Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Origins of Snake Oil

Bannack Days 2008 snake oil
Interesting story ...
How Snake Oil Got a Bad Rap (Hint: It Wasn’t The Snakes’ Fault):
These days, “snake oil” is synonymous with quackery, the phoniest of phony medicines. A “snake oil salesman” promises you the world, takes your money, and is long gone by the time you realize the product in your hands is completely worthless.

But get this: The original snake oil actually worked.


In the 1860s, Chinese laborers immigrated to the United States to work on the Transcontinental Railroad. At night, they would rub their sore, tired muscles with ointment made from Chinese water snake (Enhydris chinensis), an ancient Chinese remedy they shared with their American co-workers.

Photo by virtualreality -

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