For those of you who have better things to do with your time than browse the internet for spurious health stories, I need to mention that the whole interwebs are crammed with healthnut wackjobs. Absolutely awash.

One shouty headline that turns up time after time is This Natural Cure Found To Be 100x More Effective Than Chemotherapy!!!’ I’ve seen this where the ‘natural cure’ is, variously, turmeric (that’s the yellow spice that stains your shirt when you bodge eating a curry), ginger* (one of the things that make curries worth eating), flat leaf parsley, coriander (cilantro in the US), and the downright unlikely and hard-to-source myrrh. They don’t stock that down my local CoOp.**

There’s something more prosaic that came up yesterday. Dandelion roots. This intrigued me, so I thought I’d give it a looksee. Usual preamble about more people dying of chemo than of cancer, then what was for me a statement that had me going for Defcon 1. Apparently extract of dandelion root causes cancer cells to ‘literally explode’ while ‘leaving healthy cells unharmed.’

OK, you can see my problem here. I set out carefully to deconstruct this twaddle. I started out by objecting to the hyperbolic and completely inaccurate use of the term ‘literally,’ which is a bête noir of mine. I went on by asserting that no cytologist in the history of recorded scientific endeavour has ever referred to cells exploding. We pointyheads tend to be a bit more circumspect, and refer to ‘cell disruption’ or ‘cell disintegration.’  Or the posh word ‘lyisis.’ Hence ‘literally explode’ is not what was said or written, but was an interpretation by this idiot.

Then I got to thinking. ‘Healthy’ cells were unharmed? How did they know that? And what exactly are ‘healthy cells?’ Liver cells? Pancreatic cells? Kidney cells? Prostate cells? Bone marrow? Brain cells?

Since we had cells literally exploding, I had to assume that these results were obtained in vitro, rather than in vivo. After all, you don’t want your subjects going ‘Pop!’ do you?


Things operate very differently in a Petri dish from in an animal. On that subject, what animal species was being tested? If it’s not humans, then I easily turned the old naturopaths’ mantra on its head and said, ‘You always claim animal testing isn’t necessary or even useful because there are vital differences between animals and humans. You can’t have it both ways now can you?’

I replied to the post, pointing out the complete lack of references, any meaningful statistics, any meaningful anything, and the total presence of unsupported nonsensical assertions. The original poster, who’s an FB Friend of mine, took it in good part.

Not so one of his muckers, who got very angry indeed with me. I am apparently in the pocket of ‘big pharma,’ have an ignorant and closed mind (that’s a bit rich coming from him, isn’t it?), and am in favour of sacrificing virgins to Satan.

I made the last bit up.

*They eat a lot of ginger in India. There’s one of the highest rates of stomach cancer in the world on that subcontinent, so that’s that idea stuffed.

** You can’t get colloidal silver either, but I do know that infusions of that make your skin go bluey-grey.