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Snake head
Why is "quack" medicine sometimes called "snake oil"?


The ancient Chinese used oil from the Erabu sea snake as a medicine, but that is not the source of the term. In 1893, at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Clark Stanley promoted his new miracle cure, Stanley's Snake Oil. As part of the promotion, he killed and boiled a rattlesnake, skimming off the fat to make his Snake Oil there on the stage. It was supposed to cure just about everything from arthritis to frostbite, but did not really cure anything. In fact, the actual product did not contain any snake products. Instead, it was mostly mineral oil, turpentine, and hot pepper. It was so well known as a fake cure that all quack medicines became known as snake oil.