20 October, 2015
This is one pound of squirrel feces, being sold as a “medicinal grade Chinese herb.” Obviously, squirrel poop doesn’t treat, prevent, or cure any known illness. But there’s a deeper truth in this. Traditional Chinese Medicine, a name meant to evoke the wisdom of the ancients, was popularized in the 1950s by Chairman Mao Zedong’s government. Although the government knew that it was ineffective, the citizens in post-war China generally couldn’t afford Western medicine, and so it was established as a way for the government to trick the people into believing they had access to medical care.
While it’s true that people have been sniffing squirrel shit and eating spiders in the name of “medicine” for centuries, it’s also worth noting that contemporaneous treatments included ingestion of mercury and arsenic, bloodletting, and trepanation. Since this medical hoax belongs to another culture, it’s easy to ignore it, and pretend that making tea out of a parasitic fungus that takes over the nervous system of insects is a legitimate medical treatment that we just don’t understand as Americans. But the guy selling squirrel shit is just as bad as Dr. Oz selling a bag of raspberry ketones: either way, you stay sick, and they get rich.