The bounty of snakes

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If I were to offer to heal your arthritis with snake oil you'd likely laugh—but that would be a mistake. Snake oil in its original form works wonders. In the 1800s Chinese railroad workers flooded the west to build the Transcontinental railroad and they brought with them their potions and medicines—among them was liniment made from the oil of the Chinese water snake, which is rich in the omega-3 acids that help reduce inflammation. Word of this amazing remedy started to spread and people wanted to purchase this rare substance. Enter Clark Stanley, better known as the Rattle Snake King who managed to forever taint the good name of Snake Oil. Stanley would tour the country selling his version of the Chinese medicine. When a group of onlookers gathered he would reach into a sack, pluck out a snake, slit it open and plunge it into boiling water. When the fat rose to the top, he skimmed it off and used it on the spot to create 'Stanley's Snake Oil,' a liniment that was immediately snapped up by those gathered to watch the spectacle. There were two problems with Stanley's product: rattlesnake oil isn't beneficial like the water snake, and most of the oil Stanley sold wasn't actually from snakes. In fact, his oil was a scam, made from beef fat, red pepper, and turpentine—nasty stuff to rub on your skin. In 1916, subsequent to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, Stanley's concoction was examined and found to be of no value. He was fined $20.00 and went on to other fine endeavors of public "interest". The next time someone says they think "it's just snake oil" we are reminded that might not be a bad thing.
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Paul McGowan

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