Rodent tuber

G writes in:

Any idea that rodent tuba can cure cancer?

Thanks for asking, G
If you Google around you will find Rodent tuber claimed as a “natural cancer treatment” in alternatives to medicine websites.

Here are some basic principles you should be aware of

1) Cancer is not one disease. Different cancers are different diseases so any treatment which claims to be able to “cure” all sorts of cancers should raise a red flag of quackery
2) There is no doubt some plants have chemicals which can kill cancer cells in the laboratory (indeed some modern chemotherapy agents are derived from plants e.g. vinca alkaloids and cisplatinum).
3) The “evidence” in many of the alternatives to medicine websites refer to these in-vitro studies but they are not clinical studies which are needed to show whether something works in humans or not.
3) Lots of things can kill cancer cells in the laboratory but it does not mean they will automatically translate into clinical benefit nor does it mean they are not harmless just because they are “natural”

4) It could well be if you ingest these plants with chemicals which kill cancer cells in the laboratory, you are basically ingesting “chemotherapy in a raw form”, in an uncontrolled and unregulated fashion.
5). Being raw and natural does not mean it is better. It could well mean a weak anti-cancer effect (unlikely to “cure” any cancer as claimed) or no anti-cancer effect at all.
6) Being raw and natural does not mean there are no side effects. In this web site there is the caution:

Two days after consuming you may feel stomach problem, little diare (sic), faeces turn black and body feel fatigue. Sometimes patient may vomit after consumption, if this symptoms happened stop taking the capsule ,when you feel better, you can continue taking the capsules but reduce the dosage or consult with your medical practitioner.

These symptoms basically sound like chemotherapy side effects. Faeces turning black is somewhat alarming as it could mean upper gastroinestinal bleeding. If it is a “raw form” of chemotherapy, the website rightly cautions against pregnant women ingesting it. There is no data what it will do to your blood counts, how it will interact with other anti-cancer agents or other drugs,  or any other documented side-effects, so caveat emptor.

Once again, just because something is “natural” does not mean it cannot harm or kill you.


Feedback: Query about Sabah Snake Grass


Irene writes:

I read the info about the warning of ingesting sabah snake grass in your website. Currently Im taking ssg tea daily, a sachet a day. This tea is a mixture of sabah snake grass, misai kucing & frog fruit. I do
not have any disease except a small amount of protein in my urine. My mom who has recovered from breast cancer also drink this tea daily. Is it advisable to drink this tea daily since it’s in mixture form. Will it have side effect on our health if taken long term?

Dear Irene,

Thanks for writing in. There is no data on the long term safety or comprehensively documented side effects of Sabah Snake Grass in normal individuals.
Doctors have for certain come across patients who have experienced adverse effects after ingesting this e.g. dropping blood counts, body aches, kidney impairment as blogged here:
Sabah Snake Grass Warning II – Mind your kidneys

We re-iterate the warning that just because something is “natural” does not mean it is safe. There are a lot of things in nature which can do harm or even kill you.
For sure, some botanicals can have anti-cancer effects. Some modern chemotherapy drugs e.g. Vincristine, Carboplatin are derived from plants or trees. These compounds have been studied and the doses are scientifically tested in clinical trials.
Whether or not there is some compound in Sabah Snake Grass which exerts an anti-cancer effect remains to be proven.
The very notion that normal individuals should take it for “health” or “cancer prevention” is akin to taking RAW CHEMOTHERAPY to prevent cancer. It is HIGHLY INADVISABLE to do so and selling teas like what you are consuming is irresponsible in our opinion.


Dr. Alan Teh
Editor of Alternatives to Medicine

Sabah Snake Grass Warning
Sabah Snake Grass Warning II – Mind your kidneys

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Feng Shui


I am somewhat amused that many still believe fervently in this ancient Chinese philosophy “harmonizing the human existence with the surrounding environment”. While it is harmless if one is concerned with aethetics, it may not be so if it involves health matters and issues of life and death.
I recall one incident related to me by a senior colleague. There was a wealthy patient who was advised to undergo a certain treatment but the family insisted on flying in a famous Feng Shui master from Hong Kong just to make sure “everything was alright” before proceeding. It turns out the Feng Shui master’s fee was many times higher than all the doctors fees combined!

Is Feng Shui real or does it belong to Tooth Fairy science bullshit? Let Penn and Teller demonstrate

This tragic story is also quite a bit of irony for Feng Shui: Feng shui master buried alive in landslide at Chinese cemetery seconds after showing a family the ‘perfect burial plot’ for their relative’s grave

A feng shui master was buried alive in a landslide at a Chinese cemetery seconds after showing a family a ‘perfect burial plot’ for their relative’s grave.
The family of recently deceased De Meng, 75, had invited the feng shui master Zheng Guoqiang, 55, to visit the cemetery in Zhaoqing, Guangdong to see which plot of land could be regarded as ‘good land’ for a family grave where De Meng could be buried.
After surveying the site he took the six members of the man’s family to a place where he announced the vibrations and location was perfect for the grave.
According to the one person who survived, seconds later there was a landslide which buried all seven people, leaving six of them dead.

Still believe in Feng Shui?

Taking Ginkgo biloba to “boost your memory”? Sorry, it doesn’t work


I notice quite a number of folks are still taking Ginkgo supplements in the hope of “boosting their memory” or perhaps to stave off dementia.
Sorry to disappoint you but the evidence is out and it is not good news for Ginkgo.
In the meta-analysis Is Ginkgo biloba a cognitive enhancer in healthy individuals? , researchers found that Ginkgo “had no ascertainable positive effects on a range of targeted cognitive functions in healthy individuals”.
What about dementia? The Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) Study found Ginkgo to be ineffective in reducing the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in older people.

So there you have it. If you are using Ginkgo to boost your mental abilities or to prevent dementia, save your money. The only thing Ginkgo will boost is the bank account of the person selling it.
Want an effective and free way to really boost your memory and stave off dementia? Here’s how.

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Homeopathy: another elaborate placebo


This is an interesting BBC Horizon Documentary which examines whether water in Homeopathic “medicine” really has a “memory effect” even if scientifically it would be highly unlikely to contain any molecules of the original substance left behind at extreme dilutions.

The video is 43 minutes long but worth the watch. Nicely done, BBC!

Further reading: SBM Overview of Homeopathy

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Porcupine “dates” or bezoars


I have to say how amazing that in this day and age people still cling on to the notion that some things can have magical healing properties. It is most unfortunate of these things come from nature and results in the endangering of wild life species or cause untold harm to animals (e.g. rhinoceros horns, bile from bears). We had an enquiry about Porcupine Dates or Porcupine Bezoar (箭豬棗) and I must say a few of my patients had tried taking this for low blood counts (to no effect) and I have to say it seems to fall in the “magical” and “mystical” belief category of TCM.
Can you believe that a magic bullet exists which can cure all sorts of diseases including cancer, epilepsy, dengue, typhoid? If you do, someone is going to sell you this miracle magic bullet for a huge sum of money and sadly, there will be many who will in desperation part with money for false promises of cure. This very fact alone should raise the Red Flag of Quackery.

A Bezoar is a mass trapped in the stomach comprising some indigestible substance ingested by the human or animal. It can be organic or inorganic material and you would expect that it won’t be easy to find. By any stretch of the imagination can you believe something like that will have medicinal properties?

Whether you believe in magic or not, perhaps you can also spare a thought for the poor porcupines?

I note that Only Health Malaysia did a write up and I reproduce their article here for your reference


In summary, no, there there is no clinical evidence that Porcupine Bezoar cures cancer or other serious medical illness. It belongs to the category of mystical and magical belief in Alternatives to Medicine. Please save your money and spare the poor porcupines.

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Be wary of “stem cell” scams


It is currently a fad in Malaysia to consume “oral stem cell enhancers” or substances which claim to “boost” your stem cells.

Be wary as these are yet another means to make the unsuspecting part with their money for useless “supplements”. At least in the Philippines the authorities have taken some action: FDA warns vs stem cells taken orally

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Sunday warned the public against buying unregistered stem cell supplements being peddled online.
In an advisory, the FDA cited in particular a product called Bio Stem Plus, saying that it was neither an FDA-approved stem cell preparation nor an approved food or dietary product.
According to acting FDA Director General Dr. Kenneth Go, the agency had been monitoring Bio Stem Plus supplements being sold and advertised “with deceitful health and therapeutic claims” through, an online buy-and-sell website catering to the Philippine market.
Go said the product was being promoted supposedly as a “natural stem cell nutrition” that increases adult stem cell circulation, repairs damaged tissues, decreases the effects of aging, aids in “up to 70 known human conditions” and cures high blood, vertigo and back pain.
“The public is hereby warned against buying and using unregistered Bio Stem Plus… There are no scientific and clinical studies that would support or back up its health and therapeutic claims,” said Go.

What about purported “stem cell enhancers”. Well, this website about sums it up

The claims are 1. that StemEnhance releases stem cells from bone marrow, and therefore, 2. that because stem cells have a beneficial effect on the body, that StemEnhance therefore has a beneficial effect.
This is simply sheer nonsense. Firstly, there is absolutely no sufficient proof that StemEnhance releases stem cells in any significant levels, or if it does, whether these stem cells make any significant difference in the body.
In plain language, there is insufficient evidence to confirm that StemEnhance has ANY effect on the body. These are facts and not suppositions. Any claims are purely hypothetical.

The above are the phoney “stem cell supplements” which aren’t really stem cells at all and are sold (usually by MLMers) with amazing claims but devoid of any clinical data to back them up, typical of other health supplement scams. You’ll have the usual testimonials of people who “feel better”, “look younger” etc. Unfortunately these subjective improvements are likely a placebo effect or delusions.

As for the other “real” stem cell therapies, unfortunately many of them are still experimental and should be carried out in the context of clinical trials yet they are being prematurely “marketed” as therapies for a wide range of disorders. The concern is not only of the efficacy of these treatments but also the unknown long term complications of such mesenchymal stem cell therapies.

See this article Scammers offering phoney stem cell therapies to ‘treat’ incurable diseases. Seek professional advice before landing yourself in the clutches of people who claim to be able to treat stroke, Parkinson’s, Down’s syndrome etc. with “stem cell therapy”. Ask if this is a clinical trial and ask for published data on what the practitioner is doing.

Here’s a link with reliable information about what Stem cell therapy is really about, and with sensible advice as well as fairly simple explanation about what Stem Cell treatment really involves:
Top Ten Things to Know About Stem Cell Treatments

Related MMR links:
Stem Cell therapy – Myths and Facts

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Crab soup for dengue

crab meat
I mention this as it was brought up in the Dobbs doctors forum and it’s yet another folklore “remedy” for dengue.

Unfortunately there is no evidence that crab soup is any better than any other soup for dengue fever – be it chicken soup, mushroom soup or vegetable soup. So you can spare the crabs and not worsen your cholesterol count along the way. Generally though this one is harmless and not as bitter tasting like Papaya leaves.
A typical blog post by a dengue patient/relative shows how folklore plays in our culture.
Whatever you do, dengue will have to run it’s natural course, and usually the fever settles by the 5th day or so with recovery of counts starting around day 7 as documented in the blog post. Whatever you consume in the tail end of any illness will appear to be a “miracle cure” so don’t jump to the wrong conclusion.

Fluids and adequate hydration are the mainstay of dengue fever. Don’t get too obsessed with the platelet count as we said, current dengue guidelines do not advocate preventive transfusions of platelets.

Related post:
Does taking papaya leaves “cure” dengue?

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Snake oil on tap – the alkaline or ionised water scam


People are selling it and making money off people drinking it. The belief that drinking “alkaline water” will increase the pH (and hence reduce the “acidity”) of one’s bodily fluids is ludicrous and not physiological. Your body’s pH is a regulated constant no matter what you consume unless your kidneys (which are largely responsible for this regulation) and lungs are not functioning properly. Nothing you ingest will change the acidity of any bodily fluid except your urine.
There are a couple of sites I’d like you to read and think for your self before you waste your money.

Quackwatch: Acid/Alkaline Theory of Disease Is Nonsense

The bottom line:

Taking calcium supplements or drinking alkaline water will not change the pH of your blood. If you hear someone say that your body is too acidic and you should use their product to make it more alkaline, you would be wise not to believe anything else the person tells you.

Chem1: “Ionized” and alkaline water

The bottom line:

Here, in a nutshell, are a few basic facts that I believe anyone with a solid background in chemistry or physiology would concur with:

  • “Ionized water” is nothing more than sales fiction; the term is meaningless to chemists.
  • Pure water (that is, water containing no dissolved ions) is too unconductive to undergo signficant electrolysis by “water ionizer” devices.
  • Pure water can never be alkaline or acidic, nor can it be made so by electrolysis. Alkaline water must contain metallic ions of some kind — most commonly, sodium, calcium or magnesium.
  • The idea that one must consume alkaline water to neutralize the effects of acidic foods is ridiculous; we get rid of excess acid by exhaling carbon dioxide.
  • If you do drink alkaline water, its alkalinity is quickly removed by the highly acidic gastric fluid in the stomach.
  • Uptake of water occurs mainly in the intestine, not in the stomach. But when stomach contents enter the intestine, they are neutralized and made alkaline by the pancreatic secretions — so all the water you drink eventually becomes alkaline anyway.
  • The claims about the health benefits of drinking alkaline water are not supported by credible scientific evidence.
  • “Ionized”/alkaline water is falsely claimed to be an anti-oxidant. It is actually an oxidizing agent, as can be seen by its ability to decolorize iodine (see video)
  • There is nothing wrong with drinking slightly acidic waters such as rainwater. “Body pH” is a meaningless concept; different parts of the body (and even of individual cells) can have widely different pH values. The pH of drinking water has zero effect on that of the blood or of the body’s cells.
  • If you really want to de-acidify your stomach (at the possible cost of interfering with protein digestion), why spend hundreds of dollars for an electrolysis device when you can take calcium-magnesium pills, Alka-Seltzer or Milk of Magnesia?
  • Electrolysis devices are generally worthless for treating water for health enhancement, removal of common impurities, disinfection, and scale control. Claims that “ionized” waters are antioxidants are untrue; hypochlorites (present in most such waters) are in fact oxidizing agents.
  • Claims that “water ionizers are approved for use in Japanese hospitals” are misleading: these “approvals” merely attest to the machines’ safety — that they will not electrocute you! My understanding is that the Japanese Health Ministry is highly critical of therapeutic claims made for alkaline water.
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Do you believe in magic?

Indeed that’s what believers in Alternatives to Medicine are doing. My recommended reading for the week is a book by the co-inventor of the Rota virus vaccine, Dr. Paul Offit:


Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine

In Do You Believe in Magic?, medical expert Paul A. Offit, M.D., offers a scathing exposé of the alternative medicine industry, revealing how even though some popular therapies are remarkably helpful due to the placebo response, many of them are ineffective, expensive, and even deadly.

Dr. Offit reveals how alternative medicine—an unregulated industry under no legal obligation to prove its claims or admit its risks—can actually be harmful to our health.

Using dramatic real-life stories, Offit separates the sense from the nonsense, showing why any therapy—alternative or traditional—should be scrutinized. He also shows how some nontraditional methods can do a great deal of good, in some cases exceeding therapies offered by conventional practitioners.

An outspoken advocate for science-based health advocacy who is not afraid to take on media celebrities who promote alternative practices, Dr. Offit advises, “There’s no such thing as alternative medicine. There’s only medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t.”

(via the offical website)

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