Hokum Locum

Colon Cleansing

Thanks to reader Alan Pickmere for drawing my attention to colon cleansing. In a radio advertisement Alan heard the claim that the average adult has up to 10kg of preservatives and toxic waste in their colon. The actor, John Wayne had 20kg removed at autopsy, doubtless dating from the time spent venting his spleen against commie actors facing Senator Joe McCarthy’s inquisition. Come to think of it, perhaps he should have “vented” more often.

These accumulations are not at all surprising to a skeptical doctor as I am frequently exposed to views espoused by people whose bodies hold far more toxic waste than this and it goes all the way up to their heads. If any readers would like to cleanse their colons please call 0800-CLYSTER.

Herbs Flunk

Although it makes sense to test herbs for therapeutic efficacy, there are few acceptable trials. An Australian study of herbal and Ayurvedic preparations found that only tumeric had any anti-inflammatory effect and 5 of 23 celery preparations had an anti-arthritic effect equivalent to 50mg of ibuprofen. Given the wide variation in the bioavailability of herbal medicines I recommend stick to ibuprofen, normally taken in a daily dose of 1600mg costing around 75 cents. I bet that herbal medicines cost a lot more than that. It’s important for any useless treatment to cost a lot because that helps people believe that it actually works. (NZ Doctor 19 Jul 2000)


Third world countries such as India frequently seek pragmatic solutions to their health problems and in this case they have encouraged traditional practices such as ayurveda, sidha, unani, yoga, naturopathy, Tibetan medicine and homeopathy. I was reassured to see the addition of homeopathy and naturopathy, so much a part of mainstream New Zealand medicine. The Indian Health Minister has asked all other Ministries to ensure that its employees can be reimbursed for the cost of such treatments.

Perhaps this is where our own Health Minister got the idea for allocating a large sum of money for the evaluation of alternative medicine. The increasingly third world Wellington Hospital is reduced to waving its hands at patients. Will they soon be encouraging them to start the day with a freshly steaming glass of their own urine, perhaps followed by pills made out of lama’s faeces, a traditional Tibetan remedy. (Lancet Vol 355, p1252)

Silicon Implants

As Shakespeare so eloquently put it “God has given woman one breast and she gives herself another”. Minerva (BMJ Vol 320 p 882) reports a fourth extensive study finding no association between ill health and silicon implants. However, this will not have any effect on the millions of dollars given to litigants because the standard of proof is to have one’s personal account of suffering published in any women’s magazine. In the true spirit of the post-modern age I look forward to the first litigation for alien abduction. Those anal probes can hurt! All we need is a New Zealand Doctor brave enough to fill in the ACC forms.

This is yet another example of Welch’s law: “Claims expand to take up the amount of compensation available”.

Surgeon Amputates Healthy Legs

Since I have raised the topic of post-modernism, readers will be interested in this account from the BMJ (Vol 320 p332). Both patients reported on suffered from a rare body dysmorphic disorder known as apotemnophilia which makes them believe that they can only be normal once they have had a limb removed. The patients were delighted after each had a leg removed in a below-knee amputation. The hospital administration was quoted as saying that no more of these operations will be done.


Obesity has been raised to an art form in North America and it is fitting that the American food industry has launched “Stokabunga”, a cookie containing more calories than an average meal, including 48g fat. Such excess is a fitting accompaniment to a recent announcement that for the first time the number of overweight people in the world equalled the number who were malnourished. In Britain, the average cat receives more protein per day than the average poor African. Sales of Stokabunga have been particularly strong in Belgium.

Ineffective Drugs

Of the 50,000 prescription drugs currently available in Germany, 33,000 have never been subject to clinical trials. They include homeopathic preparations, herbal remedies and in one case a useless preparation containing loess (a fine soil) used for the treatment of diarrhoea. Drug companies were able to suppress a report that gave advice on how to substitute cheaper effective drugs in place of the useless ones. During World War 2, Hitler’s doctor treated him with capsules containing faecal bacteria from “finest Bulgarian peasant” and such a product is conceivably still available. (New Scientist 4 Oct 97 p20)

As recently as 1997 it was possible to receive rejuvenating injections of fetal sheep cells. This treatment was popularised by Konrad Adenaur, the German Chancellor who remained in power until he was 87 years old. Unfortunately the Germans have a bad habit of blindly following rogue Chancellors.

It is quite clear now what has happened to their Pharmaceutical Regulatory authorities. Instead of a feral and vigorous staff dedicated to removing quack remedies, the excessive use of fetal cells has turned them all into sheep in sheep’s clothing. (New Scientist 25 Jan 1997 p6)

Finger-Licking Bad For Waist Reduction?

The herb Aristolochia gangchi was mistakenly used in weight loss pills by the Kentucky Fried medicine brigade. As well as causing kidney failure it is now thought to be responsible for cancers of the urinary tract. Staff at a Belgian weight loss clinic had prescribed the herb Stephania tetranda but the mixture also contained Aristolochia which has a similar sounding Chinese name.

Dr David Kessler, former Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes that there are no controls over the quality of such products or their composition. The cause of this was the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, which deregulated the industry by limiting the role of the FDA and opening up this $15 billion-a- year industry. This ridiculous legislation does not require that dietary supplements be shown to be safe or effective. I have no doubt that an epidemic of renal failure and cancer will soon peel the weight off those hordes of fatties seen in every US shopping mall. (New England Journal of Medicine June 8 2000, p1742; BMJ Vol 320, p1623)

Tissue Samples and Cryptopathology

When confronted with unusual lumps and swelling it is a common medical practice to get some tissue examined by a pathologist and this will often reveal the diagnosis.

As a keen hunter I feel the same exemplary approach should be taken when examining phenomena such as “Bigfoot”, the Loch Ness monster and our very own Australasian “Yowie”. The Yowie is believed to be named thus after the cries recorded when it had come into contact with hunters and been wounded. It would be a matter of some pride to me if I were the first person to bag either of these trophies. Nessie would obviously require a large harpoon but depth charges would soon bring the shy and expiring creature to the surface. Bigfoot should prove no problem for my Winchester 0.243. I was therefore disappointed to read that a county in Washington has declared it illegal to kill Bigfoot. However, fur samples have been gathered from “close encounters” and delivered to Ken Goddard at a wildlife forensic laboratory. Ken found that Bigfoot has made a remarkable adaptation to its cold environment-polyester fur. Ken is waiting for a “close encounter of the turd kind” so he can examine the creature’s diet for evidence of Stokabunga. (New Scientist 22 Jan 2000 p40)

I predict that once tissue samples have been obtained, all of these secretive creatures will be found to share a puzzling 100 percent of their DNA with humans.


Taking a leaf from the UK Skeptic, we’re turning our news clippings into a column. Which means I get to read them – never used to before! Many thanks to all those who’ve sent in material, and please keep it coming.

Luck of the Dragon

Visiting Malaysian woman Lillian Too got herself and her range of Feng Shui jewellery in The Evening Post on Wednesday 30 and in the Dominion the next day. In a half page spread she chats about how Feng Shui is much, much more than making sure the loo is not by the front entrance and the bed not in a coffin position. It’s also about having your mind in balance. Readers will be pleased to learn that Stephen Hawking is a dragon and tiger brain genius who practises inner Feng Shui. Everyone can be a winner, particularly if they buy one of Too’s dragon headed, tortoise-bodied rings to wear. For instant wealth one should buy an Arowana fish symbol. (It doesn’t say whose wealth we’re talking about here – a three-legged toad costs from $733 and a dragon bangle $6999.)

Magnetic Qualities

On the subject of adornments, a Malaysian man has discovered he has magnetic power – the ability to hold metallic objects to his body without using his hands.

Liew Thow Lin, 69, dressed only in his trousers, featured in The Dominion on Monday 31 July with a handful of forks sticking to his ample belly. Also attached was what appeared to be an iron holding up three bricks. Very handy if he runs out of shelf space in the garden shed.

Eyewitness Evidence Questioned

Something most of us have known for a while – The Evening Post carried a report on Thursday 10 August stating wrongful convictions could be more common than previously thought.

Two Victoria University researchers say false identification of suspects by eyewitnesses is the problem. In the United States, mistaken eyewitness identification is responsible for 80 percent of wrongful convictions.

Psychology senior lecturer Maryanne Garry and masters student Kellie Fitzmaurice have received $12 000 to apply the US research to this country. They will also seek to identify people in prisons who may have been wrongly convicted.

Moon Studies

Find yourself howling at the moon? You may have lunar fever. A Timaru rest home has undertaken three months’ research into the effects of the moon on its 37 residents. They found some lunar cycle links, The Evening Post reported on Wednesday 26 July.

One resident becomes incontinent only at the full moon and others became more aggressive at that time. However, Strathallan Life Care Village manager Jan Hide has since discovered the need to conduct such studies for a longer period of time with fewer people in order to detect accurate trends. So to keep scientists happy (who like things in black and white) Hide will carry it on for a further six months. There may be something to this, says she who often becomes grumpy near a full moon. Watch this space for results.

“Star” Student

Former Victoria University education professor Adrienne Alton-Lee has been awarded $90,000 by the Employment Court, the NZ Herald reported on Friday 21 July.

The row was over a postgraduate student who claimed to have experienced interplanetary travel. Dr Alton-Lee challenged faculty staff who wanted to send the student out to teach in a school. Chief Judge Tom Goddard ordered the university to pay $11 735 which had been withheld from the second year’s funding of Dr Alton-Lee’s research (she financed this by selling her house), $25 000 for stress, $10 000 for loss of advancement and $15 000 because a premature announcement concerning her contract was made.

The student was in fact sent out to a school and only lasted one day when she continued to assert she had just returned to Earth…

Selma the Serpent Won’t Be Hurt Scientists Promise

The hunt is on for Nessie’s cousin – The Evening Post (Thursday 3 August) reported an international team of monster hunters have unveiled a giant trap for catching a serpent in a lake in Norway.

The trap, comprising a metal frame with nylon netting, will be lowered into Seljord lake full of live whitefish to catch Selma the Serpent. If Selma falls for it, she will be checked out by two University of Oslo biologists, who were on standby with a helicopter and good intentions.

“We’ll take a DNA sample, document the serpent and then release it into the lake. We will be very careful not to hurt it.” Selma was first spotted around 1750.

Same Old New Age

Dream catchers, acupuncture, palmistry and spiritual surgery were all the go in Tauranga recently during the Healthy Life Expo, says the Bay Of Plenty Times (Monday 8 August.)

Acupuncturist Neil Denyer treated a local for sinus problems and palm reader Peace Life saw some good things in the hands of a client. Times reporter Val Sherriff was sent to check it out and discovered all this and more being demonstrated to hundreds of Tauranga folk.

Organisers said things had been very busy and would have continued that way if not for the Saturday footie game which drew people away (I’m sure it had nothing to do with the ethereal music supplied by Jeff Clarkson.)

Cereology Comes Full Circle

A British researcher has come up with another theory about one of the world’s lingering mysteries – crop circles are the result of the earth’s magnetic fields.

According to The Evening Post of Friday 11 August fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic fields lead to corn fields being “electrocuted”, collapsing in patterns. The paper says the researcher is funded by an American billionaire who is well known for his paranormal beliefs. Colin Andrews acknowledged that some 80 percent of the designs were caused by hoaxes with lawn rollers.

“The other 20 percent remain quite another thing.”

The piece goes on to say Andrews couldn’t explain why only corn would be zapped and not other crops, nor why no circles were discovered before 1981.

Doug Bower, the man who claims to be Britain’s original crop circle creator, said he made his first design in 1978 after leaving a pub. Media attention to his work took a little time to catch on, he says. Since then, around 10,000 crop circles have been charted around the world, including New Zealand.


Finally, The Dominion (Thursday August 31) reported new Nelson-Marlborough health board director Mere Wetere is frightened for herself and her family following a Maori curse being placed on her.

It says the curse was placed on Ms Wetere by a woman at a hui at Nelson’s Whakatu Marae the day after she was appointed to the board by Health Minister Annette King.

Ngati Tama representative John Mitchell said the curse was used by a tohunga or priest to bring pain, bad luck, misadventure or even death to the victim. He doubted anyone in the district could be regarded as a serious practitioner of traditional Maori ways and questioned why the curse had been placed on Ms Wetere when she had no control over the appointment process. The power of such curses to do real harm was apparently taken for granted by all concerned.

Should Have Seen It Coming

Despite being clairvoyant Angel Destiny admits she was taken by surprise when her 1920s house collapsed around her as she soaked in the bath.

The International Express (15 August) reports the 44 year old Cardiff woman was lucky to escape with her life. Ms Destiny believes her friends in the spirit world (maybe Lassie?) guided her to the only safe spot in the house. “It must have been in my stars but I’m afraid I didn’t foretell it would happen,” she said.