Hair Brain Concoctions and Wacky Remedies

The Willful Search for Snake Oil


There is a point in life where we have to go beyond the conventional. We may have no idea where we will end up, but we know it is time to go. Usually an incurable illness, loss of a trusted love one or natural disaster drives this phenomenon. This is also the moment that opens us to the world of utter panacea. Something is not right, it could be better, but how does one get to that point. We all sense there is a cure for the common cold virus, science has taught us these possibilities exist. Who among us is desperate enough to try anything? It is my experience that the route to Mecca mimics insanity. This is an open admission that the concoctions on this page are hair brained at best. All remedies are wacky. This is the willful search for snake oil.


Let me provide you with a little background on snake oil. Snake oil is an actual Chinese remedy for joint pain. Chinese Water Snake oil is said to have the highest Omega 3 EPA fatty acid content, at 20%, of all known oils. It is a very healing fat. Chinese railroad workers carried this remedy all across the United States, while building the transcontinental railroad. Imagine the pain from hours of sleeping on hard ground, while using a hammer to nail wooden planks into the virgin continent. The amount of joint pain associated with this would probably motivate a loving wife to kill a rattlesnake, then lovingly rend the oil making a home remedy for her dear husband. The love infused in the elixir would overcome the fact that rattlesnakes only have 8.5% EPA, less than half of the Chinese water snakes. Imagine a caring Chinese friend sharing his wife’s remedy with an African co-worker, again there would be the brotherly love of a co-worker. The first non-Chinese person to feel relief must have been amazed and told everyone how rattlesnake snake oil cured him.

Certainly the story of snake oils miraculous power would have traveled through a weary world to the doorstep of the first medicine man. This dubious gentleman, let’s just call him Stanley the Rattlesnake King; although Stanley was one of many Wild West Hustlers. Clark Stanley got his recipe from a Moki Pueblo tribesman. Now take out the love necessary to brave death itself, in order to kill a rattlesnake, and take out the knowledge of how to rind oil from a snake, and what we are left with is a bottle of herbal oil. The medicine man got the idea to hire a team of fellow grifters (con artist) to tout snake oil as a cure for whatever ails you. Individuals in the Wild West with chronic ailments beyond the reach of modern medicine began purchasing cure-alls from con men. As stated prior, most of the remedies were just herbal infusions containing absolutely no snake oil. Let’s face it, the art of killing an American rattlesnake and rending the oil means an occasional bite of poison. Whereas just lying to an ill informed group of sick people is much less often fatal.


Here is the twist, although the oil was a farce, some people were cured. There were individuals that swore by Stanley’s snake oil. The formula was found to be basically mineral oil infused with pepper, and camphor.  Today camphor-phenigue is a popular cold/flu remedy, based upon dear Stanley the Rattlesnake King’s Moki Pueblo snake oil recipe. Those of you that are bold can make your own liniment. Below I have provided the original recipe and my modern rendition. Be careful, oil infusion is a dangerous process; you should understand the basic tenements of cooking, frying, and working with various fats before attempting these complex recipes. I am providing the ingredient but expect you to use your own well-honed techniques. Anyone that does not have an infusion technique should go purchase a jar of camphor-phenique from the local drug store for a few dollars. These recipes are just for fun; please add love for best results.


Stanley’s Snake Oil Recipe
Mineral Oil
1% Beef Fat   
Red Pepper
.025 % Turpentine 
.025 % Camphor

Sea Monster’s Snake Oil Recipe
1c Sesame Oil
2T Mango Butter
1T Cayenne Pepper powder
20d Tea Tree Oil
20d Eucalyptus Oil

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