CBD the New Snake Oil? Clark Stanley ‘The Rattlesnake King’ American cowboy who became an entrepreneur selling fake snake oil in competition with Chinese water snake oil. He was found out in 1916 and fined for his worthless products. Poster of his product

Is CBD the New Snake Oil? Yes! That Is Why

Between 1866 and 1869, a vast construction project started across the United States. The Pacific Railway, linking the East and West coasts for the first time by railway, became a reality. It was such a vast project the construction companies recruited more than 100,000 men from overseas to work on it. Many of them were Chinese and they arrived with their personal items to remind them of home. The items included their medical kits with all sorts of curious potions and balms. Many of these had never seen or heard of before in America. Also in their luggage was the 19th Century version of CBD - Snake Oil.



Snake Oil Arrives in the Wild West

The Chinese oil was rendered from the fat of water snakes. These fish live in any pool, lake, or body of water, including rice paddies, and live on a diet of fish and other marine creatures. 

The men used the oil both internally and topically to help cure cuts, scrapes and headaches in fact all sorts of medical issues commonly found on a large construction site in the late 19th century. Their fellow immigrants and the locals were intrigued and were soon using it to help with their aches and pains while they worked on the new railroad. 

Chinese snake oil and its growing popularity caught the attention of local entrepreneurs and medicine men. They wanted a cut of the action, it was too good to pass up. As Chinese water snakes were not available in the US, they decided instead to use black and red rattlesnakes, which were abundant, so that's what they did. Their reasoning was simple – a snake is a snake.  Of course, their oil became very popular. They started by selling it to railroad workers, probably at a lower price, and then to local towns where they traveled around in their wagons selling their bogus cure-all product to the gullible locals.


Clark Stanley: ‘The Rattlesnake King’

One of the most famous of these medicine men was a gentleman called Clark Stanley, who claimed to have studied for more than two years with a Hopi medicine man in Arizona, where he claimed he learned the "secrets of snake oil." His was a very theatrical performance where he pulled a live rattlesnake from a sack, killed it and plunged into a pot of boiling water.



He was so successful that with the help of a Boston druggist, he opened production facilities, in Beverly, Massachusetts, and Providence, Rhode Island. 

Following the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act, Stanley's brew was analyzed in 1916 and found to be of no medicinal benefit whatsoever. All it contained was mineral oil, a fat compound, assumed to be from beef, capsaicin from chili peppers, and a dash of turpentine to top it off. 

The Chinese water snake’s diet is 100% fish and marine creatures so its body is an Omega-3 fatty acid factory.

He was fined $20 (approximately $500 today).

Snake oil became a way to describe anything as fake or fraudulent, especially medicines. However, Chinese snake oil was based on something that was true and which actually worked. In later tests, it was found to contain enormous amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, in fact much more than found in fish, sardines or anchovies, so it was an inherently extremely healthy oil.


So What Does That Have to do With CBD?

Like the false snake oil, in some ways, CBD is being hyped up as a 21st century cure-all and while that is not entirely true right now, there’s a stack of anecdotal as well as some scientific evidence to back up a lot of the claims about how the real authentic CBD is helping individuals with real issues.

The problem is that CBD is now being made available from sources that are sometimes not absolutely trustworthy. It’s also not cheap. A recent study found that 26% of samples obtained online, contained less CBD than labeled, which could negate any potential clinical response.  43% of products were under-labeled and 26.19% were over-labeled. So it appears that some businesses were taking advantage of the lack of regulation to cash in on the boom.[Source]

If you are buying CBD products online, you should always buy from a reputable source, preferably by recommendation. That means a business that will happily supply a fully detailed, comprehensive list of ingredients, but most importantly a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) from an independent laboratory, confirming exactly what’s in the products.



Esther Blessing NYU

Esther Blessing Assistant Professor at New York University Department of Psychiatry has published a number of papers about the potential positive effects of CBD on various disorders including Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders.

She said, Cannabidiol (CBD), a Cannabis sativa constituent, has drawn increasing interest as a treatment for a range of neuropsychiatric disorders. in recent years. We found that existing preclinical evidence strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder when administered acutely. Overall, current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders, with need for further study of chronic and therapeutic effects in relevant clinical populations.” [Source]



It proves that something as positive as CBD risks being tainted by those who are simply looking to make a lot of money on the back of a boom, in the same way Clark Stanley did. They have no real interest in ensuring the products they are selling meet any standard at all. Many companies do supply high quality products which are safe and contain what they say on the label, but many more don’t, which makes it incredibly difficult for the ordinary buyer to make the right choice. They may not be selling fake potions from the back of a covered wagon but they are still snake oil salesmen.

Until the regulation of the products is addressed, it will continue to be difficult to find the safest place to buy the products you want.


Three Tips

Here are three suggestions to help keep you on the right track:

  1. Always buy from a quality supplier who will provide you with a detailed list of what the products contain, without question.
  2. Always request an independent COA, not an in-house version.
  3. Once you find a good supplier, stick with them and if you have questions they will help you.


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