Re: Chemophobia

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as do air fresheners (for no concrete reason)
As a data point, Mrs y reacts strongly against air fresheners (strong headaches and nausea) because they're scented and she's tested positive for allergies to two or three common perfumes.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 10:57 AM
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In other words, you would have much less chemophobia* if we had a well-functioning regulatory state?

*When I initially read the OP, I thought this word meant "fear of chemotherapy". And I thought, come on, you don't have to be nonsensibly unscientific to want to avoid chemo. But then I realized I was misinterpreting.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 10:58 AM
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1: There's something in a lot of cheap scented products that smells horrible to me -- it's not an allergy, because I don't have any particular reaction other than wanting to flee. But it's not just disliking smells: a strong cinnamon smell from a bakery is something I enjoy, but a cinnamon scented candle, even if I can tell it's supposed to be the same thing, is disgusting and unpleasant.

"Cheap" covers sort of anything industrial you'd be likely to buy in a supermarket; scented laundry detergent and air fresheners are mostly disgusting, but expensive smelly soap is often fine. And flavored coffee hits the same reaction; nothing against mixing whatever the flavor is supposed to be with coffee -- smelling hazelnuts and coffee at the same time would be fine -- but the smell of the flavored coffee itself is horrible.

I figure there's some solvent or something or class of somethings that's in a lot of scented/flavored products that many or most people don't notice, but that sets me off, but I have no idea what it is specifically.

(This comment has very little to do with anything other than avoiding work.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 11:08 AM
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This is also about the inability of humans to understand risk assessment. The known chemicals were extensively tested and have a long list of side effects. The Chinese herbal remedies were not tested so the uncertainty falsely appeared as safety relative to the tested chemicals.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 11:08 AM
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Never huff ScotchGard. Don't do it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 11:18 AM
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I'm all on board with smell as a irrational inhibitor: I find the smell of cooked Brussels sprouts very unpleasant, and won't eat them. And have to be coaxed gently to a venue where other people are eating them. On the other hand, much chemophobia strikes me as beyond the princess/pea line. I was recently told that one should not drink water with a meal, because it dilutes stomach acids, and thus inhibits efficient digestion. Grant for sake of argument that this is absolutely factually true: surely the inefficiency thus introduced is, in a 'normally' functioning digestive system, so small as to be unworthy of the value of the pixels this comment has consumed. (And just think of all the lost productivity to the world economy from people reading this comment!)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 11:20 AM
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A friend of mine recommended buying insecticide chalk in Chinatown for my ant problem, because it was made of something anodyne (borax?) and therefore wouldn't put my cat at risk. Guess what.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 11:35 AM
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7: A sugar-and-borax mixture works nicely and should be harmless to your cat.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 11:38 AM
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But it's not just disliking smells: a strong cinnamon smell from a bakery is something I enjoy, but a cinnamon scented candle, even if I can tell it's supposed to be the same thing, is disgusting and unpleasant.

I'm not sure what it is in candles, but in cheap scented toiletries (like Bath and Body Works stuff), the scents all smell like alcohol at their base. Yuck.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 11:42 AM
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I worry that I dislike the smells of cheap things because I think they're cheap; I would like to undergo a test like the ones that found red and white wines indistinguishable (maybe that was only with smell blocked? Anyway). Then if I still didn't like them I would know I was really a tender tender princess.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 11:43 AM
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Maybe, but I don't really mind the smell of alcohol. (Depending on the context, I'm quite fond of it.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 11:43 AM
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You don't mind the smell of, say, rubbing alcohol? I don't mean they smell like booze.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 11:46 AM
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Not really. It's not something I'd sniff for fun, but it smells sort of harmlessly clean. But it's not what I'm smelling that makes scented products gross.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 11:49 AM
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4. Also if a herbal etc. remedy works, it's because there's a chemical in it which affects the human system when ingested, just like a pill. The classic example is willow bark, which contains salicylic acid, and guess what? It's effectively analgesic.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 11:50 AM
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In Mrs y's case, it isn't just an aversion to the smell of cheap perfumes. They tested her by smearing about a dozen compounds on her back and after a week they took off the plasters and made a note of the ones that had caused suppurating rashes. One of them is in practically every smelly product out there.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 11:54 AM
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it smells sort of harmlessly clean

I guess I'd say this for something that I'm looking on as just a cleaner or as somewhat medicinal, but I find it a really unpleasant smell to underlie something that is supposed to have an actively pleasant scent. Anyway, I wasn't trying to claim that it's the thing you don't like in candles, just that it's an unpleasant element of those kinds of lotions and body washes and such.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 11:55 AM
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Certain aromachemicals like calone (which shows up in aquatic-type perfumes like Cool Water or L'eau d'Issey) are absolutely gross to me. I think it's also in a lot of detergents and air fresheners, especially ones tagged "sea breeze" or the like. Also, aldehydes smell like a headache.

W/r/t herbal medicines, my mom studied herbal medicine for a long time, and her brother used to make traditional Korean medicines, and yet my parents are notably uneasy about herbals. Basically they're not well-regulated, and so even if you have an herbalist you trust, you can't be sure that there's not some unscrupulous poison-peddler somewhere up the supply chain. Also, my sister had a problem with super cold hands and feet when she was in her early twenties, and my dad took her to an herbalist and then for the next year her hands and feet were super hot, which is amazing, but also, TERRIFYING. What in god's name was in that tea.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 11:57 AM
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17.2 is great, as the people who annoy me most are those who assume [traditional|modern] medicine is powerful and also assume it's harmless.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:00 PM
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Also if a herbal etc. remedy works, it's because there's a chemical in it which affects the human system when ingested, just like a pill.

There is, however, a long debate about the difference in outcome between ingesting isolated chemicals, vs chemicals in combinations that are found in nature -- I don't have a strong opinion, but my gut feeling is that the body of knowledge produced from chemical and drug trials is large and useful and does not fully overlap with the large and useful body of knowledge that exists as traditional medicine.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:01 PM
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Maybe she was always holding hot tea cups?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:01 PM
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. . . which is amazing, but also, TERRIFYING. What in god's name was in that tea.

That is amazing.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:02 PM
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19. I'm not arguing that using traditional shit is wise or safe, but that there's only one way (at a very high level) for a drug to take effect whether it's produced in a lab or picked off a bush, and that's by reacting with some molecule(s) in the body, so you're not actually doing anything different by rejecting proper medicine except laying yourself open to the likelihood that the things you eat will either be useless or toxic.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:07 PM
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the people who annoy me most are those who assume [traditional|modern] medicine is powerful and also assume it's harmless.

Relatedly, the people who see a potential deadly carcinogen in every household chemical or piece of "conventional" produce, but who smoke cigarettes. This breed is common as fleas in Europe. (Tobacco being of course the paradigmatic example of a plant that is pharmacologically powerful, completely "natural"*, and decidedly deadly.)

*apart from the chemical additives in cigarettes, which are nasty in their own right.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:08 PM
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I think my sister was expecting that the tea would have at most a slight, psychosomatic effect, where she would be like, "I think my feet are maybe a little warmer now than they used to be, I guess I should keep drinking more of this extremely expensive tea?" Instead, the effects were immediate and she was freaked out. After about a year, it wore off, and her hands and feet went back to being super cold, but she decided to just deal with it, rather than put more terrifying mystery substance into her body.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:09 PM
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24. I can't help feeling she was wise.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:10 PM
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I usually don't have this many students dipping in class. Gross! (Three. They're taking a test.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:12 PM
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26: A ballroom dancing test?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:23 PM
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A veggie tray with ranch dressing test. It's an easy class.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:27 PM
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A veggie tray pizza with ranch dressing test


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:34 PM
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That doesn't sound academically rigorous.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:34 PM
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Might add some rigor to your arteries, though.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:35 PM
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29: Now, that is seriously gross.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:36 PM
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I concur. Was common in the South, though. Could be in other areas, too, for all I know.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:37 PM
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I saw it first in Michigan.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:39 PM
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One can get St. Louis style "pizza" delivered with ranch dressing.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:40 PM
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But that's partly because my parents are hardcore subscribers to 80s dieting and avoiding all fat in all contexts.

My brother went to Michigan for college in the late 80s. When he came home for winter break, we had the following family conversation:
Bro: And you'll never believe what else: they eat mozzarrella sticks as a snack.
Family: Oooooohhhhhhh!
Bro: And they fry them! The cheese is fried!
Family: Whooooaaaaaa!
Bro: And then they dip them in ranch!
Family: Aaaaaahhhhhh!

We just couldn't believe that people would combine so many ways of ingesting fat. Then we busted out the carrots and mustard that I was raised on.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:42 PM
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Then I grew up and realized that fat tastes delicious and the idea of eating as restrictively as my parents did, (and do), seems soul-crushing and awful.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:43 PM
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BBQ Tofu Pizza with Ranch Dressing
http://eatingwhole.net/2012/12/05/bbq-tofu-pizza-with-ranch-dressing/

It's a big old crazy world.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:44 PM
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35 is the apotheosis of gross.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:47 PM
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re: 3

Yeah, that's me. I hate a lot of air freshener and candle type smells. To the point where given a choice I'll leave the room. It's not all manufactured scents. Some perfumes or aftershaves are very pleasant, but there's a whole family of scents that I can't handle. It's usually but not always correlated with price.

There's an expensive (-ish) cosmetics company whose moisturisers and creams I've basically forbidden* my wife to buy as I find the smell so off-putting.

* like a Victorian dad.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:49 PM
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The crazy/scary chemophobe secretary who used to sit down the hall from my office once accused me of trying to kill her by peeling an orange. As in: I peeled an orange at my desk and began eating it; a short while later, I hear her yelling down the hall, "Who is trying to kill me? Who is trying to kill me?" It turned out she believed that she was deathly allergic to orange vapor,* and I was apparently supposed to have divined this from the widely-known fact that she believed she was deathly allergic to more or less everything.

*At the time, I did a little googling since I was just a tad skeptical--I mean, if orange vapor could kill her, and she could smell it, shouldn't her throat already have been closing up or whatever? I couldn't find any reputable discussion of actual life-threatening allergies from inhalation of orange vapor, but did find some article that made mention of some cases of delusional belief in such allergies.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:49 PM
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For a summer a few years back I worked for a pharmaceutical company who were about to run full clinical trials on some TCM medicines. They were going to amazing lengths to try and get the sorts of results that would give them proper prescription drug status in the UK. They had to invent a whole bunch of new assaying and inventory techniques just to be able to prove that the biological ingredients they were using were consistent from batch to batch.

The sheer difficulty of what they were doing, seen up close, made it obvious why most herbal medicines aren't licensed in that way.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:51 PM
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re: 41

I'd find it pretty hard not to fuck with someone who had those kinds of beliefs. Well, I expect I'd not do anything, but the idea would amuse me/prevent me from killing them.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:52 PM
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You'd feel pretty bad when they died from your orange peel though.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:54 PM
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43 was exactly my reaction. If you really had such a condition, it would be wise to be very careful not to make any enemies.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 12:58 PM
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My mother-in-law has to* go through her house and remove all of the smelly things from Bath and Body Works before I come to visit. They actually bother me more than the cigarette smoke used to (before they cleaned the walls and carpets and stopped smoking inside). It's the one good thing about them living too far away for us to visit regularly.

*Actually, and I'm not being ironic here, s/b "lovingly chooses to." My MIL is great.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 1:03 PM
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so you're not actually doing anything different by rejecting proper medicine except laying yourself open to the likelihood that the things you eat will either be useless or toxic

This would be a lot more convincing if the primary motivation of the pharmaceutical industry was in curing illness.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 1:09 PM
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45: I used to work for a guy who had a peanut allergy. It was hard to restrain myself.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 1:11 PM
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43, 45: Well after that incident I did start closing my door when eating oranges as a concession (as if that airtight seal would save her life), but I would make a point of walking past her desk immediately afterward hoping that there'd be enough still on my fingers for her to catch a whiff. (Look at me, such a badass!) She never took the bait, though; and further than that I did not care to go. She's an ADA lawsuit waiting to happen, and the last thing I wanted was to end up a witness in that case.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 1:21 PM
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Also if a herbal etc. remedy works, it's because there's a chemical in it which affects the human system when ingested, just like a pill.

Well, this is question-begging. A person who uses Asian traditional medicine would say otherwise -- and might say that many Western modern medicines work because the chemicals in them interact with certain aspects or functions of the body, which are generally not well-studied or understood by Western medical practitioners.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 1:25 PM
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When we get ants in the house, we use a perfectly safe fluid sourced from the food industry orange-peel derivate that smells like heaven's own citrus and dissolves the little bastards' exoskeletons. Maybe your coworker had chitin lungs.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 1:37 PM
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My high school's family and consumer sciences teacher (home ec, whatever you want to call it, she taught other classes as well) was allergic to oranges. I never saw her have a reaction, but same deal - no orange peels in her classroom. She didn't seem any crazier than any other high school teachers.

50
Well, this is question-begging. A person who uses Asian traditional medicine would say otherwise -- and might say that many Western modern medicines work because the chemicals in them interact with certain aspects or functions of the body, which are generally not well-studied or understood by Western medical practitioners.

The idea that chemicals have a different effect in concert, or when delivered in a certain way, is plausible. Still, though, it should testable. It beats the placebo effect or it doesn't.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 1:39 PM
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I saw a Korean herbalist and acupuncturist for my back at one point. He diagnosed me as having insufficient heat in my blood and gave me a custom mixed combination of herbs that tasted like dirt. I took it for a little while but quit because I noticed no improvement in my condition and also I'm totally serious that it tasted exactly l like dirt, and not the delicious kind.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 1:42 PM
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I went to an accupuncturist and they gave me squirrel shit pills. Which I took before reading the ingredients closely.

The only reason I even read the ingredient list is because* they were giant horse pills and you were supposed to take them eight times a day. It seemed so ludicrous that they were titrated to release on that kind of frequency that I called shenanigans, read the ingredients, and called more shenanigans.

*sentence construction specially for Neb


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 2:31 PM
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Maybe they were special squirrels or ate special food. Sort of a Kopi Luwak type of squirrel shit medicine.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 2:36 PM
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Since it has a happy enough ending, the story about jms's sister is awesome.

The place where I'm guilty of doing "natural" things probably unnecessarily is on the girls' hair gunk, where not only am I going to avoid chemical straightening for as long as possible, but I generally don't use petroleum products and often mix my own oils and butters. This is one area where I'm definitely not meeting the cultural norms of their birth families and instead being a privileged white whatever and not feeling guilty enough about that to change what I'm doing since it's healthy and works. But.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 2:36 PM
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It's like when Jerry Brown ate squirrel shit in front of a Senate subcommittee to show there was no danger from Yosemite hantavirus.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 2:41 PM
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and might say that many Western modern medicines work because the chemicals in them interact with certain aspects or functions of the body, which are generally not well-studied or understood by Western medical practitioners.

What? Are you invoking chi or energy flows or something here?


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 3:04 PM
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The idea that chemicals have a different effect in concert, or when delivered in a certain way, is plausible. Still, though, it should testable.
Oh god. Fucking exponents.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 3:27 PM
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What? Are you invoking chi or energy flows or something here?

You wanna make something of it?


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 3:38 PM
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I have very sensitive skin (currently exacerbated by my delicate condition and the insanely dry air here, good lord) and a sensitive nose, and so lots of things that I use are unscented and/or naturalish.

I don't take medicines often. I think that it's possible that alternative medicines might work well in some cases but I tend to think of them as things that if they work, they probably work more in maintaining health than curing disease. I don't think it's the case that we always understand exactly how the isolated chemical interacts with the body, but this boils down to "eat the kale instead of taking a vitamin supplement."

And I'm allergic to 'woo' by temperament.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 3:46 PM
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re: 54

Yeah, when I worked for the company doing the TCM research, flying squirrel shit was something in one of the formulations of the drug they were developing. they weren't using that formulation. It was a traditional remedy that typically had the same three ingredients in almost all formulations, but most added some other stuff, included squirrel shit. The company were, iirc, sticking to just the three core ingredients (all plant derived).

There were quite a lot of Chinese clinical trials on the ingredients in question, and good basic Western medical reasons why they might work. Phytoestrogens, known plant-derived anti-inflammatories, etc. However, the core claim in the Chinese language medical trials was that there was something synergistic happening with the main ingredients, so they couldn't do Western clinical trials in isolation. It had to be all three ingredients together in a standardised formula. So they had a team at a big London university pharmacology department just working on producing assays that could show that the levels of a huge array of different molecules were consistent from batch to batch.

These were all fairly hardcore Western pharmacologists. There wasn't any alternative medicine 'woo' involved, although a couple of the pharmacologists were cross-qualified as TCM pharmacologists.

As far as I can tell, they got bought out and swallowed by a bigger pharma company before they got to phase II clinical trial stage.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 3:47 PM
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I'm allergic to 'woo' by temperament.

Me too. Which is why the universe has given me a daughter who practices various forms of woo. And if her reike cures my son's back injury [spits on ground, grumbles fucking snowmobiles] I'm happy to roll with that.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 4:36 PM
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You wanna make something of it?

Not really. I get my fill of that kind of thing from Marni, one of our chronic callers. She's mentally ill and while her conversations aren't that enlightening there's at least the entertainment of her demonstrating the tai chi like movements she uses to move her chi through her kidneys and such. A similar conversation on the internet is likely going to have all the annoyance and none of the fun.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 4:44 PM
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It's pretty annoying that long-standing practices followed by serious-minded people, and to which hundreds of years of study and research have been dedicated, are summarily dismissed as kooky or new agey or nonserious because kooky/new agey/nonserious white people decided to take them up a few decades ago.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 4:51 PM
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Yeah, it doesn't matter who's selling squirrel shit, patients who swallow that thinking it's medicine are worse off. Falun gong science for example is every bit as harmful as Mary Baker Eddy.

Acupuncture for instance has real effects. There may be treasure in traditional remedies that's hard for clinical trials the way they are run now to detect. But the solution is better test protocols, not "trust me." No testing and an old manuscript for a guide is a recipe for folk trouble.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 5:09 PM
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Mary Baker Eddy was right about medicine, at the time.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 5:17 PM
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Catholic exorcisms get a bum rap, too.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 5:22 PM
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All of traditional Western medicine, really.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 5:24 PM
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Fair point that times were different. But quinine was widely used by 1850, and Pasteur's rabies vaccine was before the turn of the century.

Malaria is far and away the most serious disease affecting humans. Are there folk remedies? I don't know the answer.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 5:26 PM
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54: thanks, heebie!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 5:27 PM
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long-standing practices followed by serious-minded people, and to which hundreds of years of study and research have been dedicated

Like astrology! Or... alchemy?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 6:05 PM
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I just try to eat natural things without any phlogiston in them.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 6:05 PM
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Place your hands, palms facing your body, parallel to your sides and sway back and forth while manipulating your chi through your kidneys. I haven't been able to get it to work yet but I haven't practiced all that much.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 6:17 PM
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I said 'woo', not all traditional medicine. Characterstics of 'woo':
a) adopting a Western paradigm, e.g., take a pill to make it better, but rejecting as unnatural anything that isn't a non-Western pill.
b) a sort of weird exoticism: this is an ancient X remedy, where X is some culture not my own, so therefore it must be automagically good, in a way that my great-grandmother's folk remedies or a theory based on the hundreds of years of research into the four humours couldn't be.
c) not asking questions if there's a good narrative about why something works (e.g., paleo.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 6:20 PM
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I wonder if gswift's frequent caller knows that the 'chi' in 'tai chi' and the 'chi' as in energy flows or whatever are not at all the same word.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 6:23 PM
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76: Wait, really? This explains... not that much, actually.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 6:26 PM
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Hard to pin down exactly what she knows. She gave the practice some other name but started doing weird movements and said it was "kind of like tai chi but different." I was trying to stay focused on the "how about you get in the nice warm ambulance and talk to the good people at the university hospital instead of running off barefoot into the wetlands wearing nothing but a thin sweater and yoga pants."


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 6:27 PM
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I just try to eat natural things without any phlogiston in them.

You must be very cold.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 6:34 PM
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78: qi gong?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 6:37 PM
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Why I am trying to solve this mystery I have no idea.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 6:37 PM
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Ha, I think that might have been it.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 6:40 PM
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any a youse people do this qigong business?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 6:50 PM
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70: Artemsinin was part of traditional Chinese medicine for millenia, but was discovered by the Chinese military as a malaria cure in the 1970s.

I believe that it (in pharmaceutical form, in combination w/other anti-malarials) is considered the first line of defense against malaria.


Posted by: Klug | Link to this comment | 02-14-13 9:08 PM
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Some non-Western medical systems are basically what you get if you have long-term systematic and even fairly rigorous observation of the signs and symptoms of disease and their responsiveness to treatment, combined with almost no knowledge (because no dissection/vivisection) of what's actually happening on the inside.

The models that develop may not be literally true in a simplistic sense, but that doesn't mean that they aren't _sometimes_ effective in predicting the course of a disease or prescribing treatment. Even when you read, say, Hippocratic medical stuff, the practical advice is often fairly sensible and some of their treatment methods quite effective.

As per 75, what's doubly irritating about Western 'woo' merchants/consumers is that they are often divorced both from the theoretical and practical body of knowledge that makes up Western medicine and the body of theory and practice that makes up whatever non-Western system they are cherry picking from.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-15-13 1:12 AM
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many Western modern medicines work because the chemicals in them interact with certain aspects or functions of the body, which are generally not well-studied or understood by Western medical practitioners

Or, alternatively, some traditional medicines work because chemicals in them interact with the body. I mean, which would you bet on, that or the one that postulates additional laws of nature that are entirely unspecified, but have apparently been independently rediscovered by all those traditional, natural people (because they're all the same really rite?), without any of them ever really defining their terms?

What stands out, to me, is that all prescientific medicine seems to have a lot in common; we have a really good example of this, because the history of Western medicine before about 1850 was all about the "well, perhaps it's, ehhh, holistic and due to applying the leeches and the cooked shit at the same time?", vaguely defined thingy-wotsname, and frankly, bullshit that existed primarily to protect the status of the profession.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02-15-13 3:14 AM
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The British drug regulator has a web page for safety issues with "herbal" products; the most common one is that the active ingredient is $DRUG at six times the permissible dose.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02-15-13 3:23 AM
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The British drug regulator has a web page for safety issues with "herbal" products; the most common one is that the active ingredient is $DRUG at six times the permissible dose.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02-15-13 3:25 AM
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re:86.last

To be fair, I think some non-Western but long-running and fairly sophisticated medical systems (TCM, for example) are probably more effective than Western medicine from before the end of the 18th century, and less lethal than Western medicine of the early 'scientific' period. But yeah, whenever research is done on particularly effective non-Western medicines, they tend to work in fairly non-mysterious ways. They work because herbal preparation $foo contains stuff that targets exactly the same sorts of physiological systems that Western medicines do.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-15-13 3:51 AM
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Clarification- the chemicals do not interact with each other directly, like different components of willow bark making Voltron Aspirin! (Or Might Morphin' whatever for the kids these days.)
It is plausible that two different components interact with different targets in ways that synergize the effect- the most common being that component 1 causes curative effect and component 2 interferes with the metabolism of component 1. This has been done intentionally in designed drugs like Augmentin, or happens unintentionally in a lot of cases involving liver metabolism, like acetaminophen and alcohol.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-15-13 5:19 AM
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An acupuncturist told me that the western explanation for why acupuncture might work had something to do with fascia. I didn't quite get the reasoning or how it related to the idea that acupuncture stimulates the production of endorphins.

She's a very non-woo acupuncturist. She trained as a mechanical engineer before becoming an acupuncturist and is working on a placebo controlled study right now. It can't really be double blind, because I'm assuming that she knows which are the sham needles.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-15-13 5:51 AM
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Sham Needles is still available as a pseud, I believe.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-15-13 6:21 AM
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re: 91

IIRC, [it's been a while since I read up] clinical studies on acupuncture have shown it works (for some value of work) but that the exact placement of the needles is irrelevant. So all the meridian points, and chi flow and so on, not so much. Poking needles in the rough area of the pain, works.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-15-13 7:45 AM
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Those were the ones with the actor pretending to be an acupuncturist vs. the actual acupuncturist, right?


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02-15-13 7:59 AM
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Possibly. One that I read, they randomized the location of the needles, but they were real rather than sham needles. I can't recall if the person implanting the needles was blinded in some way (as to where the correct location 'ought' to have been) although they probably should have been.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-15-13 8:03 AM
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I wonder if I'm the only one who keeps reading TCM as "Turner Classic Movies".


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-15-13 8:09 AM
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I have on a couple of occasions had muscle spasm treated by dry needling, aka "Western acupuncture". It's based on the whole trigger point therapy thing but instead of massage at the spot the needle is inserted and the tight muscle releases.

Problems with fascia are well recognised by physiotherapists and similar western medicine based practitioners. At present I am seeing a therapeutic massage person who is very slightly more woo than my physio (big into essential oils) but talks about the exact same anatomical and postural issues. She blames the fascia for a lot of my chronic issues as apparently this tissue layer can restrict the muscles and prevent stretching etc from being effective. She works on this with massage but I can easily imagine that acupuncture could be applied.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 02-15-13 9:09 AM
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