Hi and welcome back to our chat series! I couldn’t help myself — I had to share this with you. Last week, we discussed Jim Bakker’s attempt to con people with a miracle snake oil to cure coronavirus. After facing serious pushback by the authorities, he’s back with a new snake oil offer!
(H/t to Friendly Atheist and John Pieret.)
Daddy’s Back With A Brand New Grift.
Recently, Jim Bakker got in a lot of trouble over his “Silver Sol” product. He claimed it could cure coronavirus. And a whole bunch of people got mad at him for it. After the New York Attorney General sent him a cease-and-desist letter and the Missouri Attorney General sued him, he stopped making those claims. We talked about it recently.
But dude just couldn’t keep his, uh, thumb out of the coronavirus-profiteering pie.
You can find his current sleazy scam over at Right Wing Watch. They also posted it on their Twitter account:
Jim Bakker is now selling "medicinal seed" bundles from which you can grow plants to "make your own medicine." pic.twitter.com/nAWC5rh2Az— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) March 19, 2020
None of these people talk very clearly and they constantly talk over each other, so this might not be 100% accurate, but it’s as close as I could get.
Jim Bakker (JB): We have the healthy seeds…
Lori Bakker (LB): Medicinal…
Guy in Scrubs Who’s Probably Not a Real Doctor (GSWPNRD): Right here you have, you have borage in there, as well as cayenne, echinacea, hyssop, lovage, calendula, fenugreek, lemon balm, and yarrow. Fenugreek’s great for your liver, for diabetes, or for high blood sugar, things like that…
[Everyone onstage descends into babbled crosstalk.]
JB: So that, this is “make your own medicine!” From plants!
GSWPNRD: Those are medicinal herbs!
LB: But they are…
JB: And so that is for a gift of $99 dollars, for that, both sets there.
Then the show cuts to a shot of two buckets alongside two large envelopes. They labeled one bucket “medicinal seeds” and the other “seeds to grow and store.” The envelopes contain dill and basil seeds.
Jim Bakker’s official site offers this product in their store. It’s a basic prepper package for people who’ve probably never farmed in their whole lives. By the way, you’ll find no parsley in either bucket-o-seeds. Nor sage.
Buyers receive 5g of each type of seed in the bucket, which as you can guess results in wildly disparate numbers of actual seeds in each packet. I hope fundagelical preppers know how to save seeds!
Bakker’s site promises that these are “some of the most common and powerful medicinal herbs that can be readily grown from seed.”
Wait. Mr. Captain Just Figuratively Choked.
I was rambling to Mr. Captain about Bakker’s new scam. (He’s a wonderful listener.) Suddenly animated, he asked:
“How much is he selling this for?”
[Me: “$99 for these two–“]
*CHAIR SWIVELS AROUND IN ‘OUTRAGED 4th-GENERATION FARM BOY’*
I thought it was the cost that got him.
Mr. Captain Speaketh.
He looked over the product page. He grew increasingly agitated as he spoke:
“First thing I need to make clear. Mixed seeds in a bucket in their little packets — what guarantees do you have of their viability? I could get you a million boxes of seeds for 99 cents, because seeds expire. They expire in poor temperature, poor treatment, poor storage. Most of the seeds on that list have different needs for storage. You wouldn’t put them all together in a f***in bucket in their f***in baggies. One afternoon on a hot truck, and they’re all dead. There’s no promise these are viable, either. They might be expired or kept too long. Oh, they all keep ten years? No way.
“You couldn’t even grow most of that list in the same garden in the same state. Any semi-experienced home gardener knows that. “
*going down Bakker’s list in ‘Outraged 4th Generation Farm Boy’ explaining exactly why most of these plants cannot be grown alongside most of the others*
“Nobody sensible would ever buy these seeds. This is the most inconceivably stupid product I can imagine for someone who wants to prepare for disaster. They need to do what farmers do and find reputable local seed sellers and learn what each one needs. Farmers know that where you get your seed matters just as much as dirt, holes, and water. It’s that fundamental.”
He feels passionately about this. <3 <3 <3
By the way, he’s still over there periodically grumbling about Bakker’s “wretched dishonesty” and comparing this entire product to “Victorian bust enhancer cream.”
Are They Medically Useful Though?
Bakker knows his audience, I’ll give him that. The problems GSWPNRD mentioned all happen a lot more often to overweight people. And well, Jim Bakker’s target audience is definitely not, as a rule, composed of slender people. (I myself went from willowy to pregnancy-questions fat after converting to Pentecostalism.)
GSWPNRD’s claims about fenugreek intrigued me, so I checked ’em out first.
- A book about liver toxicity tells us that fenugreek is “used for its antioxidant and glucose- and cholesterol-lowering effects in the treatment of fever, vomiting, poor appetite, diabetes and hypercholesterolemia. Fenugreek has not been implicated in causing liver injury.” In particular, the book cites some folk-medicine uses for it in India and China. However, it has some serious risks of interaction with other medications.
- This 2019 paper seems optimistic about fenugreek’s effects on type II diabetes management. (Also: a 2007 paper agreeing generally, and a small study from 2019.)
- However: the NIH doesn’t think any of this stuff represents evidence strong enough to advise diabetics to start using it instead of regular medication. They warn that all of these studies and whatnot are very small and fairly weak. In fact, fenugreek could hurt people — especially pregnant or breastfeeding women, or women who have hormone-sensitive cancer. Their page lists a lot of sources for anybody who wants to read up more.
All in all, GSWPNRD’s claims about fenugreek illustrate a problem that permeates the self-help industry: a little information poorly understood can cause a lot of damage. I love looking at scientific peer-reviewed studies, but I’m under no illusions about my skills at interpreting them. So I depend on trustworthy sources to interpret what I’ve found.
If I’d only looked up those various books and papers, I might think Oh wow, fenugreek might be an actual effective treatment for diabetes and hypertension, and it’s been hiding all this time in garam masala!
Thankfully, the NIH rescued me from misinterpreting what I’d read.
Here’s the complete list of herbs on the product page and how many of each you get, approximately. (GSWPNRD missed one out.)
- Borage (229). Used for a variety of ailments and skin conditions. PubMed mentions its potential use in helping with breastmilk production, but quickly adds that no studies support such claims. La Wiki offers no evidence for its efficacy either. But borage flowers are edible and taste good.
- Cayenne (705). The NIH thinks that this herb, applied topically, might help with lower back pain. Finicky to grow.
- Echinacea (1940). Its only NIH-recognized use involves possibly lowering one’s chances of catching a cold. Long-term use is not recommended.
- Hyssop (3351). Used for various digestive complaints, but lacks support for all medical claims. In za’atar, of course, it’s great (though I doubt Bakker’s audience would like it).
- Lovage (1764). Leaves and roots are both edible; some folks use its seeds as a spice. Again, no support seems to exist for medical claims about it.
- Calendula (617). Also called marigold. Claims abound regarding its wound healing and anti-inflammation properties, but nobody’s found enough evidence to support any claims about it. However, marigolds have many other uses, from coloring/flavoring food to making fabric dyes.
- Dandelion (7937). Its greens are edible and rich in vitamin A. Traditionally, people eat it or make teas or wine of it. Many think it treats liver and gallbladder issues. However, no evidence exists to support any medical claims about it.
- Fenugreek (317). A great spice, but evidence does not support medical claims.
- Lemon Balm (7231). Might help with insomnia and poor mood. Might be a decent antioxidant. Otherwise, it makes a nice tea and it’s good with fish.
- Yarrow (3527). If you’ve heard of arrowroot, like in baby food, this is arrowroot. It’s very useful, but support for medicinal claims is weak.
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.
Bakker seems to know better than to state that his prepper buckets-o-seeds can cure coronavirus. Instead, he claims that someone can use these seeds to “make your own medicine.”
That’s not true.
None of these plants are actual medicine. And many of them have unique requirements concerning how much sunshine they need, or what kind of food they require, and what sort of soil they do best with. Some are really hard to grow for amateurs. So this product won’t help preppers at all in the real world.
It’s beyond irresponsible that Jim Bakker’s selling this product as medicine. I wish fundagelicals could somehow hold leaders like him accountable for misleading them.
But if they could, my country wouldn’t be in half the trouble it’s in right now. And neither would fundagelicals themselves.
NEXT UP: The science of The Secret, such as it is. See you tomorrow!
Please Support What I Do!
Come join us on Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, and our forum at rolltodisbelieve.com! (Also Instagram, where I mostly post cat pictures. About 99% of my insta consists of Bother being adorable.)
Also check out our Graceful Atheist podcast interview! It was a blast.
If you like what you see, I gratefully welcome your support. Please consider becoming one of my monthly patrons via Patreon with Roll to Disbelieve for as little as $1/month! My PayPal is email@example.com (that’s an underscore in there) for one-time tips. You can also support this blog through my Amazon Affiliate link–and, of course, by liking and sharing my posts on social media! This blog exists because of readers’ support, and I appreciate every single bit of it.
This is a Chat Post to catch Disqus overflow. Consider this an Off-Topic Wonderland!