heat has burned up the yin resources)” as the cause. Naturally, there is no evidence presented that anything Sun Simiao used in the seventh century AD demonstrated any utility against infectious disease.
What Adams does claim includes a list of herbs that allegedly treat virals and this:
Chinese Medicine can save millions of lives in a global pandemic, especially if western medicine fails
- Western medicine is monopolistic and entirely intolerant. Dogmatic pushers of vaccines and drugs have zero openness to any other system of medicine
- Most citizens of the world use plant-based medicine, not pharmaceutical medicine
- People who are foolish enough to believe solely in western medicine may pay for their delusions with their lives
- Survivors will be people who are open to the full spectrum of available treatments and cures for viral pandemics
- The truth about the anti-viral potential of natural medicinal herbs cannot be suppressed forever
- Dogma is deadly: The arrogance of western medicine will get a lot of people killed
- Things you can start doing RIGHT NOW to boost your immune defenses against viral pandemics
He also claims that you should beware of “western medicines” interfering with the action of the herbs, not the other way around! He’s also into “essential oils,” as well. Not surprisingly, he advertises doTerra OnGuard Essential Oil Blend, which claims to “support the immune system.” In fact, he advertises a bunch of products. One wonders how much he makes off of this advertising.
Of course, it doesn’t matter why Adams is doing this. It doesn’t matter if he’s making money off of it or not, although it’s not a trivial consideration if you first demonstrate how he gets the science and medicine wrong, which I’ve done. In fact, over the years, I’ve shown time and time again how Adams gets pretty much everything wrong. Anyone who relies on his advice to prevent or treat Ebola, much less any other viral pandemic disease, will likely regret it.