Certainly some of the prevailing herbal folklore of ages ago was superstition, and we can and should classify it as snake oil. Some of what is on the herbal and pharmaceutical markets today is also snake oil.
There always has been and there always will be snake oil and snake oil salesmen.
But it’s a challenge to resist snake oil when you have no way of knowing what qualifies as snake oil. You may not know how to tell whether or not you’re talking to a snake oil salesman. And sometimes the rock bottom fact is that the salesman doesn’t even know that he or she is selling snake oil!
One of the more memorable experiences I had in graduate school was that of taking the required Qualifying Exams, covering everything we should have learned up to the end of graduate school. The Research Design and Methodology exam was one of my favorites. Since I am a total research nerd, this test examined my fun stuff: research methods and logic puzzles! I began it with enthusiasm. The object was to dismantle a published article and find any and all methodological and statistical errors. The more I looked, the more errors I saw. Some of them were glaring! I wondered where the article had been published, as that information had been blacked out in our copies. My first thought was to assume it must have been published in a very low-quality journal. But as I continued to write my criticisms, I changed my mind about that. Sure enough, when I checked with the instructor after the exam, the article in question was from one of the top three journals in its area, a journal with a rejection rate of 90%! If 90% of the articles submitted to this journal were rejected, you would think that the final 10% would be the cream of the crop. Not so. The article I had critiqued was an embarrassing methodological mess. I’ll always remember the lesson I learned from that exam: just because you hear or read something from a respectable authority doesn’t mean it’s correct or even worthwhile.
If you haven’t been accustomed to actively questioning “authority” or many of your own assumptions about health and common medical practices, you may find what I offer to you to be uncomfortable. I raise many questions about conventional medical science as well as alternative modalities. It’s fine for you to find these questions anxiety-provoking, annoying or dangerous.