Is Everything Snake Oil?

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We all know that “snake oil” is a term that represents something that has no real value and is a sham, but is presented as the opposite. 

But it wasn’t always that way.  The original snake oil was legit.

In the late 1800’s, Chinese railroad workers in the United States, naturally brought numerous cultural traditions with them, including one notable from Eastern medicine — snake oil. The original snake oil was made from the oil of Chinese water snakes and was rich in omega-3 acids that we now know help reduce inflammation and was thus genuinely effective at relieving arthritis and bursitis.

In short order, to capitalize on the buzz, before long new snake oils popped up that (1) weren’t made from the oils of Chinese water snakes, and (2) made increasingly exaggerated claims of what ailments they could heal.

And thus, our current perception of “snake oil” was born.

Today, it seems that almost everything is snake oil. And too many people believe in it.

From astrology (space magic) and detox programs (juice magic), to the latest thing that will help you stay young/get better skin/have more muscle and less fat all without exercise/physical activity/eating healthfully, to whatever Goop is selling (health magic), to whatever miracle thing we need to eat/do immediately: is it MCT oil? Or apple cider vinegar? Or is it ice baths? Or heat therapy? Sell all your belongings and move to a Blue Zone?

We are awash in either full-on nonsense or wildly exaggerated health claims and hyperbole for things that do have some value. 

But the fundamentals have always been simple: eat healthy food, go out and play, preferably with other people.

If you let the hype, hyperbole, and click bait constantly distract you, you’ll never feel like you’re doing enough, and you’ll be trying to do 50 things at once while feeling like you’re failing. 

Health is not complicated…it might not be easy to do in a world engineered for the opposite. But it is not complicated

Stay focused on the fundamentals which are neither splashy or sexy and be at peace knowing you’re doing your best to be good to yourself.

And you can have a chuckle at the endless offerings of the snake oil industry. 

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