The harm of “traditional remedies”: Rhino horn for a hangover

A rhinoceros killed by poachers in Karbi hills, near India’s Kaziranga National Park. (AP Photo)

Via MSN, we learn that one of the most iconic African species is under additional threat of extinction, because of uncritical Vietnamese customers purchasing rhinoceros horn for magical cures for anything from cancer to hangovers:

What happened in 2008 to prompt a resurgence in demand? The closest guess is a rumor that swept Vietnam in the mid-2000s that imbibing rhino horn powder had cured a Vietnamese politician’s cancer. That rumor persists to this day. And note that this has nothing to do with traditional Chinese medicine. As Huijun Shen, the president of the UK Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine explained to Nature magazine, there’s no record of using rhino horn to treat cancer in nearly two millennia worth of Chinese medical texts (p.23).

In Vietnam, however, at least some respected doctors vouch for rhino horn’s cancer-curing properties. One woman who purchased $2,000 worth of horn powder on her doctors’ advice.

There will never be a shortage of devastation of our natural world, until the demand for that devastation is ended. Fighting against magical thinking, and marginalising ludicrous “traditional remedy” claims, is a key element and a worthy aim for skeptics.

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