6 New Age Cures That Aren't As Full Of Crap As You Think

#3. Ginseng

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They Claim:

Like St. John's wort, ginseng is recommended by herbalists as a cure for just about everything. Then it started getting marketed as an alertness aid for all those people afraid of coffee and amphetamines.

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"Oh God, my speed flask has beans in it."

These days, you'll see it on the label of energy drinks, after soda companies decided to downplay the stigma of caffeine by supplementing it with herbal-therapy-sounding ingredients like ginseng, guarana and taurine.

How It Sort of Works:

Ginseng can give you an energy boost -- but it takes way, way more of the stuff than what you're getting in any over-the-counter supplement.

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And it needs to be ground up and cut with baking soda, and also be cocaine.

For instance, ginseng actually does seem to improve stamina in the bedroom -- after testing its effects on 45 men with erectile dysfunction, scientists found that 60 percent of them reported an improved ability to "salute." All they had to do was take 2,700 milligrams of ginseng a day. Otherwise known as "a shitload."

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Or you could just get some natural ginseng and use it as a splint.

For comparison, studies on the energy drinks show that they only have about 25 milligrams of ginseng in a can -- that is, you'd need 108 cans to show the boner benefit, and by then you won't need it anyway because your heart has exploded from the 20,000 milligrams or so of caffeine. And make no mistake: The ginseng serves only as a distraction from the real active ingredients -- lots and lots of caffeine and sugar.

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"Take 30 of these a day and call me when the world-serpent stops screaming."

Yes, commercially available ginseng supplements typically claim around 500 milligrams a pop ... but as with the St. John's wort, they are often lying.

#2. Fasting

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They Claim:

By now you probably have had a friend or a co-worker or an annoying girl in a yoga class talk about doing one of the "cleansing" diets, like Master Cleanse. Usually these programs involve eating nothing for several days, and substituting water and fruit juices instead. These "fasting" or "detox" treatments are common among the incense-burning crowd, who believe that certain feelings of ill health are caused by a buildup of "toxins" from our polluted modern environment, and that we need to flush them out by consuming only water or juice for a while.

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"Soon I shall be free from the tyranny of breathing!"

You'll know that the toxins are leaving, because you'll start getting diarrhea a lot and you'll smell like a slaughterhouse.

How It Sort of Works:

First, "toxins," in the sense that detox advocates refer to, are not a thing that even exists.

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"Wait, don't call an ambulance, I'm just draining my toxins."

Second, it's no coincidence that the symptoms of this supposed cleansing of toxins are also the symptoms of ketosis, the body's "ohshitohshitohshit" reaction to starvation. We imagine that fewer people would choose to fast if it were referred to by its proper scientific name: "slow, painful suicide."

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This woman's our suicide pinup for 2012, if only to stop her from floating away.

Then again, you can accidentally reap a benefit from fasting if you're really bad at it. Recent research suggests that if you alternately stop eating and then pig out every second day, your body gains a whole host of new weapons to combat diabetes and coronary heart disease. The specific sort of bodily stress and hunger caused by fasting forces the body to use up glucose of the body as nutrition, which in turn reduces the number of fat cells in the body -- which in turn reduces diabetes risk and symptoms and decreases cholesterol.

And the best thing is this: While on fast days you must subsist on just water, the feast day part means that every other day, you can eat what the hell you want. And it even tastes better, in the way that everything tastes better when you're literally starving.


#1. Biofeedback

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They Claim:

In the simplest terms, biofeedback is the technique of concentrating really hard on an illness and telling it to go away. More specifically, practitioners believe that it is possible to consciously command functions in our body that are usually out of our control, like heart rate. It's the same kind of thing that yogis are doing when they claim to be able to stop their hearts in meditation.

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Yogi, beg! Roll over! Play dead! Good yogi.

How It Sort of Works:

If that sounds like something somebody would tell you while wearing a tin foil hat, then you've passed the bullshit test. You can't gain command over the automatic functions of your body, because evolution saw no benefit in allowing you to stop your heart if you feel like it.

Now that we've said that, let's directly contradict ourselves by saying that biofeedback sessions do yield results. By participating in these pseudoscientific rituals, patients actually can reduce their heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension and other problems. But it's not magic. You're just relaxing.

When you tell a stressed person to calm down, odds are that she will panic more at being unable to calm down. But when you tell a person that she can physically control her heart rate, muscle tension and hand trembling by concentrating real hard and telling these body parts to stop being assholes, you give that person an illusion of control, the effect of which is that she stops worrying about it.

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"STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR TERMINAL BRAIN CANCER."

Unfortunately, the technique's effectiveness relies upon you believing the magic explanation, and so, now that we have explained how it really works, it probably won't anymore. You're welcome!

Pauli Poisuo completely disregards all health advice at Year of the Fat Bastard. You can read more of his Cracked articles here.

For more products that are snake oil in disguise, check out 8 Health Foods That Are Bad For Your Health. Or learn about the 7 High Tech Products And Their Cheap Ass Ingredients.

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