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The Practical Herbalist

Gross Stuff

Most Americans are very removed from their food. They don't slaughter their own animals and are more comfortable pulling food out of plastic packages, than the ground. I remembered this recently when I looked at a box of cough drops. My herbal supplier just started carrying a new herbal cough drop from a trusted herbal company in China. I read the list of ingredients so that I would be aware of what I was selling to my patients. I was disappointed to find that the new cough drop contained artificial sweeteners. Then I realized that my patients are used to artificial sweeteners and would probably be more upset about the inclusion of snake bile in the formula.

Snake bile is a classic ingredient in Chinese herbal cough formulas, and the eating of snakes is far more common in China. It is interesting how what is normal in one place can be seen as "gross" or somehow unclean in another. Herbal medicine is the use of extreme foods. As a result the traditional Chinese herbal apothecary contains many interesting things that Americans would find "gross". These would include insects like the wingless cockroach, and the molting of cicadas, Animals like the leech and the gecko, and the feces of bats, silkworms and flying squirrels.

By modern American food tastes these things seem very extreme and "gross". There are however many "gross" things that we are familiar with. We just often over look these things because they are not foreign to us. Many people enjoy raw (live) oysters. In medicine we have penicillin made from molds, probiotics (which are living intestinal tract bacteria), and the drug premarin which is the purified urine of pregnant horses.

"Gross" is a matter of opinion. For me, I find the artificial chemicals added to our foods to be far more "gross" than exotic ingredients that are commonly eaten in other parts of the world. It is just a matter of how you think about it.

David Bock

This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"

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David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine

Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066