Snowflakes and Shysters

The holiday season is a time for family get-togethers, good food, celebration and festivities but it also is a time to be aware.  If there is one subject I really don’t like to have to address, its shysters. Holiday season seems to bring them out of the woodwork but trust me, they are out there all year and you probably won’t see them coming. Which is why I want to bring some facts regarding herbs and your health out in the open because holidays and health seem to be two areas of vulnerability.

If you know anyone who suffers from a debilitating disease, you know that person would spend their last dime to resolve or relieve the issue. Problem is, the shysters know it too. Something else to be aware of is that if you have ever suffered from an incapacitating ailment, it has a tendency to lurk in the back of your mind the possibility that it could happen again.

For example, I recently met with a person who suffered from scarlet fever. This resulted in a horrific full on body rash that rendered her nearly helpless. Anything coming into contact with her skin was excruciating and even simply lying down or sitting was painful as she felt her entire body had been sand blasted.

Because the rash started behind her knees, every time she has a slight itch there, the thought that the rash could return is the first one she has, even though re-occurrence is unlikely. As an herbalist I see this time and time again. In fact, it’s more likely than not to happen with just about everyone I talk to regarding their health.

Now apply that to anyone who has had cancer or a tumor. We all do it, we seem to be wired that way and doctors don’t necessarily help when asked if the ailment could occur again. Could is such a pretentious word that leaves us lingering when in actuality the words “it could” should promptly be followed with, but it may not. Words matter, especially when coming from someone you trust. Everyone is an individual and diet and lifestyle choices can greatly affect the chances of a re-occurrence of an illness.

That being said, the people who are out to capitalize on your health, or lack of, also know about our lingering phobias surrounding re-occurring illness. It’s perhaps one of the oldest tricks in the book. They know how to hook you and they know how to keep you there. Unless of course you run across an herbalist who knows a thing or two about herbs.

Recently I met with an individual who unfortunately got caught up in a scam. It is with his blessing I share this story.

Max (not his real name) had recently been diagnosed with a tumor and underwent surgery to have it removed. This was a horrific event in his life and of course when asked if it could happen again, the doctor answered with the almost predictable response; “yes, it could.” The surgery left him with a significant scar that was visible from a distance and the lingering thought that the tumor could return.

On one of his visits to the hot springs, Max overheard a group of people talking about an herbal “compound” that was good for nearly everything that ails you including tumors and cancer. Most of us have either suffered from one of those conditions or care about someone who has, so of course it’s going to get some attention, and this time it was Max’.

The “compound” was marketed as a “unique American Indian herbal compound that has reached through time, over several hundred years, to meet the needs of an ailing civilization today.” Thousands of people have benefited from the compound under the sage guidance of Mr. Pocket Robber (not his real name) and many Native Americans prior to this period. The list of ailments supposedly cured by the compound ranges from cancer to gum disease with a host of others in between. Understandably, Max fell for it hook, line and sinker. He contacted Mr. Pocket Robber who was very helpful at first and promptly sent off $400.00 for a product he hoped would stop any future tumors dead in their tracks.

He took the product internally for 12 days at which point he says he felt awful. Further communication with Mr. Pocket Robber had taken a turn and he was informed that Mr. Robber was a very busy man with over 60,000 clients. Take just a minute to do the math on that.

Enter, appalled herbalist. When Max came to me with 3 two ounce jars of the compound and a very unprofessional looking handout with gory pictures and instructions on the use of the product, I put on my detective cap.

First of all, the ingredients listed were a few minerals and a “blend of synergistic herbs”. Although I recognized it as a knock off of the blend known as black salve, I wanted to hear what herbs were included. I immediately called the number listed on the product for more information. To my surprise I got Mr. Pocket Robber himself who was happy to launch into his spiel on the amazing Native American formula made by the same family for over 125 years. When I told him I just wanted to know what was in the blend his tone changed to stern and he informed me they aren’t giving out the formula. I explained that I didn’t want to make it, but only wanted to know due to possible allergic reaction. At which point he bluntly replied, “just don’t take it, what’s the problem”? I responded that the problem is one of integrity; his. This launched him into a raging rant that I’m quite sure went on long after I hung up the phone.

Further investigation uncovered the fact that Mr. Pocket Robber, a man who calls himself a healer is a world traveler with no known relevant health related education. Quackwatch.com reports the following:

Federal law requires that products marketed for preventing or treating disease (a) be recognized as safe and effective by experts, (b) identify their ingredients, and (c) be labeled with adequate directions for their intended use. This product meets none of these standards. In April 2005, the FDA ordered Mr. Pocket Robber and Pocket Robbers Inc., to stop marketing the product. He didn’t.

The other interesting tidbit I found in my investigation is Mr. Robber and his company promote a variety of hot springs on his social media account. I think we’ve come full circle on this one. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. Because Max used a credit card when he purchased the product, he was able to get the charges reversed and because he stopped taking it after 12 days, it has had no lingering negative effects on his health. At the doses recommended in the handout I can only assume that if this product hasn’t been reported to have hurt anyone by now, they probably haven’t lived to tell about it.

Fact: Herbs are inexpensive. Even the most expensive ones are $12-$15 per ounce with saffron being the exception. No matter how you blend them, it doesn’t make them more expensive than they are on an individual basis.

Fact: There is no one miracle herb or herbal blend that is going to heal every little thing from warts to tumors; quite possibly with cannabis being the exception.

Fact: If an herbal product in any form from essential oil to salve appears to have burned your skin then indeed it has. It isn’t the bad “juju” being released from your body as I’ve heard some people claim.

Fact: If a person has integrity, there should be no problem bringing that integrity into question. If someone holds the self-proclaimed title of “healer”, you have every right to ask for their credentials. Where did they study medicine or gain their knowledge on health and well-being are perfectly acceptable questions. If you are met with defensiveness over these kinds of questions, it is a clear sign the person is not on the up and up and at this point it’s fine to walk away with your wallet intact.

Note: Black salve contains the herb blood root and should never be used either internally or externally without the close oversight of a qualified and experienced health practitioner. I’ve personally seen it burn a hole in a person’s skin who was using it topically and in Mr. Robber’s own documentation, scarring may occur if used topically. You are skin on the inside as well. He also notes that the compound should be capsulized daily as it will melt capsules if left too long. Do you really want to put that in your mouth and swallow it? Trust that there are much safer remedies available, especially in Colorado.


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