Fools Medicine


With none being spotted in the wild for over thirty years and only around seventy left in Chinese zoos, the South China tiger, believed to be the antecedent of all tigers, is at the very top of the endangered species list and tottering precariously on the brink of extinction. The main reasons for the decline of this ancient and mysterious creature are: hunting, loss of habitat, and the use of tiger derivatives in traditional Chinese medicines (TCM). 

People around the world purchase illegal medicines and potions made from endangered animal parts every day in the belief that they will cure a wide variety of ailments increase their sex drive or ward of evil spirits. Tiger parts have been used in TCM for over a thousand years. In Chinese culture the tiger is highly revered and believed to have mystical powers. Its strength and vitality is said to pass down to humans who consume its body parts and it is also believed to have medicinal properties. A male tiger can copulate up to four times an hour, for this reason the tiger penis is prized as an aphrodisiac. Almost every part of the tiger is dried and ground into powders for use in TCM without any scientific proof of its effectiveness.

Tiger bone is used to treat rheumatism and arthritis as an anti-inflammatory drug, and also believed to cure headaches, dysentery, minor paralysis and general weakness. It is also added to sticking plasters to aid healing, and is made into wine and taken as a tonic. The tiger's tail is used to treat skin disorders, bile is used to treat meningitis and convulsions in children. The brain is believed to aid laziness and pimples, and the claws are said to cure insomnia. Teeth are ground into powder and used on fevers, while the eyeballs will supposedly cure epilepsy and malaria. Tiger fat is used for leprosy and rheumatism, the whiskers are used to aid the effects of toothache, and the nose is used on superficial wounds. Tiger Dung is spread on boils and haemorrhoids and believed to cure alcoholism. Tiger penises are made into soups and potions.

Although the main consumers of tiger parts are China, Taiwan, Thailand, Korea and Japan, there are many outlets in the western world including the USA, UK and Europe.  In Australia alone there are believed to be 120 outlets selling medicines supposedly containing tiger derivatives. The rising interest in TCM as a natural alternative to western medicines is unfortunately increasing the demand.  Most of us are aware of the effectiveness of such products as Ginseng and Ginkgo Biloba, and the practice of acupuncture is recognized and widely accepted in the Western world. Unfortunately very few people are aware of the dark side of TCM. 

Many imported substances are manufactured in small unhygienic factories. TCM practitioners have admitted that mould and insects are often found on these products. It is also believed that even some of the high profile remedies can cause severe side effects if taken with certain other medications.

The tiger is on the brink of extinction, and the demand for illegal animal trade is much higher than supply. As it is almost impossible to differentiate bone between species, it is highly likely that  unscrupulous traders are ripping off gullible consumers by supplying ground dog bone, pig or deer instead of the tiger bone for which they are paying dearly. Studies show that not only are some of these substances toxic, but have proved that in most cases the humble aspirin is more effective.

All genuine tiger parts are obtained illegally as a result of poaching or from illegal animal farms in Asia. As the demand increases, so does the incentives for poachers. One tiger carcass could mean 10 years salary. Because of the expensive involved, it is doubtful that substances containing precious tiger derivatives will end up in a small bottle on a chemist’s shelf.  The real contraband will almost certainly be bought by the rich, and usually served as delicacies at private banquets.

So if you are thinking of using a substance that allegedly contains tiger derivatives with claims of curing anything from the common cold to laziness…think again. It is very unlikely that what you are paying dearly for is the real thing. Some of these substances may not only be ineffective but could be toxic. If you are wealthy enough to receive the real thing there is no scientific proof that it actually works. And you will be helping to sustain an illegal industry, increasing incentives for poachers, and pushing the tiger and other endangered animals closer to extinction.

What will happen when there are no more tigers to poach?

If the current trend continues you could find out in as little as five years time!   Anyone for an aspirin?

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The Tiger Chase

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