The Course of Reason

Brandon Goes to a Snakeoil Festival

February 18, 2013

So, I went to a snakeoil festival. A snakeoil festival is a gathering place for shillers of alternative medicine, a safe haven for people without proper medical expertise to give medical advice. It was an irresistible event, so I had to attend. I gathered up a few freethinkers and skeptics, and we were off to what was advertised as the Saskatoon Wellness Expo. 54 booths, some presentations, and all the alternative medicine buzz we could stand. I will present here some of the highlights of our adventure.

Booth #1- A combination of exercise equipment and special water. The exercise equipment was shaped like a stair climber, except it has had the stairs replaced with a flat pad. If you stood on this pad, it would violently vibrate, and shake the pounds right off. Surprisingly, this wasn't the highlight of this booth. The highlight was the special water, as the poster promoting the water said "the water molecules in this water are 3X smaller, to allow a more effective absorption of the water into bodily tissues. Yes, you read that right, they had shrunken water molecules. (One of the founding scientists of this technology MUST be the one and only Rick Moranis.)

Booth #4- I discovered that a monthly alternative medicine publication is written, printed, and distributed right in my hometown of Saskatoon. In this month's issue, I can discover how to get angels to boost my immune system. (Once again, you read that right.)

Booth #5- A man who is selling all natural herbal supplements. Apparently Western medicine treats the symptoms but not the disease itself, and it wasn't until this man's son tried the all natural herbal supplements that his depression went away. After some poking and prodding, it was revealed that he is rather anti-government, anti-big phama, and believes the government uses Western medicine to make the general populous lethargic and easier to control.

Booth #9- A ex-chiropractor giving a presentation about his new all-natural supplement. Apparently, cancer is caused by anti-cholesterol medication, and people that don't take anti-cholesterol medication get exposed to it from the waste of people that do take it. Oh, and also, breast cancer exams less than useless, and breast cancer machines are just boobie squishers. His natural supplement lowers cholesterol without causing cancer and squishing boobies, apparently.

Booth #13- Three words, Healing Pink Lasers. They were very careful to always use the words "help" and "treat" instead of "cure", but they were talking about treating and helping cancer, gangrene, arthritis, deformations, and other serious disorders. They even have a demonstration where the laser apparently helped a wilting plant to sprout back to health. The laser is better than regular white light, according to the people at the booth, because it has three focused wavelengths of light.

Booth #16- Not really alternative medicine, but a cooking demonstration, but it had some pseudoscience in it anyways. He claimed that since lard does not melt on the back of a person's hand, that a person should not consume it because your inner body heat won't be able to melt it either, and it will become stuck in your various tubes and veins. I suppose the same should hold true for bread? For Jube Jube candies? Forget the gut processes that are designed to break down food, IF IT DOESNT MELT ON MY HAND, I WILL NOT EAT IT!

Booth #21- Another magnetic bracelet that will balance my energy field and some other vague claims that will result in me "being at my best" when playing sports. Sounds like a lawyer helped with the pitch. The person at the booth tells me more than the written claims will, going into how the magnetic bracelet will simultaneously know to push the blood into my hands for hand-based sports, and into my legs for leg based sports. Wow, high tech or what?

snake oil promotions

Booth #25- A deep purple juice, made from a combination of exotic sounding fruits I have never heard of before. It looks as if I got some on my shirt, no amount of baking soda and scrubbing would ever get the stain out. He claims the juice has helped many people wean off of conventional medications, including anti-epileptic meds, blood pressure meds, insulin, and so on. It taste great, but it's thirty dollars Canadian for a liter bottle.

Booth #26- A woman laying on a table, with a woman waving her hands over her without even touching her. The woman doing the procedure told me that she was smoothing chaotic energy in the woman's back. She also said people always felt better after they were on her table, I asked "Couldn't that be because they were lying down relaxing for 20 mins?". She simply replied "No, people usually feel worse if they just lay down, I make them feel better". Well, wasn't expecting that one. She also told me she could teach me how to do the same treatment and have me giving it to other people in fifteen minutes, if only I had loser morals.

Booth #31- A natural health food store. Selling tea, nuts, bark, and other various plant parts that are totally so much better than the evil pesticide ridden plant parts at the grocery store. Plus their stuff comes in brown paper bags that say happy "save the earth" related saying on them. How could you resist paying triple the amount for pretty much the same thing, what kind of environmentalist/agriculture industry shill are you?

Booth #32- Honey, just honey, with a twist! These bees made the honey beneath big, welded, copper triangles. Giving the honey quantum energy properties that can rid people of cold and flu symptoms. They are also completely toxin free, unlike the non-trangled honey you buy at the grocery store.

Booth #34- I don't know if I can make heads or tails of this one. Okay, you have 32 bars in your head all connected to different energy flow patterns in the universe. Some represent money, some sex, some health and wellness and two of them, above your left eyebrow are the "time and space" bars (that's right, YOU HAVE A TARDIS IN YOUR HEAD!). All the ladies in this booth were sitting behind people who were reclining in chairs, and nobody was moving, or making any sound. After 10 or so minutes, whatever was happening seemed to have happened, in a sneaky nothing-really-happened-but-I-must-have-missed-it kind of way. The lady told me they were reconnecting pathways to different energy frequencies in the universe, and each energy frequency had a different meaning and a different path into the conscious mind.
I back away slowly, nodding.

Booth #39- Aroma therapy—sure the lilac smells nice, but will it really help treat my heart disease? Apparently the answer is yes. (Have you noticed the trend, all the booths are very savvy in saying "will help treat" and not saying "will cure"?) Also, orange scents will help treat sleep apnea, vanilla will help with any kind of psychosis and depression, and popcorn extract will help with erectile dysfunction (why she decided to tell me this one makes me worry about how I present myself).

Booth #40- Yepp, there it was. A pet psychic. Not labeled that of course, it was described as "talking to a pet's body". The looping video in the booth showed the person in the booth holding cats and dogs paws and asking them questions, she would then determine from body language and facial cues what the pet answered. She wasn't asking any rickety "yes or no" questions, she was asking pets what animal they were in their past life, what was their favorite food, what was making them sad etc. I didn't want to ask any questions.

Booth #42- Another gentleman selling natural herbal supplements. This was actually the booth belonging to the man giving the presentation in booth #9 (the ex-chiropractor). It had his special supplement, along with a few others with the same logo. The guy had apparently heard skeptics were afoot, for as soon as we approached the booth, he asked one of the members who they were and who they were with. I eventually had a chance to talk to the young man, he confidently asked what makes scientific medicine better than natural medicine, I went on to explain the basics of the scientific method and how it is used in the medical field as an applied science. He had no further questions and went back to his coworkers. I think he was talking about what I said behind my back, but that could of just been my paranoid imagination running amok.

Booth #43- Colonics. Yeahhh, the less I talk about this, the better. She said it will remove old food and toxins from me that have been inside me for years. I don't think I ever need to be that clean.

Booth #45- A man testing the toxin levels in blood. This almost seemed legitimate, as it included a team of nurses with a man in a lab coat. The nurses were taking blood, the doctor-looking man was checking the blood. It wasn't until I probed that I saw what was beneath. He was a doctor, of Naturopathic Medicine. A degree one can obtain from an accredited Naturopathy University in only two years. Wow! A two year MD? Sounds too good to be true! Well, yes, it is. The man was seeing is the blood was "quantumly aligned", and was counting the amount of "toxin colonies" in the blood. The man spent two whole years learning about naturopathic medicine after high school, who am I to correct him on whether or not blood is quantumly aligned?

Booth #48- A coffee that is caffeine free, and toxin free. It also enriches the brew it produces with an energy pattern that prolongs energy. Coffee with positive vibes eh? No wonder it costs five times as much as regular coffee. Also, regular coffee carries toxins and funguses that cause the body to retain fat and toxins, while this coffee releases those things. Oh, and they have scientific studies to prove it. (Disclaimer: they consider a binder full of testimonials to be scientific studie.s)

Booth #52- The last notable booth. A pendant you can wear as an earring, a necklace, hell, even something to hold your zipper up, and it makes you lose weight. Apparently fat wants to escape, but it is blocked from escaping the body by impure energy spikes and signatures. This pendant focuses the energy on itself, and created a portal for the fat to escape from. The fine print says it all, of course—all this weight loss can be yours, in association with proper diet and exercise.

So, the tour was over. Some of the booths seemed perfectly legitimate. One was a local Saskatoon magazine that seemed to be in sync with conventional medicine, eat your share of fruits and veggies, exercise 30 minutes a day, and get enough sleep. Another was a group cardio session directed by a certified personal trainer. Another booth was offering lessons on how to quickly cook a balanced and healthy meal. Unfortunately, these kinds of booths were far outnumbered by the semi-woo and full-out woo booths. It is a unfortunate commentary into the kinds of things the public is willing to buy into, support, and choose over conventional medicine.


About the Author: Brandon Gerbig

Brandon Gerbig's photo
Brandon Gerbig is an Atheist, secular humanist, skeptic from Saskatoon Saskatchewan. He is an active member of both the University of Saskatchewan Freethought Alliance, and CFI Saskatoon. In his free time he enjoys Dr. Who Marathons and podcasting.




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