By Trisha Malhotra
Consuming bizarre concoctions in the name of health has been practiced for millennia. From heroin-laced aspirin marketed for remedying coughs in the late 1800s, to drilling holes into patients’ frontal cortex to cure depression in the 1900s, medicine has a shameful past. Although science has come a long way, remnants of our deplorable history still exist in the form of strange supplements. What takes the cake is that you can buy these supplements off of Amazon today. Here are some of the most bizarre ingredients found in supplements today.
1. Horny Goat Weed
Epimedium Grandiflorum is a medical herb native to China used to treat all kinds of issues- from erectile dysfunction (ED) to osteoporosis. Legend has it that the plant was named horny goat weed because a shepherd noticed his flock becoming noticeably aroused after consuming it. Science supports this legend.
In one study, when rats were given a pure extract of horny goat weed, researchers saw an improvement in their erectile function. Since then, it can be found in over-the-counter capsules or powders with claims to treat ED, fatigue, brain injuries, even breast cancer. There is no set dosage other than what is available on the packaging, so being wary of overconsuming horny goat weed is important.
2. Human Placenta
Eating your own placenta after birth has a medical term: placentophagy. This is a common behavior observed in camels and some aquatic mammals. In recent years, consuming human placenta postpartum has become ‘trendy,’ which is always a bad adjective to describe anything legitimately medical. Celebrities are responsible for spreading misinformation around the supposed health benefits of eating placenta; be it raw, cooked, or in godforsaken smoothies. As of now, these benefits cannot be backed up.
There is also the issue of consuming highly infectious bacteria swarming inside the placenta. This is validated by the case of a woman who consumed infected placenta pills and developed an infection of group B streptococcus bacteria. This particular bacteria is dangerous for newborns who can catch it from drinking an infected mothers’ breast milk. This case is also why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wards against consuming placenta.
3. Bear bile
Bear bile is used in traditional Chinese medicine dates back to the 8th Century. The bile of Asiatic brown and black bears contains high amounts of ursodiol, which has been proven to treat liver disease and dissolve gallstones. However, you don’t need to poach bears to get access to ursodiol. This substance has been available worldwide as a synthetic drug for decades.
In February 2020, the Chinese Government recommended using an injection containing bear bile known as Tan Re Qing to treat Covid-19. Against the sentiment of wildlife advocates, this injection has been administered by Chinese medicine practitioners to treat bronchitis and upper respiratory tract infections. But besides temporarily alleviating symptoms, there is no evidence bear bile can work to treat the novel coronavirus.
4. Scaly Anteater Scales
Pangolins are a unique type of anteaters covered entirely in scales. They are heavily poached and illegally traded for the supposed medical benefits of their scales, making them one of the most trafficked animals in Asia. Pangolin scales are bought whole, then crushed, and dried into a powder to be consumed orally. Reasons for the very illegal demand for these scales include aiding rheumatism, promoting lactation, improving arthritis, enhancing kidney function, and more. A lot of these claims are bogus traditions with little evidence to support them. However, pangolins are still heavily trafficked due to the lack of education around the ecological costs of poaching them.
5. Bee Venom
Bee venom has become readily available as a luxe cosmetic ingredient worth hundreds of dollars with claims to combat the aging process. Known as an “organic facelift” the ingredient supposedly smoothes wrinkles by tricking the skin into producing more elastin and collagen. It contains an active compound called melittin that possesses anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Bee venom has even been touted as a viable alternative to botox. Being anaphylactic, when bee venom is injected into facial muscles, it temporarily relaxes them, breaks down their cell membranes, and could improve circulation. In tandem, these could result in a tighter complexion.