Back on the snake-oil standard?

Pass the green tea, dark chocolates, and muscadine grapes…

Wilhelm Kühner
Kühner Kommentar an Amerika
4 min readDec 4, 2020


Photo credit: Joe Nickell’s Snake Oil Collection.

“Some of the loudest, most proudly ignorant guessing in the world is going on in Washington today. Our leaders are sick of all the solid information that has been dumped on humanity by research and scholarship and investigative reporting. They think that the whole country is sick of it, and they could be right. It isn’t the gold standard that they want to put us back on. They want something even more basic. They want to put us back on the snake-oil standard.” — Kurt Vonnegut (2005)

In Joe Nickell’s taxonomy, Miller’s Antiseptic Oil of 1916 was a “type 4” snake oil — a liniment “Known as Snake Oil” until it was restyled in 1929 with a paper label reading “Miller’s Anti-Pain Oil,” which also acknowledged that it was “For Years Called Snake Oil But Does Not Contain Snake Oil.” Miller’s Snake Oil was widely advertised in the United States during the 1918–19 influenza pandemic as providing “almost certain protection” against influenza, pneumonia and colds “for a few cents” (up to 49 by 1934). Whatever it was, you were supposed to rub the patent medicine liberally on your throat and chest and inhale through your nostrils to prevent la grippe.

Snip: Durham Morning Herald (29 NOV 1918) — via

And…treat “rheumatism, neuralgia, lumbago, stiff and swolen [sic] joints, corns, bunions or whatever the pain may be,” as well as “burns, bruises, sore throat and croup,” according to a “five-inch advertisement” in the Durham Morning Herald — which, interestingly enough, didn’t mention influenza when it ran during the second wave of the 1918 influenza epidemic in Durham, North Carolina. An editorial comment on the same page, presumably written by my distant cousin, read:

“Just why some patent medicine concerns continue to think that a five-inch advertisement can buy editorial support is hard for some editors to understand.” — Frank Keener

In that vein, let’s take a look at our state’s journalistic and editorial response to a recent press release from N. C. State University about a study done there which purportedly shows how chemical compounds in green tea, dark chocolate, and muscadine grapes block a certain protease in the SARS-CoV-2 virus in computer simulations and in vitro. I’m not a plant biologist, but I’ll take the authors at their word. So what?

“Eat grapes, drink green tea — and enjoy chocolate.” — Rick Smith, WRAL TechWire

Of course, why didn’t I think of that? But wait, maybe we should talk to another expert? Like Ann Jacks at Berrybrook Farm in Charlotte, who “has been in the natural health field for 30 years” and sells “Alkaline/Ionized Antioxidant Water” at “$1.96 per gallon (a fraction of the cost of many bottled waters).” Since the pandemic started Jacks has seen a “flood of customers” who are “looking for natural ways to boost their immune system,” according to Glenn Counts at WSOC TV (Channel 9 in Charlotte). “I think it’s great,” Jacks said, “I wish I would have known when the study was coming out, so we could have stocked more green tea.”

Well, that’s really helpful. I just can’t imagine why the plant biologist who published this study is still “struggling to find a doctor who would like to collaborate with us to perform clinical trials and provide green tea and muscadine extracts to test their therapeutic efficacy to treat COVID-19.” After all, he’s just a short drive away from one of the best medical schools in the country! Screw lab rats. As long as it works in petri dishes, we should clearly jump directly to human trials!

And, your diet! “Recommendation to you and your family: Stay with green tea for safety!” the author of the paper told Smith at WRAL TechWire. Of course, “these methods are not a substitute of any other therapeutics, particularly vaccines.” So, you can just ignore what was said about approved vaccines not being preventive. That was from August and “cannot be used for the present time.”

On the other hand some people are still talking about the hydroxy, and I believe bleach and colloidal silver also kill COVID in vitro? Don’t Ben Carson and the “My Pillow” guy have a lot of good things to say about oleander? I heard the Tonic Therapeutic Herb Shop & Elixir Bar of Shepherdstown, West Virginia was selling honeysuckle, elderberry, licorice, and chickweed to “help prevent infection and reduce the severity of symptoms” with COVID-19 before the deep state shut them down on behalf of Big Pharma, Bill Gates, and George Soros. It’s so confusing.

If only there was some way to make sense of it all, something we could do to protect ourselves and our communities. In the meantime, I guess we’ll just have to pass the green tea, dark chocolates, and muscadine grapes and hope for the best? Perhaps we should consult an engineer? Or maybe a frozen meat company? What would we do without these essential businesses?



Wilhelm Kühner
Kühner Kommentar an Amerika

Pruning the “tangled thicket” of Kühner (Keener) Genealogie in Amerika and reflecting on its relevance to current events.