BoingBoing Believes in Bullshit

I am a big fan of the blog BoingBoing. It is, as it says, a directory of wonderful things. And the editors of BoingBoing are very intelligent people including the likes of Cory Doctorow and Xeni Jardin who I have much respect for. They often put up links to some of my favorite other smart people on the Internet like Douglas Rushkoff and James Randi.

But this morning, that all changed. Apparently Mark Frauenfelder is a BoingBoing editor who is a complete idiot. He put up a post supporting homepathic “medicine”. It is well known that homeopathy is complete bullshit. Just do a search at the JREF and you will learn all you need to know about the farce that is Zicam. I mean seriously, if it was actually a cure for the common cold don’t you think doctors all over would be going nuts and such?

The worst part is that there are reports Zicam is causing loss of smell to people. I don’t have evidence to say wheter it does or does not. But let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised if cramming completely useless jellies up your nose screwed up your olfactory nerve.

What it all comes down to is that I’ve lost a little respect for BoingBoing and consider this Mark Frauenfelder to be a complete idiot. Posts made by him in the future will be examined thoroughly. Hopefully the other skeptical and intelligent BoingBoing editors will put him in his place. Join me in tagging this on as flimflam.

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6 Responses to BoingBoing Believes in Bullshit

  1. I am an idiot for many reasons, but not the one you suggest here, Scott. I do not take homeopathic medicines, because I don’t think they work.

    Zicam is *not* homeopathic, even though it is labeled as such. Matrixx called it homepathic to get it on the shelves without FDA approval.

    Did you read the studies about efficacy of the active ingredient in Zicam, zincum gluconium, on colds? I did. Here’s one if you are interested:

  2. Tom says:

    Mark, you say you don’t take homeopathic medicines yet the very first question/answer in the Zicam FAQ is:

    Q. What is Zicam Cold Remedy?
    A. Zicam Cold Remedy is an over-the-counter homeopathic medicine that actually reduces the duration and severity of the common cold when taken at the first sign of cold symptoms.

  3. Apreche says:

    Alright, I guess some sort of apology/correction is in order.

    First off, after some cursory research I have discovered a few things.

    Zincum gluconium nasal gel has been scientifically proven to help reduce the symptoms of the common cold. Homeopathic “medicine” is indeed complete bullshit. Zicam isn’t actually homeopathic, it only claims to be in order to avoid FDA regulations.

    There is a pretty good chance that yes indeed Zicam does indeed damage your olfactory senses. It might not happen to 100% of users, but loss of smell is definitely on the “side effects may include:” list. This is the reason Zicam called itself homeopathic to avoid FDA regulation. It never would have passed the FDA with a side effect like that.

    So. If you really really want to get rid of your cold, go ahead and use it. Keep in mind it does not actually get rid of the common cold, only the symptoms of cold. Don’t confuse the two, they are very different.

    In summary I was somewhat wrong. But Zicam is still not something I can approve of. Is a cold really that bad? I don’t take any medicine when I have a cold and it goes away after a few days. I think you’re all a bunch of sissies. I’d like colds to go away, but it’s definitely not worth risking my sense of smell.

  4. Tom says:

    I think you’re caving to fast, Apreche.

    First, it has not been “scientifically proven” that such nasal gels work. There have been some positive results (btw, the only ‘independent’ Zicam study was funded by Zicam) but there have been negative ones, too. “Zinc treatment had no effect on total symptom score, rhinorrhea, nasal obstruction, or the proportion of infected volunteers who developed clinical colds.” ( )

    It’s akin to saying healing prayer has been scientifically proven because some studies were positive. You have to have much bigger data set to reach such conclusions.

    Secondly, aside from what appears to be a genuine risk of losing your sense of smell, I’m not sure how enthusiastic I would be about buying or endorsing products, particularly those that I use in my body, from companies that have to commit fraud to get them into the marketplace by mis-labeling them to get around the FDA.

  5. Apreche says:

    You think I’m caving? I don’t think so. I only caved on one point. I also searched pubmed, like you, and I found many studies relating to zicam. I found multiple studies, only one of which was funded by Zicam. More than one of them provided significant evidence that Zincum Gluconium nasal gels are effective at getting rid of the symptoms of a cold.

    Take notice that the study you linked doesn’t contradict these other studies. The negative study you linked says that Zicam is not effective at preventing colds. It says nothing about alleviation of symptoms. Read carefully!

    So I only caved on one point, that Zicam can relieve cold symptoms. I agree with eveything else you say. I still do not suggest that anyone use Zicam and I do not condone the promotion of its use on BoingBoing. The FDA really needs to come down on shit like this.

  6. Tom says:

    The study I referenced said that the zinc nasal gel they tested had “no effect on total symptom score” which means no alleviation of symptoms. So, in this case, it did not prevent a cold or alleviate symptoms. I call that a total failure. Read carefully!

    Also, there have been only 3 studies on Zicam ( the second of which corrected flaws in the first and showed no effect). The other studies you probably read were done using similar delivery techniques but they did not test Zicam specifically. Hardly overwhelming evidence, eh?

    For a overview of the current research you might look at and

    The conclusions are tentatively positive about nasal zinc delivery but far from conclusive (and certainly no endorsement of Zicam) and there is a strong warning about loss of the sense of smell.

    Agreed that the FDA needs to get involved.

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