IN THIS day and age, where information is free and easily accessible, it is hard to believe that people will still fall for “miracle cures”.
Whether it be companies claiming that their products can cure a host of illnesses, or traditional Chinese medicines that use exotic animal parts in their concoctions, there are plenty of “miracle cures” in the market.
Just a few months ago when my mother brought my grandfather for a checkup in a private hospital, she saw a flyer advertising porcupine bezoar stones (pix).
Porcupine bezoars have been dubbed as a “natural remedy” that supposedly cures cancer, diabetes, dengue and other health ailments.
Not only are they categorised as unregistered traditional medicine, the bezoars’ so-called healing properties are based solely on testimony, not research.
Despite not having any scientific proof that bezoars can heal you, the demand for it is high.
Through research, medicine shops are charging as much as RM600 to RM2,000 for just half a gramme.
These sellers are definitely targeting the right market by distributing flyers to people visiting a private medical institution.
But the thing that maddens me is that people who are sick and are in pain will look at what they are promoting on this flyer as a way out, a saviour.
Not only is the legitimacy of porcupine bezoars as a “cure” under question, there are such things as fake porcupine bezoars that might end up doing more harm than good.
A more recent visit to a Chinese grocery and medicine shop in Petaling Jaya showed that there is a demand for exotic medicines.
On display in the glass counter, I saw a sign advertising the type of medicine for hundreds of ringgit (I can’t remember the exact price). Because I don’t read Mandarin, I asked my mother to ask the shopkeeper what it was.
My mum translated it as being a medicine made out of a tiger part (she wasn’t sure exactly what part it was).
To think that someone would ingest a part of our national animal breaks my heart.
Not only are Malayan tigers listed as endangered under the IUCN Red List, it is Totally Protected under Malaysian law.
Clearly the profit must outweigh the risk of being fined and jailed for trading Totally Protected species.
Not all miracle cures are made up of animal parts, there are some companies that claim that their “natural” supplements or tonics that can cure you or make you healthier.
A friend of mine told me that he had been approached many times by friends introducing an “innovative new health supplement” that can cure things from surgical wounds, dengue etc.
He said they have testimonies from prominent celebrities and wealthy businessmen, and they would have presentation slides that would have testimonies of “miraculous” recoveries.
Not only do products like these have no scientific backing, it is not endorsed by the health authorities. It purely relies on unverified testimonies.
I always tell myself that if something sounds too good to be true, it often is a con.
Surely if these products are as great as people claim, wouldn’t pharmaceutical companies have patented it and made billions out of it?
Whether it be exotic medicines or “miraculous” supplements, there are people who are being manipulated into buying them.
It disgusts me that they are targeting sick people and the elderly, especially since they often charge a pretty sum for these health “cures”.
Journalists are always taught to research and verify news. So before you purchase any medicinal product, it is wise to check if it is certified by a health authority and what exactly is in it.
In the case of porcupine bezoars, not only are some species protected (making the sale of unlicensed porcupine bezoars illegal), bezoars can also be harvested inhumanely.
Not all porcupines produce bezoars, so harvesters would make the porcupine sick to encourage them to produce one.
According to reports, porcupines are captured from the wild and crammed into cages. The porcupines are later butchered for their meat and to harvest bezoar stones from their stomachs.
Think about where this “miracle cure” comes from, is it worth spending thousands to have animals suffer?
Is it worth it, knowing that this medicine can sometimes lead to a decrease in population for certain species?
Because that’s what you’re doing if you buy some exotic medicines, you may be contributing to the illegal trade of protected species that are threatened from extinction.
It all begins and ends with you.
If there is a demand, there’s a market for these exotic medicines and “miracle” supplements. But if there’s no demand, there will be nobody to sell these products too.
The views expressed are entirely the writer's own