Go Gravity!

by Jeanine Adinaro on July 13, 2010

in Chinese Herbs, General Health

Gravity: Just a Theory

As moderator of this blog, I get the privilege of sorting through real comments versus spam comments. The spam filter mostly does a great job, but periodically a few slip through. Usually I can tell immediately what is spam versus what is real because the authors of spam typically link to websites offering me a hot long night with my new laptop so I can work at home and make $12K a month in real estate. But this post comment has me confused enough that I let it through. Specifically, it says,

“Chinese herbs do work because it is time tested.”

If I was a betting women, and those of you who have played poker with me know I am, I would bet this is actually spam. The tells on this comment are:

  • It’s a really old blog post and anyone who actually cared to comment did so a long while ago
  • It contains a really basic grammar mistake that most native English speakers wouldn’t make
  • As comments go, it’s just plain stupid.

So at the risk of offending Alexa Stewart, you’re wrong.

However, Alexa brings to my attention something that I hear more often than I would like, this notion that Chinese herbs “work because they are time tested.” (I’m sorry, I just could not leave that subject-verb agreement mistake alone).

This brings me to Isaac Newton. I know, it’s a jump, but hang in there with me.

If you ask the average American (and I intend no commentary on the public secondary school system here) what he knows about Isaac Newton, you are likely going to get an answer about apples and the “discovery of gravity.” While some authors conclude there is some validity to the apple anecdote, Isaac Newton did not discover gravity. There were no shortages of people in the thousands of years proceeding Newton who noticed that many things, including apples, when dropped from a height consistently fall toward the earth’s surface. What Newton did do was develop a language to talk about the effects of gravity sufficient as to predict its effect on objects. And let’s face it, that’s the fundamental goal of all scientific and mathematic inquiry- to predict the effect that thing X with have on thing Y. Sometimes that goal gets adulterated by greed or narcissism, but I like to think it’s still in there somewhere.

Chinese herbs “work”, and by that I mean have an effect on the body which has absorbed, ingested, inhaled or otherwise consumed them, because they do. The vast body of scientific investigation surrounding Chinese herbs seeks to understand the mechanism of that action and predict its effects. It has nothing to do with the passage of time. And sometimes, Chinese herbs “don’t work”, and by that I mean do not have the desired or intended effect.

All this is not to disregard the value of the use of Chinese herbs over the course of thousands of years. Specifically, their long time use gives us good predictive indicators as to their effects. Even though the how and why of a particular herb’s action may not be fully understood, the what might have a pretty clear picture. No, that may not be enough to satisfy the scientifically oriented, but it’s a good place to start.

Photo by mad LOLScientist

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