Saturday, September 13, 2008

Buffaloed and Bamboozled

Back in the early 1990s I was surprised by a string of China Daily articles claiming that trditional Chinese medicine cured everything from Aids to acne and baldness. We've come to see that such inflated claims are common. What surprises me is that people so readily believe them...

Bamboozled! In late 1999, I spent two months in a Hong Kong hospital. When I returned home to Xiamen University, a Chinese professor of literature visited me, doffed his shirt, and demonstrated vigorously how to use a 25 cent bamboo back scratcher. "Do this three tines a day," he said, "and you'll never have cancer again!" As he scoured his back, arms and belly, he added, "But you have to use a bamboo back scratcher. "No others work."

Another Nail in the Coughin’ Years ago, when our young sons' had colds and fevers that lasted a couple weeks, another famous professor told us that a certain award-winning cough medicine cured colds in 3 days, guaranteed. When I asked him why his own daughter had not been cured of the cold she’d had for over a week, he glared at me as if he understood why some animals ate their young, and replied, “It’s a different cold than last week.”

Rubbed the Wrong Way One Chinese Doctor heard Matthew had a fever and showed up on our doorstep, uninvited, waltzed in, vigorously rubbed a silver coin on Matt’s forehead, and pronounced, “Now the fever is gone.” and rose to make a dignified departure.

“Wait a minute,” I said, "let me check. I took Matt’s temperature. “It’s still 104!” I said.

“No it isn’t,” the doctor said. “The silver coin always works, so the thermometer is wrong.” And he packed up his satchel and left.

An Arm and a Leg Some medicines do work, of course, and even cure what Western medicine` cannot—like some kinds of asthma. And I know an herbalist who has cured king cobra bites with herbs. “I’ve never lost a patient!” he boasted. “If they had gone to a hospital instead, they would have had at least an arm or a leg amputated.”

“That’s nothing!” I said. “American hospitals charge an arm and a leg!”

Buffaloed! This brings us to the buffalo horn Chinese comb (I combed the country to find this!). The package claims (and I quote!):

“Comb having a long history in China. The pure natural horn of ox or sheep is being adopted to form the highly finished product through modern scientific technology. Using comb… will expel the fire-evil of the head and remove the scrap from the scalp with the most tender and comfort feeling resulting to smooth the skin and protect the hair to clear the mind to regulate the vital energy and blood of the whole body and improve the peripheral blood circulation. IT is beneficial to grey hair and loss of hair and it has the effect of decreasing fatty material in the blood and regulating blood pressure.”

It is amazing that they can make such claims, in writing, with a straight face! But even more amazing is the fact that many Chinese believe them! But I guess we Americans are just as gullible.

You don't really "see" home until you've left it for awhile and returned. Almost every time I return to the U.S., someone tries to involve me in some multi-level scheme to get rich from using and selling the latest health cure-all. How about $30 for a bottle of fruit sugar pills? And magnetized bracelets are attracting a following with claims to cure everything from high blood pressure (if worn on the right wrist) to arthritis, sports injuries and impotence. A friend gave me a bed mattress with small round magnets scattered throughout it; said it would take 20 years off my age, and he was almost right. They stabbed me in the back every time I tried to sleep and took at least 20 years off my life, if not my age.

I laugh at the naivete of Chinese, but it seems we Americans also strain at gnats and swallow camels.

Enjoy Amoy!

Dr. Bill
Xiamen University MBA Center

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