Would you like more energy, better vision, improved memory, revitalized sexual ability, smoother skin or a healthier heart? Who wouldn't be tempted by promises of enhanced health? But watch your wallet. The modern-day medicine show is picking up steam.
A hundred years ago, snake-oil salesmen roamed the countryside selling worthless remedies with extravagant claims. Today's hucksters show up on cable television and use direct-mail techniques to reach every home in the country.
They play upon people's fears of cancer, heart disease, memory loss and AIDS. They promise simple solutions to complex problems such as excess weight, angina, impotence, fatigue, hair loss, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and arthritis. What they rarely provide are solid scientific studies to support their outrageous assertions.
The scam artists criticize the medical establishment, the Food and Drug Administration and the pharmaceutical industry for suppressing cures that could benefit millions of people and make medical care obsolete.
Be wary if you see any of the following claims.
* "Breakthrough": This is a red flag, especially when you can only get the marvelous remedy by sending $24.95 to a postal box. When medical science comes up with a dramatic advance, you'll read about it in reliable news sources, not in the ads.
* "Secret" and "miracle": If you don't know what's in it, don't buy it!
* "Contains Oomu": The more bizarre the stuff sounds, the more attractive it seems to be.
* "Exotic" origins: Watch out for the mystique factor.
* "It worked for me!" Testimonials are trouble. They are a sure-fire tip-off of scam artists at work. First of all, many testimonials are made up. Even if an anecdote is true, that doesn't make it scientifically valid.
* "Doctors won't tell you": This conspiracy theory has become amazingly popular. Doctors are diverse individuals and it would be impossible to get them all to agree to keep a secret like a cure for cancer.
If you see any of these phrases, be alert. Don't fall for false promises. Use your good common sense and you will be able to sidestep the scam merchants.
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Dr. Teresa Graedon is a medical anthropologist and nutrition expert.