The Magic of Ginseng. Lol. (March 13, 2018)
Let me say right up front that I am NOT going to be ridiculing ginseng today. Ginseng is an herb with a long and honorable history of different uses in Asian medicine. So I certainly will not laugh at it or anyone who uses it.
Neither will I be making fun of people who are attracted by headlines such as “The Magic of Ginseng”. That would be mean, and I don’t think of myself as mean. I prefer to think of myself as kind, friendly and good-looking.
In fact, I may actually end up not mocking anything at all in this essay today, because we are talking about people’s health issues and that is not funny. Unless it is someone else’s health issue and you hate them.
What merits attention here is that the word “magic” – which is a word that cannot be seriously used outside of a Disney movie – is not infrequently associated with solutions to health problems. And not just by your alternative fly-by-night website types, but by actual scientists (who are usually trying to tout a bit of preliminary research as something worthy of major grant money). Why is this?
Well, there are only a couple of reasons why your basic jaded, disillusioned adult would be lured by such a headline. And those reasons are fear and desperation, neither of which is funny at all, even in the aforementioned people that you hate.
So, it’s not just the very ill who are susceptible to those glowing appeals. It’s not even people who just feel a little icky sometimes. Everyone who has reached the age of reason has that soft spot -- because once you get there, you know that SOMEDAY YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.
It is the rare human, no matter how miserable a life they are leading, who really wants to die. So we can’t help having a hopeful feeling that somehow, some way, if we will just read the contract carefully enough, we can find an escape clause. Thus the appeal of “The Magic of Yada Yada”. Because maybe if we are healthy enough, we can at least stave off the necessity of having to confront our mortality.
I have seen this fear many times in people who have always been healthy, but who finally at the age of 30 or 40 or even 70 have finally developed a health issue they can no longer ignore. It’s sort of a trapped-animal kind of panic that can be produced by even a minor medical issue – once the patient realizes that s/he can’t ignore this one away.
We all know deep down that someday we’ll find ourselves in that place. Thus even the most rational of us will have our attention attracted now and again to something that sounds like magic, because we think that’s all that can really save us.
And I suppose that that is true. The price we pay for self-awareness is the knowledge that some day that self-awareness is going to end – or at the very least transmute into something very different and unfamiliar. That is scary. And I don’t have a pat answer for how to deal with it. Except that I know that ginseng won’t help with it one bit.
If you are following the rules of healthy living, and have a little spare cash you’d like to spend on some harmless new substance to see if it helps you feel better, be my guest. With luck and good management, most of us have the potential to live a long and healthy life, and if you are using good judgment, trying new things can be helpful. But there really are no magic answers, and don’t spend big bucks on something that swears that IT is the answer. Because I promise you that it isn’t.
--dr. diane holmes
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