Chapter 4 -- continued
< --- Chapter 4, Section 2
Scurvy: The "Cancer" of a
Previous Era in Orthodox Medicine
I'm not sure I know of anyone who cannot remember the grade school version of scurvy; how it was a widespread affliction in the British navy "because sailors had no access to fresh food during the long sea voyages; how it was discovered that lime juice prevented -- or was thought then 'cured' -- the symptoms"; and how the discovery of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), made possible through the miracle of modern science, finally brought about the elimination of this deficiency disease. [ 1 ]
The basis for this deficiency is well-established: that humans are among a handful of primates who, along with guinea pigs and fruit bats, share a "genetic defect." Namely, that they (we) are alone within the more than thirty subclasses of Mammalia that do not metabolize their own ascorbic acid (C6-H8-O6). In fact, the internal production of ascorbate is almost universal to animal life. We lack it. [ 1B ]
None of this really tells the story as it deserves to be told, of course. And as well-read as I thought I was, it wasn't until I myself went to prison and came across story after story that showed the startling parallels between the history of scurvy and the more recent history of cancer that I began to understand the importance of the parallels. Most notably . . .
Additionally, whereas scurvy is the most extreme manifestation of a single nutrient deprivation, cancer is considerably more complex -- by definition. Many different malignant cell developments had to be lumped together -- some 200 different, separate diseases -- into a single disease that we call "cancer." (This was important economic development. In fact, medical authorities should be proud of themselves that there will NEVER be one single, one-size-fits-all cure for cancer. Why? Because unlike scurvy, the word "cancer" does not define a single disease. It defines many -- some of which, like basal cell carcinoma and leukemia, are only tangentially related. But we'll get to that later.)
Despite these differences, the similarities and the methods of suppression are sufficiently and surprisingly similar that, relative to the current study, they deserve our attention. Additionally, suppression of the benefit that Vitamin C poses in the prevention of cancer adds an additional and important causal relationship in our comparison. [ 3B ]
The time frame within which the scurvy is usually thought in the West as having been an epidemiological problem is roughly sixteenth to eighteenth century, but the many of the important parts of the story can be found outside these chronological boundaries.
Vogel begins his work with a retelling of Jacques Cartier and the bitter winter of 1535-36. [ 4 ] His three ships were frozen in the St. Lawrence River, near what is now Montreal, and with four feet of ice beneath them and the extinction of fresh food within the ship holds. Scurvy soon set in so severely that by mid-March, 25 men had died, and within the remainder, only "three or foure" men were not so ill as to be considered hopeless. However, with the help of a local Indian chief, Domagaia, (who had himself once cured himself of scurvy -- a questionable appendage to the story, since scurvy was almost unheard of among the Indians), "the juice and sappe of a certain Tree," saved the remaining men.
The branches from this "magical tree" were first gathered and then "boiling bark and leaves for a decoctain, and placing the dregs upon the legs." All those who were treated "rapidly recovered their health and the Frenchmen marveled at the curative skill of the natives." We now know that the CURE used was nothing more than hemlock or white pine.
Far from being a obscure story, it is James Lind, himself, credited in the West with "discovering" the dietary basis for curing scurvy (which we'll review in a moment), who launched his experiments proving thus, but only AFTER he read of Cartier's account. [ 5 ]
The most amazing thing you discover when studying the cultural anthropology surrounding this phenomenon is that there is almost no indigenous peoples on Earth outside of "Civilized Europe" who did not know how to cure scurvy -- if they ever had it at all. The issue is that much of a no brainer.
Today we know the relationship between Vitamin C and a host of fresh fruits and vegetables, so one would think that if anyone on earth would be susceptible to getting scurvy, it would be at the most northern latitudes. After all, surely people with no regular access to any fresh fruits or vegetables would be afflicted with this illness.
Weston Price found this not to be the case. During his travels in the Canadian north in the 1920's, he happened to ask an old Indian, through an interpreter, "why the Indians did not get scurvy."
The Indian promptly replied, "That's a white man's disease." He told Price that Indians know how to prevent scurvy, but that white man does not. The secret? After killing a moose for game, the Indians would seek out the "two small balls of fat" at the back of the moose, just above the kidneys (adrenal glands), cut them up into small pieces and give them to their family members. We know that the adrenal glands -- even of moose -- contain Vitamin C. [ 6 ]
How many "civilized people" know this?
The most shameful and misleading aspect of the grade school version of the history of scurvy, in my opinion, is one of the suppression of critical facts much larger than this. How much does the story change when it is revealed that even among many Europeans, the cure for scurvy was well-known all along, but just not "officially acknowledged," (just as in the case with effective cancer cures today)? How much does the story change when it is revealed that even medical officials at the time knew the cure, but it was suppressed because to implement proven prevention, in an age when citrus and other fresh fruit were seasonal and refrigeration non-existent, was considered an intolerable inconveniency? How much does the story change when it is revealed that the official rallying cry to "find a cure for scurvy" was sounded by the Elite only AFTER extremely expensive war vessels had to be abandoned at sea because the deathtoll wasn't leaving enough sailors to navigate the ships -- thus, making the search a matter of profit and not human life? [ 7 ]
Scurvy, like cancer, is largely a manmade disease.
There is such an abundance of ascorbate throughout the vegetable kingdom, that one has to create a highly artificial condition to induce scurvy in the first place. It is no wonder the evolutionary process jettisoned the ascorbate manufacturing capability within man: why sustain a metabolic process that is redundant throughout the vegetable kingdom and readily accessible through one's natural diet?
Such an artificial condition is rare in the world, but it did exist with the emergence of larger ships in the 15th century, capable of transporting men over great distances through long journeys lasting for months. This advance in seafaring created an unnatural condition, a "maladaptation," for which man was not created. Disease, remember, is created when demands are placed upon the human body for which it is not naturally designed to adapt, or for which the attempt to adapt brings disrepair. Applied to scurvy, we may restate this principle as a corollary : namely, that the farther foods are removed from nature, the more likely they are to create disease.
The unfortunate story of Jacques Cartier and his scorbutic crew may have been one of the earliest of the modern era, but the disease was so rare and unknown to that point that it was not defined and popularized until much later. The disease was not well-known or widely experienced because, again, the maladaptation that created it -- namely, having men live and work aboard ship for months on end without consuming fresh, ascorbate-laden vegetable foods, which are part of the natural diet of man -- was a rarity in the experience of humanity. It was not until 1589 that Richard Hawluyt's Principall Navigations was published, where he makes mention of two men dying of "skurvie," one of the very first appearances of the word in an English publication.
Conjoining the increased demands upon sailors to subsist in unnatural habitats for months on end was a complete lack of regard for their general welfare. This is evident in examining their assigned diets, which set the stage for scorbutic conditions. One must be careful not to be eating or drinking while reading Bown's sickening account of the standard naval diet, which varied only slightly over the centuries "and only slightly between the various European nations." Victuals were limited by what could be preserved or stored for many months at a time without spoilage . . . but the most influencing factor in the victualling process was, of course, money. Officers of the line were far less likely to get scurvy than were the poorly paid non-commissioned, because they could afford to bring their own provisions: dried apples, pears, berries, and the like, whereas the crew was subjected to an unnatural diet that even by modern, orthodox standards of nutrition, was devoid of most nutrients, even if ample in calories. Bown recounts the typical weekly menu for the average sailor:
This might not sound too unappetizing until one realizes the condition in which it was served. The remarks made by James Patten, a surgeon aboard Captain Cook's second voyage, were par for the time: "Our bread was . . . both musty and mouldy, and at the same time swarming with two different sorts of little brown grubs, the circulio granorius (or weevil) and the dermestes paniceus . . . Their larvas, or maggots, were found in such quantities in the pease-soup, as if they had been strewed over our plates on purpose, so that we could not avoid swallowing some of them in every spoonful we took." [ 8 ]
Such was the little regard that the Admiralties of the various national navies took for the diet of their sailors. And, yet, it was not because they couldn't have provided better. Quite the contrary, the authorities of the day often went out of their way to ensure that the sailors would NOT get what they needed. As late as 1736, William Cockburn, a noted physician and naval surgeon, wrote in his influential Sea Diseases that scurvy had nothing to do with diet, but was the result of idleness. With added physicial exertion [i.e. working harder for the Admiralty] "digestion and nutrition were better performed" and scurvy would be abated. Another influential voice, John White, opined that fresh fruit caused enteritis and that "one must, when ships reach countries abounding in oranges, lemons, pineapples, etc., ensure that the crew eat very little of them since they are the commonest cause of fevers and obstruction of the vital organs." [ 9 ]
And yet the historical record is chockful of reports where it was apparent that wise sailors throughout Europe, not tethered to purse-conscious, national navies, fully understood the importance of proper diet in their seafaring activies. Both the Norse and the Chinese knew the value of including fresh cranberries, seaweed, or ginger in their victuals, common before the construction of larger ships and much longer voyages. [ 10 ]
In the early 1600's, the legendary sea captain of Elizabethan England, Sir James Lancaster, was well-known for taking lemon juice as a provision aboard his ship, Red Dragon, for the specific purpose of warding off scurvy among his men. When scurvy did begin to surface, Lancaster led his ships into port "to refresh our men with oranges and lemons, to clear ourselves of this disease." He even purchased thousands of lemons, then put his men to work, squeezing them to make a "lemon water" for his continuing journey.
Far from being considered the recommendations of a seagoing crank, Lancaster's methods were standardized in his day. In 1617, The Surgeon's Mate, written by John Woodall, the surgeon general of the East India Company, wrote that lemon juice was often used as a daily preventative on company vessels. "There is a good quantity of juice of lemons sent in each ship out of England by the care of the merchants and intended only for the relief of every poor man in his need, which is an admirable comfort to poor men in that disease."
Likewise, the Dutch East India Company not only made frequent use of lemon juice on their voyages, but they went so far as to maintain citrus plantations at key stops along their routes, including Mauritius, St. Helena, and the Cape of Good Hope, where by 1661, they reportedly had 1,000 citrus fruit trees. These were influential companies, experienced at international trade and maintaining viable fleets. So, it is no wonder that by the early 1600's -- long before any mention of an "official cure" by orthodox medicine, and even long before scurvy's emergence as an epidemiological nightmare among the national navies of the world, lemon juice was "well regarded as the universal solution to the scurvy problem".
Francois Pyrard, who sailed two French ships to the Spice Islands in 1602, recorded his own ship's bout with scurvy and remarked that "there is no better or more certain cure than citrons and oranges and their juice: and after using it once successfully everyone makes provision to it to serve him when in need." Likewise, lemon juice was considered a cure for scurvy by early American colonists. Baron De La Warr, a governor at Plymouth in the early 1600's who came down with scurvy on a trip to the Carribean, remarked, "There I found help for my health by means of fresh diet, and especially of oranges and lemons . . . an undoubted remedy for (scurvy)." In neighboring Canada, the Hudson Bay Company from their beginning in the 1600's, shipped out small quantities of lime juice to prevent scurvy. [ 11 ]
The story of how purveyors and sutlers of citrus products came to be effectively labelled "quacks," not unlike a host of herbal providers of effective treatments are today, is a common tale. Over the course of the next hundred years, slowly but surely, the use of citrus products was replaced by more expensive remedies with much better markups for their providers and the creation of an orthodox medical system to provide a theoretical foundation for their use. That these newfound "remedies" didn't work was beside the point. No one could explain how "lemon water" worked. But medical personnel were trained to explain how "oil of vitriol" (alcohol and sulphuric acid) worked.
That made it legitimate.
A new theory, with official sanctions, was all that was needed to create a new onslaught of scurvy as a seagoing disease reaching epidemic proportions. The products that would replace lemon juice as a cure for scurvy proved to be as outlandish, goofy, and baseless as the official products used today to treat cancer (i.e. chemotherapy, radiation, and radical surgery). One hundred and fifty years later, the British Admiralty ordered as standard antiscorbutic treatment: a daily ration of two ounces of vinegar, oil of vitriol, and a potent patent medicine called "Ward's Drop and Pill" (a "viciously strong purgative and diuretic"). Such remedies were taken because the authorities in charge ordered it -- not because they had earned any reputation of efficacy among those who were the intended recipients. "(I) gave a quantity of (these remedies) to the surgeon, for such of the sick people as were willing to take them; several did so; though I know of none who believed they were of any service to them," wrote Lord Anson. [ 12 ]
As one reads historical records of this period, it is evident that with the infusion of professional medicine comes the abandonment, not the embracing, of the "obvious cure." As Carpenter notes, "(the medical profession) made the subject so complicated that a safe and effective treatment could hardly be chosen without sophisticated diagnosis. This was certainly of benefit to the medical profession -- if not to the patient. As a modern French scholar has written: 'When theoretical considerations prevailed over empiricism, treatment became more and more complex and less effective.' " [ 13 ]
Well before sailors like Sir James Lancaster were keeping their crews alive by committing themselves to the obvious cure for scurvy, orthodox medicine was busy at work, attempting to find a way to profit from it. But therein lay the challenge. How could a professional class of physicians and their allied apothecaries (i.e. pharmacists) profit from a disease if those outside their class could easily identify this disease and cure it themselves?
What was required at this point was a state of dependency upon the medical professional. But how could orthodox medicine profitably insert itself into the newly emerging scurvy phenomenon without discrediting the already established cure?
There was always the option of leaving well enough alone and let the sailors continue to identify and cure -- again, not treat, cure -- their own malady. But then how could professional medicine assert its own authority in the affairs of society if one of the fastest emerging medical crises was being eradicated without them -- no doctor, no apothecary, no medical authority required?
Could the status quo possibly continue without severely impacting the very legitimacy of established medicine?
And so the stage was set -- not for the acknowledgement of the cure for scurvy (though it be obvious, even in the absence of a Vitamin C discovery), but rather its eradication. This would be a campaign so successful -- executed wittingly and unwittingly -- that it would not be until well into the 20th century that these efforts would finally be laid to rest : by which time cancer had taken the limelight as the "disease de jour," and orthodox medicine would develop the audacity to take credit for the scurvy cure -- a cure it had spent over three centuries suppressing and to a considerable and paradoxical extent, still suppresses to this day in its less extreme state: hypoascorbemia.
Because humanity's tragic experience with scurvy occurred during a time when modern medicine, as we now know it, was just emerging -- indeed, an epidemic at its birth, its study provides an opportunity to gain clarity as to how culture creates patterns that become entrenched over time. These patterns contain the seeds of a civilization's demise, but not before exhibiting ghastly anomolies -- like the out-of-control condition endemic to today's orthodox medical establishment.
For there to be any institutionalized medical infrastructure under the cultural operating system that now defines Western civilization, you would have to have several indisposable components -- all of which are interrelated. You need an authoritative hierarchal structure, an ideological foundation, a monopoly of force, and the resources to sustain these functions. Yet all of these are subservient to -- and feed into -- the most critical element of all: the need to "establish and constantly reinforce legitimacy." In this respect, the anatomy of institutionalized medicine is no different from that of any governmental state. [ 14 ]
Hierarchy and complexity, as Joseph Tainter has noted, "are rare in human history, and where present require constant reinforcement. No societal leader is ever far from the need to validate position and policy, and no hierarchical society can be organized without explicit provision for this need."
Hierarchy and social complexity naturally gravitate towards the creation of a center, not necessarily a geographical one, but certainly a "symbolic source of the framework of society. It is not only the location of legal and governmental institutions, but is the source of order, and the symbol of moral authority and social continuity. The center partakes of the nature of the sacred. In this sense, every complex society has an official religion." Tainter goes onto to say this "moral authority and sacred aura of the center" is critical not only to the maintenance of a complex society, but its emergence.
This demands not simply the manipulation of ideological symbols, but requires substantial resources. As it applies to medicine, how are these resources created? If it is the case, as I clearly postulate, that the cures for most diseases are simple, natural remedies that do not lend themselves to private ownership (via patent, proprietary process, etc.) or higher profit margins, then what primary condition would have to be put in place for a viable organized medical community to emerge?
The answer is obvious: it requires artificiality. It requires systems of thought, bordering on religion -- that give artificial value to artificiality. And if disease can be thought of as unresolved maladaptation, it means creating complex, artificial, maladaptive approaches to treating maladaptation. To understand this principle as it applies to organized medicine is to understand why it is not possible for orthodox medicine to have ever evolved into anything more -- or other -- than an extended crime syndicate, parasitic on those it claims to serve, while devoted to the suppression of legitimate cures. The simple, indisputable fact of the matter is that "value-added" products and services, in medicine as in every other field of endeavor, means taking what Nature has provided (most often for free) and creating from it something that is scarce. This isn't even medicine: it's a tautological "given" in microeconomics. To take what nature has freely provided and make something uncommon, scarce and perhaps even difficult to replicate and expect this artifact, extrinsic to nature, to improve what is intrinsic to Nature, is ludicrous.
Organized medicine is itself a disease -- self-serving and malignant. It enters into the field of nature, where of their own accord, wounds heal, blood clots, pathogenic microbes are overcome by natural immunity, and attempts to co-opt Mother Nature and claim that using methods entirely Un-Natural that it can improve upon biological systems that are immovably bound to Her Domain. Modern medicine proposes the impossible: that through maladaptation, it can bring health -- when health never exists outside an organism's own adaptive boundaries. In this sense, Modern Medicine functions in ways that mimic the disease process itself.
Applied outside the realm of "direct aggression against individuals," Ivan Illich calls this "social iatrogenesis," where "medical bureaucracy creates ill-health by increasing stress, by multiplying disabling dependence, by generating new painful needs, by lowering the levels of tolerance for discomfort or concede to an individual when he suffers, and by abolishing even the right to self-care." [ 15 ]
We see this again and again in the unfolding of the "scurvy cure" and the revisionist version that now passes for history. I can think of no better example than James Lind and the "Salisbury Experiment" of 1847. This was "one of the first controlled trials in medical history, or in any branch of clinical science." [ 16 ] It deserves our attention not just because it proved conclusively that oranges and lemons contained something -- who cares at this point what it is -- that cured scurvy, but to any thinking human being, the manner of its suppression is almost too painful to read. It would take another 48 years (1795) -- only after the loss of untold thousands of sailors, an indeterminable number of warships, the loss of the American Colonies, and then nearly England's own survival -- when the lords of the British Admiralty would admit a more humiliating defeat and make citrus fruit standard issue on its ships of the line. Only when the life of the nation itself was at stake would those in authority admit the folly of their unproven remedies and allow sailors ready access to a cure that had been known for hundreds of years. (For those who would conclude from my commentary that indifference to the health of their charge was or is exclusive to British authority, I would present its American counterpart: after 30,000 soldiers came down with scurvy during the American Civil War, the U.S. Army finally adopted anti-scorbutic rations in 1895 -- another 100 years after the British adopted them.) [ 16b ]
"It must however appear clear to every reflecting mind, that the care of the sick and wounded is a matter equally of policy, humanity and economy. Independently of men being sentient beings and fellow creatures, they may also be considered as indispensable mechanical instruments."Adm. Gilbert Blane 17
". . . hung their hammocks in a separate compartment in the forehold -- as dank, dark, and cloying as can be imagined -- and provided 'one diet common to all.' Breakfast consisted of gruel sweetened with sugar. Lunch (or dinner) was either "fresh mutton broth" or occasionally 'puddings, boiled biscuit with sugar.' And for supper he had the cook prepare barley and raisins, rice and currants, sago and wine. Lind also controlled the quantities of food eaten. During the fourteen-day period, he separated the scorbutic sailors into six pairs and supplemented the diet of each pair with various antiscorbutic medicines and foods.The results would probably not surprise many indigenous people, but they surprised Lind. The lucky pair who were fed the citrus fruit were nearly recovered after only a week. None of the other test subjects were to similarly recover. In fact, the citrus eaters ended up helping to nurse the other unfortunate scurvy victims who had not been so treated. Lind's conclusion clear and concise, "the most sudden and visible good effects were perceived from the use of the oranges and lemons . . . Oranges and lemons were the most effectual remedies for this distemper at sea." [ 19 ]
The following year (1748) Lind retired from the Royal Navy, as hostilities between England and Spain diminished. He completed his medical degree at the University of Edinburgh and 1750 was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh. He then got married and established a private practice.
It would appear, however, that Lind was a rare bird in the nascent field of modern medicine as we now know it. A contrarian not content with conventional thinking on scurvy that ran contrary to his own findings, he spent the next three years on work so comprehensive and bibliographical that it took into account every known desription of scurvy, from the earliest records to the most modern. Letters and documents were compiled and translated from places all over Europe.
In 1753, six years after the Salisbury experiment, Lind's treatise appeared in Edinburgh: Treatise on the Scurvy, Containing an Inquiry into the Nature, Causes, and Cure, of That Disease Together with a Critical and Chronological View of What Has Been Published on the Subject.
This book is hailed by numerous sources and authorities as a landmark in the history of medicine. It was, of course, resisted by an inertial system of patronage that was every bit as grotesque as the one that infests the military establishments of most modern Western nations today. [ 20 ] But what is more revealing is now modern historians treat the matter. Harvie himself opens his treatise on Lind by remarking that scurvy killed "thousands of men, mainly sailors, every year for at least four centuries before a remedy was found." Found by whom? For whom? [ 21 ] Not the Eskimos. They had a cure. Not any of the native peoples of North America. They had their own cures. Not the Polynesians, or the Melanesians, or the Maori, or the Chechuans -- hell, try to name an indigenous people who were not contaminated by the sick cultural environment that gave birth to the modern abortion we call Modern Medicine that did NOT have a cure! [ 22 ]
The entire Western-centric thinking in which the "discovery of the scurvy cure" is framed reminds me of our treatment of Christopher Columbus. He, too, is credited with discovering something : AMERICA -- but, once again, by whom and for whom? (How can you "discover" a place where over 55 million human beings are already living? A hemisphere which, as Las Casas eyewitnessed, was "teeming with people. . . like a beehive.") [ 23 ]
Lind's contribution does not merit the use of the word "discovery." How can you discover something that people all over the world who are not connected to the intellectual convolutions of modern medicine already know and use and benefit from? Instead of noting the obvious: that Lind simply used Cartesian methods of observation to confirm what people in cultures all over the world already knew, he is instead, within the confines of modern medicine history elevated to a position on its own private Mount Olympus. He is exalted for his "truly pioneering controlled clinical trial," while one eulogy of note contends that Lind is "one of the greatest names in the whole history of medicine," and, "the discovery of the cause and prevention of scurvy is one of the great chapters in all human history . . . largely the work of James Lind." [ 24 ]
What unmitigated rubbish.
For lost in the heady crediting of Lind with the initial "discovery of the scurvy cure," is the suppression of the good doctor's involvement in the suppression. Not content to leave well alone -- for what contribution to medical science is there is recommending the consumption of lemons? -- Lind decided to make his own contribution to medicine. Nature's cure wasn't good enough. What respectability could there be in that? So he came up with the idea of producing a "rob" -- a concentrate of citrus fruit, made by boiling down the citrus fruit itself. The astute observer today will readily see the fault there: Vitamin C, being subject to heat lability, would be destroyed in any such process.
Now surely, James Lind, the man credited with doing the first controlled medicine study, would test his rob to ensure that it worked as well as raw oranges and lemons. So that's exactly what he did, right?
Of course not.
As time went on, Lind began making untested, untried, untrue, mindlessly ineffective recommendations that were no better than the other profit-producing recommendations of his peers. In 1779, his final work suggests that cream of tartar is an adequate substitute -- and so it is confidently inserted among Lind's other stupendous recommendations for mitigating scurvy: including the fumigation of ships with burning tar. By diluting his initial finding with a plethora of ineffective nonsense, it has been noted that Lind "complicated, if not delayed, the successful management of scurvy in British and Western European shipping." [ 25 ]
Nonetheless, Lind never suffered the consequence of leveraging the publicity of his positive initial scurvy find into this series of worthless, untested scurvy recommendations. How could official opprobrium result when those in charge were backing proprietary scurvy treatments that were every bit as untested and void of any curative properties? (What comes to mind is Dr. John Pringle's position as President of the British Royal Society and his influence on the Admiralty to promote, for many years in the late 1700's, the continued use of "wort of malt," a completely worthless treatment.) Instead, Lind spent the rest of his professional life as a high ranking hospital administrator, and I believe it would be fair to say a member -- though not of the highest stature therein -- of the ruling aristocracy.
As we saw earlier, modern medicine requires ideological foundations to sustain its legitimacy and having become a full-fledged physician and member of the establishment, it would have been unthinkable for Lind to conclude his Treatise without introducing his own theory about its cause and cure. Not only are Lind's theories (too extensive to recount in full here) every bit as hare-brained as his contemporaries, but he actively criticizes the ideas of the one physician who, more than any other in his day, understood the true cause and cure of scurvy.
Johan Friedrich Bachstrom was a Dutch physician of this period who correctly identified scurvy as a dietary deficiency disease. He divided plants into three broad categories, ranking their strength as antiscorbutics (in fact, he coined the term). Though primitive and in need of alteration by today's understanding, the uncelebrated Bachstrom, unlike the highly celebrated Lind, correctly saw that "the most common herbs and fresh fruits excel the most pompous pharmaceutical preparations," and that "this evil is solely owing to a total abstinence from fresh vegetable food and greens, which alone are the true primary cause of the disease."
What? No proprietary formula? No special treatment -- or officially sanctioned remedy? Wrong answer.
For his impudence, Bachstrom was imprisoned and died in Lithuania in 1742, at the age of fifty-six. [ 26 ]
From this point the official story -- depending on whose version of history you listen to -- winds through the empirical success of Captain James Cook's arresting scurvy at sea and on to Gilbert Blane's ultimate success at getting citrus products back into fashion as a scurvy preventive and cure. [ 27 ]
This is where the story ends, if you listen to the common narrative. Citrus fruit becomes accepted as the answer, later to be confirmed as containing the one true isolated cure, Vitamin C. Scurvy is accepted as a deficiency disease. And now everyone gets to live happily ever after, once again, THANKS to modern medicine.
But that is not at all what happened. Over the last 200 years, scurvy has repeatedly been resurrected -- and in nearly every case, it recurred where modern medicine, with and without assistance from its brethren in the processed food industry, couldn't resist the temptation to intervene with some twisted angle to make money from its remanifestation. Carpenter's work is packed with nauseating examples -- of which only a couple will be drawn here for brevity's sake.
Beginning with the summer of 1845, weather in northwest Europe took a nasty turn resulting in the loss of about half the potato crop -- an important staple and a vital source of Vitamin C. In July of the following year, a similar turn resulted in almost a total loss for crop in Ireland and Britain. This period in history is referred to The Great Potato Famine (1845-1848).
Ascorbates would not be discovered for another eighty years, and yet despite a well-established Treatise on Food and Diet (Pereira, 1843), noting the "need for succulent vegetables and variety in the human diet," prominent voices obtained the imprimatur of the medical establishment to help introduce an array of new, zanny theories about scurvy and the exciting new therapeutic possibilities.
In 1842, Animal Chemistry was published, giving voice to the "protein theory" of nutrition by Justus von Liebig. Carpenter summarizes his three main points:
An equally hare-brained theory that became widely accepted in orthodox medical circles was the "potassium theory," reasoning that by restricting their diet of succulent vegetables, the scurvy sufferer was subjected to a deficiency in mineral salts, primarily potassium. In time, their theory sank, too, with the sheer weight of common sense (i.e. if a deficiency of mineral salts has anything to do with scurvy, why does the mere act of dehydration -- wherein mineral salts are preserved -- kill the anti-scorbutic value of fruits and vegetables?) However, as late as 1862, the theory still had a following among the medically prestigous.
Gradually, interest in new scurvy cures subsided with the absence of scurvy as a problem on land: in the summer of 1848, there came a normal potato harvest, scurvy subsided -- and without a way to help "create" new scurvy cases, orthodox medicine had to look to other markets to peddle its goods and services, but not before issuing its final, inane, dietary recommendations for avoiding scurvy: "Avoid the use of uncooked vegetables, unripe, sour or stone fruit . . . and acid drinks generally." [ 29 ] The cure for scurvy would, of course, require ignoring this "sound medical advice," just as surely as curing cancer today would require the avoidance of nearly all chemotherapy, radiation, and invasive, radical, surgical techniques -- the FDA approved modalities in the West.
With this in mind, it shouldn't surprise the alert observer that scurvy has always been rare in areas where people live "close to the land" -- not just because they are more apt to get fresh fruit and vegetables, ample in ascorbate, but because they are blessed with an absence of menacing medical authorities. A good example is Hudson's Bay Company, the oldest commercial corporation in North America, with continuous operations going back to 1670. In all that time, scurvy has NEVER been a "serious problem that it hampered their development." Bypassing the many "theories de jour," Hudson's shipped out small quantities of lime juice during this same nineteenth century period. [ 30 ] One can only ponder what scorbutic horrors would have awaited their employees in the New World had they followed "sound medical advice."
Regardless, it is the period that follows, a period for which any Western school child will probably tell you that the scurvy problem had already been solved -- (after all, it's in the common narrative), that scurvy reared its ugly head again and modern medicine came forth with yet another zanny theory.
We'll call this period "The Age of the Ptomaine Theory." [ 31 ]
In 1876 a British naval expedition returned from the Arctic after just one year. Our of 120 men, half had suffered from scurvy, and 4 had died of it. A full-scale inquiry was called for by the House of Commons, leading to the development of an entirely NEW theory on the cause of scurvy, one that would become influential by 1900.
That scurvy should still be a problem for explorers, over 120 years after Lind's now famous publication and only slightly more time than this to the date of this writing, deserves examination. As stated earlier, Weston Price noted that despite a dirth of fresh fruits and vegetables, Eskimos and other peoples of the far north are rarely seen to suffer from it. They are in touch with the land and their relationship to it. [ 32 ]
But such observations clearly do not square with modern medicine's own common narrative, so a new theory in the age of polar explorations had to be created to explain why those who ate meat in the northern latitudes did not get scurvy, while those farther to the south did not. Out the window went over a century of proof that fresh citrus was already an established cure. And so came about "The Ptomaine Theory," which, as one of its main proponents, Frederick Jackson, unwittingly declared, required the dislodging of the already established cure, "the use of lime juice neither prevents nor cures scurvy . . . (it) is a disease developed through eating tained food . . . a slow poisoning . . . " Modern medical historians act as apologists -- (they have no choice) -- for the re-sprouting of these periodic zanny theories that orthodox medicine latches onto -- excuses that do not comport with common sense. In this case, the escape is that Jackson observed crews taking their aged daily ounce of lime juice to no effect. Ergo, citrus fruit is of no value. Never mind that the simple observation that nearly all foods degrade in value the longer they are removed from their natural source -- the greater the distance in time from their initial harvest.
Working with Vaughan Harley, a Professor of Physiological Chemistry in London University, Jackson sought to give life to his theory -- which garnered credibility from the new acceptance of Pasteur's Germ Theory. The testing for the Ptomaine Theory is described by Jackson in a then respected 1899 monograph:
"If meat is not properly preserved, micro-organisms contaminate it, and as a consequence it goes bad -- the bacteria chemically change the albumen, fat, carbohydrates in the meat, and the new chemical products formed (ptomaines) cause the change in colour, smell, etc . . . Before the meat has actually gone so bad as to be repugnant to the sense of smell and sight, bacteria may have done their work, and yielded their ptomaines . . . It is such tainted meat, and not bad meat, that one must look to as the cause of scurvy. The greater prevalence of scurvy in the winter -- which used to be argued in favour of the fresh vegetable theory of the disease -- is in support of this theory; for in summer, if meat is kept, the bacteria would proliferate with such rapidity that the meat would soon smell bad and be rejected. In winter it would not taint so rapidly, and might be cooked and eaten without thought of danger. It must be remembered that, although cooking will destroy bacteria, the ordinary heat so used would have no action on their chemical products, or ptomaines. Again, if the meat were putrid, eating it would cause acute ptomaine-poisoning, with headache, violent diarrhoea, sickness . . . if only slightly tained meat were taken, the dose would cause no immediate symptoms, and the disease would gradually develop itself as we know scurvy does. [ 33 ]This theory wasn't considered hair-brained or on the fringe. It had support from no less than Lord Lister, President of the Royal Society -- representing the pinnacle of establishment respectability. Readers will remember that this is the same position held by Dr. John Pringle in the late 1700's, who, for financial gain, promoted his worthless wort of malt despite the clear evidence of citrus's effectiveness as abundantly articulated by Lind.
Monkey studies were crafted to support the theory -- which is to be expected, because one of the most grevious flaws in the popular religion we call scientism is that experiments always carry a bias to the willed, established doctrine. [ 34 ]
That the smallest consultation with students of the East would have killed the ptomaine theory in its cradle didn't seem to matter. After all, in India scurvy had been observed with soldiers who didn't even eat meat. When hospitalized, their scurvy was cured "by the simple addition of fresh limes or potatoes." [ 35 ] Such observation, however, would run counter to orthodox medicine's efforts to unify and filter its constellation of medical observations, theories, and practices under the rubric of the now hallowed Germ Theory. It is, therefore, not surprising that two years later, in 1902, the British Medical Association opened its annual meeting with a report from its Inspector-General, a retired naval surgeon named Turnbull that pronounced, "From extensive . . . researches in the literature . . . I am forced to the conclusion that . . . the presence of some toxic material in the food is the cause of scurvy . . . also that lemon or lime juice has been erroneously accepted as a certain preventative . . . Fresh or pure provisions are the true antiscorbutic." (emphasis added) Such thinking, now established as medical, scientific fact by the Establishment for the early 20th century, is reflected in comments by Reginald Koettlitz, the senior surgeon on one of Jackson's arctic expeditions: "The benefit of the so-called anti-scorbutic is a delusion . . . that the cause of the outbreak of scurvy in so many polar expeditions has always been that something was radically wrong with the preserved meats, whether tinned or salted is practically certain. An animal food is scorbutic if bacteria have been able to product ptomaines in it . . . otherwise, it is not." (emphasis added) [ 36 ]
The disaster that followed, namely the death of Commander Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912) and his companions in his last Antarctic expedition (1910-1912), deserves our attention not because they died of scurvy. The medical wisdom of the day -- which we will soon see has not progressed that far in the last century, and in many ways has regressed -- made it inevitable. What is important is the manner in which the information was suppressed.
That suppression became a necessity because the second and final Scott expedition is the most famous in British history -- setting forth a flurry of historical reconstructions that were not published until the late 1970's. [ 37 ] That Scott lost out to Roald Amundsen in the race to the Antarctic -- an irrepressible source of embarrassment to the British -- is not as important as unearthing the truth source of their demise. The daily ration on Scott's expedition itself tells its own story: pemmican, biscuits, butter, cocoa, sugar and tea. Low in calories and deficient in Vitamin C.
When one of the naval surgeons, Atkinson, filed a report on the conditions of Scott and his companions after the bodies were found, hunger and frostbite were mentioned, but not a word is said about scurvy. Huntford speculates, based on his own evidence, that "there are stray hints that he [Atkinson] might have been concealing evidence of scurvy, which could not be revealed because it would have reflected on the whole conduct of the expedition." Considering comments made by surviving crew members, as well as the degree of editing of Scott's own posthumous diary, this author would say that the "hints" become far more certain than suggestive. [ 38 ]
Western civilization, as we have seen, has taken mankind far on the path of maladaptation, but few examples are as illuminating as that of infantile scurvy, a disease which is, first and foremost, rooted in the inability to accept mother's milk as a human infant's most perfect food. Since modern medicine proposes, in so many innumerable ways, that it can improve upon Nature better than Nature herself, it isn't surprising that our civilization would introduce an array of baby formulas which provide nutritional deficiencies to infants that proceed right up to the present day. [ 39 ]
Late in the 19th century, infants who manifested the symptomology of scurvy were diagnosed as having what was then called Barlow's disease. An orthodox medical system that can't cure scurvy in adults, certainly isn't likely to do any better for infants -- and such is the case, with prescriptions resulting for items such as potassium chlorate, iodide of iron, quinine bark, cod liver oil, etc. For well over forty years, medical doctors made money, (of course), by visiting and prescribing a variety of compounds to treat a deficiency disease for which the REAL cure is unthinkable. For an weaning infant, the best antiscorbutic prescription is mother's milk. Imagine!
Infantile scurvy is rightly a "disease of affluence," a subset of the "diseases of civilization" from which earlier adult versions of scurvy are themselves prime examples. Boyden identifies the impact of civilization on the emergence of new diseases: "the majority of the disorders of which people complain in Western society are disorders of civilization, in the sense that they would have been rare or non-existent in primeval society." [ 40 ] We come to much closer grips with the underlying conditions under which infantile scurvy would surface when we realize in that modern civilization, the very mention of women's breasts do not, first and foremost, bring to mind either milk or the sustinence of small infants. Among certain cultural groups breast-feeding is associated with a certain backwardness or even perversity.
Again . . . maladaptation.
So, it is not surprising that as we proceed with our chronology of a short history of scurvy, we would find that the next development would lend itself to modern medicine's key specialty: addressing maladaptation -- the source of disease states -- with yet MORE maladaptation. This took the form of yet more reinforcement of the still nascent Germ Theory with the sterilization of milk. Carpenter's work is quite suggestive of "cooked milk," as the cause of the large number of infantile scurvy during this period. A speaker at a Royal Society meeting in 1898 sets forth the dominant medical thinking of the day:
"The sterilization of milk is one of the greatest advances that has been made in infant feeding . . . The most important diseases which we have to deal with among infants are the digestive disorders in summer time. The sterilization of the milk offers more advantages in checking or preventing those diseases than any other method which has, as yet, been offered . . . Is it possible that sterilization of milk may injure its nutritive properties to a slight extent . . . but the injury done by this is far outweighed by the greater advantage offered in preventing disease."Another paper considered by the Society at the same meeting is even more emphatic:
"It does not seem fair to put into an infant's stomach a food containing thousands of bacteria in each drop, these bacteria being of unknown quality and very possibly dangerous and pathogenic nature." [ 41 ]None of this squared with the papers going back to 1894 that raw milk was known to be anti-scorbutic -- a quality that was lost during sterilization. But then, which was more important? Curing infantile scurvy? Or exalting information that supported, while suppressing information which discredited, any facet of the Germ Theory -- the newest cornerstone of medicine's profit model?
By 1920 there existed, however, enough epidemiological support for the idea that breast milk had a unique value to infants not obtainable from the common substitutes of the day. In the 1920 edition of the Index Catalogue to the Library of the Surgeon-General's Office reports were compiled from twenty-two countries, including Australia, Japan, Norway and Brazil. In communities where adult scurvy was rampant, breast-fed children showed no evidence of Barlow's. Evidence was making it clear even to critics that Barlow's in children and scurvy in adults were, in fact, the same affliction.
With the publication in 1907 of Axel Holst's famous paper on the use of the guinea pig as an animal model for studying scurvy, it would only be a matter of time before the cure for scurvy would be expressed in a way that even modern medicine's most entrenched opposition would be hard-pressed to combat.
The discovery of Vitamin C, its implications and the manner in which the "cure for scurvy" is still suppressed to this day are the subject of the fourth and final section of this chapter.
Chapter 4, Section 4
I use Bown's work because it gives a clear account of scurvy's history in Britain from the 16th century through the 19th. However, I do not at all subscribe to Bown's glowing account of this "miraculous discovery" on his terms. Bown is himself under the anesthesia of our common narrative and he appears careful to ensure that his account is concurrent with modern, orthdox treatment of medicine's history.
By way of example, Bown closes his opening Prologue, gushing that "the defeat of scurvy was one of the great medical and socio-military advances of the era, a discovery on par with the accurate calculation of longitude at sea, the creation of the smallpox vaccination, or the development of steam power . . . How the cure for scurvy was found and lost and finally found again at an important juncture in the history of the world is one of the great mysteries of the age." (p. 7)
No, it's not.
It's not a mystery.
It wasn't a mystery then and it isn't a mystery now.
When you understand the inner-workings of orthodox medicine and establishment power, there is nothing within the convoluted history of scurvy's history in the West that cannot be readily explained.
You simply have to be willing to step away from the propagandistic fog.
There was a point during my imprisonment in the U.S. when I realized that there was almost nothing in Meditopia that was original. The best that I could accomplish was to provide a fresh, current facade on a body of work, a veritable stream of wisdom extending through the Vedas, into the earliest Sumerian texts, and beyond into as yet unrecognized antiquities.
This thought is well represented in the Introduction to McKeown's The Role of Medicine: Dream, Mirage, or Nemesis?, wherein McKeown opens with an unnamed historian's comment about the originality of "new ideas." "It is always earlier than you think," he says. Given the time frame under which we examine the history of scurvy, he is, I believe, worthwhile to repeat his recounting of the long-held opinion of Montaigne (1533-1592), concerning the value of medicine.
". . . at least from the time of Montaigne, the notion that treatment of disease may be useless, unpleasant, and even dangerous has been expressed frequently and vehemently, particularly in French literature. Moliere's Le Medecin Malgre Lui, the famous operation in Madame Bovary and Proust's account of the psychiatrist's cursory examination of his mortally ill grandmother ('Madame, you will be well on the day when you realize that you are no longer ill . . . Submit to the honour of being called a neurotic. You belong to that great family . . . to which we are indebted for all the greatest things we know') are examples of the irony and bitterness with which some of the greatest writers have expressed their conclusions about the work of doctors.' " (p. xi)
But the writers of the Renaissance who wrote about the inherent problems of the medical profession are, once again, not expressing original ideas that do not extend into antiquity.
One example that fits our purposes and helps make sense of dscurvy's insane history as presented in the main text at left extends as far back as Plato.
"The story, as Socrates tells it to his friend Phaedrus, unfolds in the following way: Thamus once entertained the god Theuth, who was the inventor of many things, including number, calculation, geometry, astronomy, and writing. Theuth exhibited his inventions to King Thamus, claiming that they should be made widely known and available to Egyptians. Socrates continues:Postman goes on to say that this story from the Phaedrus is no less relevant today than it was in the days of Plato -- in fact, more so. For "we are currently surrounded by throngs of zealous Theuths, one-eyed prophets, who see only what new technologies can do and are incapable of imagining what they will undo."
Thamus inquired into the use of each of them, and as Theuth went through them expressed approval or disapproval, according as he judged Theuth's claims to be well or ill founded. It would take too long to go through all that Thamus is reported to have said for and against each of Theuth's inventions. But when it came to writing, Theuth declared, "Here is an accomplishment, my lord the King, which will improve both the wisdom and the memory of the Egyptians. I have discovered a sure receipt for memory and wisdom.' To this, Thamus replied, 'Theuth, my paragon of inventors, the discoverer of an art is not the best judge of the good or harm which will accrue to those who practice it. So it is in this; you, who are the father of writing, have out of fondness for your off-spring attributed to it quite the opposite of its real function. Those who acquire it will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful; they will rely on writing to bring things to their remembrance by external signs instead of by their own internal resources. What you have discovered is a receipt for recollection, not for memory. And as for wisdom, your pupils will have the reputation for it without the reality: they will receive a quantity of information without proper instruction, and in consequence be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant. And because they are filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom they will be a burden to society." (p. 1-5)
Such is the misguidance in constructing large warships to wage questionable wars -- only to see more men and ships lost on account of disease and poor judgement than could ever be lost in battle.
Such is the centuries long detour that the cure for scurvy took when Lind introduced a "technology" for boiling and concentrating lemon juice ("rob of lemon"). The processing not only deactivated the ascorbate, but in the process of no longer seeing lemons work in the new, intended way, gave complete disrepute to any notion that citrus fruit was anti-scorbutic. The mistake would not be uncovered and understood until well into the 20th century.
Such is the fallacy in manufacturing vitamin supplements (including Vitamin C) for the purposes of reinforcing devitalized, processed foods. For although the intended purpose is to make the food more nutritious, it only detracts the consumer away from more natural, organic foods that possess the needed nutrients without having to have somebody add them -- always producing results that are not as nutritious or healthy or life-supporting as the original foods they replace.
Such is the tragedy in allowing political organizations, such as the U.S. Congress, to create "protective" bureacracies, such as the U.S. Food & Drug Administration -- itself, a kind of technology. For although its ostensible purpose is to protect Americans from harmful effects from improperly made or sold foods, beverages, cosmetics, etc., it is functionally and quite literally, a cruel mechanism to provide false assurance to the Public that they have an organization that looks out for their best interest, when the truth is that it is a brothel for powerful pharmaceutical companies and others within the Industrial Medical Complex. More Americans have been killed by the predictably, ill-advised policies of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration than have been killed by all wars in which America has ever been.
As the history of scurvy shows, "our inventions are but improved means to an unimproved end." Postman makes this clear in his discussing the implications of embracing technology as an end-all: medicine is today, as it was in the days of James Lind, all about disease and not the patient. What the patient knows is untrustworthy; but what the machine knows is reliable. (p. 100) This is the tautology of modern science itself and it can never be made to comport with the needs of good health: for science itself is built on a foundation that dictates that the senses are not reliable, but the tools of the scientist are.
In 1748, the year that Lind performed his scurvy study on the H.M.S. Salisbury, a book was published in Europe entitled Man a Machine. It so scandalized the clergy that its author had to seek refuge in the court of the philosopher-king Frederick the Great. The essay opens by stating, "It is not enough for a wise man to study nature and truth; he should dare state truth for the benefit of the few who are willing and able to think. As for the rest, who are voluntarily slaves of prejudice, they can no more attain truth, than frogs can fly." (See Man a Machine p. 85).
The book wasn't written by a philosopher or student of political economy.
It was written by a physician.
A "truth for the benefit of the few" will always inure to that few at the expense of the many. For technology is and always has been a generator of the kind of social assymetry of which an unbiased view of medical history provides a treasure trove of key, supportive examples. In the present work we might say that our short history of escharotics was "Exhibit A." The truncated history of scurvy is, in the present chapter, "Exhibit B."
James Lind is a wonderful, historical example of why someone who works in the system, for the system, and must maintain respect by that system is ill-equipped to be a reformer of that system.
I first learned this from Paracelsus.
It is a subject also covered by Kuhn in his study of scientific revolutions, which we will now examine . . .
I bring up Kuhn's work at this juncture -- (we will be hearing more from him later) -- because no one else has done such a brilliant job of providing the conceptual framework that would allow a seeker of Knowledge to understand why the scientific community is -- and this is, in my estimation, Orthodox Medicine's greatest truism -- so consistently wrong. Why what we call scientific fact so often changes with the leaves of the tree.
Kuhn also provides us with yet more tools to uncover the details in "the man behind the curtain." The points below are taken from my Prison Notebook on Kuhn's work. What you see is a combination of Kuhn's comments (with pages cited), excerpts from my unpublished Prison Notebook as it pertains to my reflections on Kuhn, and my own current commentary. In other words, this material contains the most salient concepts I learned from Kuhn, the inferences I drew therefrom in conjunction with all my other readings and contemplations, and the originating source in Kuhn's work.