I’m meeting you halfway, you stupid hippies

I am prone to muscle spasms in my chest and shoulders.  Every so often I’ll wake up with a twinge somewhere, and it always evolves into one side of my upper body going out of whack for a day.

This happened last week.  Because I had also been in a kind of a rush that morning, I had neglected to pack a lunch for myself.  Thus, on my lunch break I needed both some kind of nourishment and some kind of pain relief.  The nearest store to my office that offered any kind of selection for both of my needs was Whole Foods.  Going in, I was skeptical that there would be anything particularly useful as an analgesic there, but I approached the search with an open mind.

The nice young lady working in the supplements and salves department directed me toward a variety of homeopathic lotions and creams.  I had never heard of any of them.  Eventually I settled on Peaceful Mountain “muscle ice” homeopathic pain relieving gel, which apparently is made from “organic and wild-crafted herbs.”  (I am hoping one of you very bright people can tell me what is meant by “wild-crafted,” as I am completely unable to parse it myself.)  Anyhow, the active ingredients on the tube are phytolacca decandra, symphytum officinale, bellis perennis, ledum palustre, ruta graveolens, magnesia phosphorica and silicea.  Oh, and also menthol 4%.  It cost ten bucks for a 3.5 ounce tube.

I also got some Tiger Balm patches.  As far as liniments go, Tiger Balm is pretty decent.  I went with the patches to minimize the very pungent aroma, with limited success on that score.

Like any good clinical scientist, I did a little comparison testing.  I slapped a patch on my twinging chest and rubbed the gel on my spasming shoulder.  I was pleasantly surprised to feel that familiar tingling sensation very quickly in the shoulder, and thought perhaps I’d been too hard on those poor old homeopaths.  When the relief wore off less than ten minutes later, my good will evaporated along with it.  The menthol worked well enough while it lasted, but I’m guessing the homeopathic contribution was somewhere between “diddly” and “squat.”

As expected, the Tiger Balm worked better.  Unfortunately, the patches don’t stick all that well.  If you’re going to go this route, go with the ointment and accept that you’re going to smell like a walking cough drop.

You know what also has menthol, except a lot more of it?  Bengay.  It also has methyl salicylate, which is a very effective topical analgesic and has effects similar to aspirin (to which it is chemically related).  Since it occurs naturally in wintergreen plants, I suppose one could describe it as “wild-crafted” as well.  It’s also cheaper.

So, sorry homeopathy.  I tried.  Sadly, I’m going to have to give the win to mean old pharmaceuticals on this one.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Tried snake oil? [NOT from rattlesnakes! It’s a chinese remedy!]

  2. Try their herbal tea. They’re almost as good as Celestial Seasonings and you know that the hippiechick across the counter has internalized whether you really like the peppermint tea or if you *REALLY* really like it.

  3. Nice post but only meeting them halfway is no better than not meeting them at all. Remember they treat people “holistically” so unless you’ve been in consultation with a homeopath lasting at least an hour and told them everything from your food preferences to your inside leg measurement, then you’re just being closed-minded.

    • Since homeopathy so often recommends using very small amounts of the treatment, I think it’s obvious that minimal exposure to homeopaths is by far the most effective way to interact with them.

  4. if the “homeopathic” product had anything in it besides homeopathic remedies it’s is not homeopathic and may be antidoted by whatever is in it. Maybe try any of the remedies in the medicine to see if they work. Also Arnica might work – if it’s not in there already. Our website has a book in it with explanations of each remedy – read that to find the exact medicine.

    • 1) Judging by your linked website, it looks like you’re a proponent of homeopathy. I guess you need to contact the nice people at Peaceful Mountain and tell them not to market their products as homeopathic, then. (It says it right there on the tube.)

      2) You’ll have to forgive my skepticism that the homeopathic ingredients would have worked, if not for the inclusion of the other ingredients that somehow canceled them out. From my perspective, the only benefit conferred by this product was from the non-homeopathic ingredient. Denying that it is a legitimately homeopathic product when it fails to work well seems a wee bit too close to questions about true Scotsmen for my taste.

      • I’m just curious as to whether you were trying to test the placebo effect or trying to see if the “voodoo” worked.

  5. Since you ask: ‘wild-craft’ means that your snake oil contained wild plants rather than cultivated ones (if indeed it contained any meaningful trace of them.) Growing conditions can affect the chemical make-up of plants, with implications for their pharmacology, but ‘wild-craft’ is no more genuinely informative in that regard than ‘Made in China’.

  6. Nor are psilocybin mushrooms, though, highly entertaining if you can have Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert leading you through the Tibetan Book Of The Dead.

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