Is CBD Snake Oil?

It seems like CBD is everywhere these days – you can find it in your local grocery store, spas, salons and even gas stations! Everyone is talking about how CBD oil is the cure-all, and it all just seems too good to be true, right? Melissa Holman answers the question many people might be thinking – Is CBD Snake Oil? She takes us on a deep dive on the origin of “snake oil” and sheds light on the fact that CBD is like snake oil in that it DOES help the body maintain homeostasis.

Guest Post by Melissa Holman

Where Does Snake Oil Come From?

When you hear the term ‘Snake Oil’ or ‘Snake Oil Salesman’ what do you think?  

Snake oil is a euphemism for deceptive marketing, health care fraud, or a scam. ‘Snake oil Salesman’ is a common expression used to describe someone who deceives people in order to get money from them.  The actual snake oil, though, is a preparation that has been used by the Chinese for centuries.

This natural remedy was first brought to the United States in the 1800’s by Chinese laborers who were building the trans-continental railroad.  They made this therapy from the Chinese Water Snake (laticauda semifasciata); also known as the Black Banded Sea Krait.  They would extract the oil of the snake by boiling it to release the EICOSAPENTAENOIC oil (I-ko-SAY-pen-tee-O-nik), also known as Omega3 fatty acid, which is a natural anti-inflammatory.

After a long day of labor laying rails, they would rub this oil on their aching muscles and joints for relief.

How Was the Term Snake Oil Hijacked?

In the late 1800’s Clark Stanley decided to capitalize on the Chinese snake oil and began making and marketing his own brand that he claimed was made from rattlesnakes.  Stanley, also known as ‘The Rattlesnake King,’ perverted the therapeutic oil brought to the United States by the Chinese Migrants and peddlers sold the liniment from their traveling carts as a ‘cure-all.’  

In 1906, with the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act, medicines began to be tested.  By 1916 Stanley’s Snake Oil, through chemical composition testing, was found to contain mineral oil, beef fat, red pepper, turpentine, and camphor.  It contained none of the healing qualities of the original snake oil brought over by the Chinese, he was declared a fraud, and the term ‘Snake Oil Salesman’ or simply ‘Snake Oil’ was born. 

What about CBD? Is it Snake Oil?

CBD is not an acronym; it is short for CANNABIDIOL which is one of the many chemical compounds naturally found in both the cannabis and hemp plants.  Cannabis has long been used in traditional medicine to treat many conditions and CBD is the primary chemical responsible for its medicinal properties.  There are over 750 different strains of cannabis and several are grown exclusively for medical purposes.

Cannabidiol is defined as: A phytocannabinoid derived from the cannabis species, which is devoid of psychoactive activity and has has well-documented biological effects such as anti-anxiety, anti-convulsive, anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor.  Put simply, CBD is a chemical found in a plant that is pain relieving, inflammation relieving, and tumor fighting and it is not addictive nor does it have psychoactive properties.

What Causes Our Body to Become out of Balance?

According to a 2006 article from Harvard Medical School “Research is showing that chronic inflammation may be the common factor in many degenerative diseases.”  Diseases like Coronary artery disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and many more. 

Inflammation is not always bad as it is the body’s natural immune response.  The Inflammatory Response is the nonspecific immune process produced in response to injury and resulting in redness, pain, heat, and swelling and promoting movement of white blood cells to the affected area.  If you get a cut on your hand, the body inflames that area to trigger white blood cells to move in and repair.  If you get a bruise or break a bone?  Same thing.  Inflammation, on its own, is a good thing.

But when your body is in a state of chronic inflammation it begins waging war on itself and causes damage to body organs and tissue.

ered that the body naturally produces these chemical compounds and they could now map the receptors in the brain that were affected.

What Causes Chronic Inflammation?

Chronic inflammation is mostly caused by our choices.  The foods we choose to eat (sugar, artificial fats, vegetable and seed oils, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, processed meats), the chemicals we allow in our homes, the chemicals (prescribed and recreational) we put into our bodies, the stress that we choose to hold onto, etc.  If your body is under chronic stress you may experience body pains, constant fatigue, insomnia, depression, psychoactive disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, weight gain, or frequent infections.

Some of the diseases that science is linking to chronic inflammation are cancer, heart disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, Obesity, Asthma, neurodegenerative diseases, and more.

So, Then, What is the Connection Between CBD and Inflammation?

Due to our choices, most Americans walk around in a chronic state of inflammation.  CBD is a natural anti-inflammatory and when we take CBD we feel better because the chronic inflammation in our body is reduced.  We could choose to make life-style changes that will decrease the chronic inflammation without the aid of chemicals but making life-style changes is not easy and can take a long time to see results.  Most of us want a quick fix and when we take CBD we feel like the problem is fixed because we feel better, are in less pain, and have less inflammation; the symptom of the problem, chronic inflammation, is reduced but the actual problem, our life-style choices, is not.  If we would make small, life-altering, healthy choices, the need for chemicals, like CBD, would be reduced.

CBD can help reduce the inflammation in our bodies, on a temporary basis and that would give us the pain-relief necessary to make it possible to make those small changes each day that would decrease the need to use CBD.

The Question Remains. Is CBD Snake Oil?

When we hold it up next to Stanley’s snake oil from the late 1800’s it’s clear to see that it is being hailed as a cure-all for whatever ails you.  However, it is similar to the original snake oil extracted from the Chinese Water Snake in that it DOES have healing properties that can help maintain homeostasis and reduce inflammation in the body.  It is a beautiful, natural remedy, that God placed on this planet for us to use. However, people are using it as a cure-all, which it is not.

I believe that every natural substance was given to us to help when our bodies are out of balance, not to cure us.  Our bodies WANT to function.  Our bodies WANT to be well.  We should use natural remedies to bridge the gap, pave a way, and give us time to be able to make life-style changes that will maintain homeostasis without the aid of outside remedies.

**CAUTION- CBD can interact with some prescription medications; make sure your providers know you’re choosing to use CBD.

About the Author

Melissa is a Life Transition Coach, Registered Aromatherapist, and host of the Aromatic Chat Podcast.  She holistically steers women through the tumult of life’s transitions to find peace in the midst.  She received her education at the American College of Healthcare Sciences and the Health Coach Institute. Her mind, body, and spirit approach to every area of life sets her apart in the Coaching world and her skills in Aromatherapy add a layer to her practice that makes it tangible for her clients to experience the power of essential oils as well as creating lasting habit change and a transformed life.  Reach out and schedule your coaching session at

Stock Up On That ``Snake Oil`` 😉


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