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The AP reports that South Korean customs officials confiscated loads of “flesh” capsules (viz. China to reinvestigate human flesh capsule claims). These capsules are made of ground up babies — really! Aside from being beyond the range of the typical western palate, this is an invitation to kuru: a prion disease similar to “mad cow disease” that was a problem for cannibals in Papua New Guinea.

Naturally, this got me to thinking about “traditional medicine.” Now don’t get me wrong: although I consider myself a (pompous) man of science, I definitely believe that there are traditional, usually herbal, remedies that work. There are probably many more that don’t work, but a lot of modern medications are derived from naturally occurring substances that were subsequently refined and industrialized. The most famous example is penicillin.

That being said, if I were ever inclined to use an herbal remedy I would go to a professional (probably Chinese) herbalist. I would trust them to give me a reliable, or at least experienced, recommendation. I certainly wouldn’t trust the advertisements on TV.