We’d like to think that “natural” products have always been the superior alternative since the age of the dinosaurs. But truthfully, marketing departments are just exploiting our soft spot for everything from Mother Nature, and bringing natural products and remedies to the forefront of our consciousness.
Just because something is marketed as natural doesn’t automatically make it better. Here are 4 natural products to stay away from, because they simply do not work as advertised.
1. Colloidal silver is poisonous and can turn you blue
Silver is now commonly used in everyday objects (including refrigerators, air conditioners, clothing and toys) for it’s touted anti-microbial effects.
You’ve probably also seen some silver products on the shelves of pharmacies and health goods stores. Available in creams, gels, lotions and liquids, these colloidal silver preparations are sold as natural, non-drug supplements used to kill germs and maintain health.
A third thing you’ve noticed is that ever since switching to silver-infused socks, your girlfriend’s cat has stopped bolting every time you took off your shoes. Hence, you’re convinced that this colloidal silver gel will be the best antiseptic ever. It’s totally natural, non-toxic, and, being silver and shiny, can double as last-minute Halloween makeup!
So you purchase a tube, rip open the seal and squeeze, only to be greeted by a transparent, non-descript gel. Where’s the silver?
It’s in your gel. You just can’t see it because silver-infused consumer goods use the nanoparticle form of silver.
That’s where the trouble starts. Your body doesn’t know what to do once you start applying nanoparticles of silver – as you do when you apply silver gel to wounds, or ingest silver solution as a health tonic.
Unlike other minerals (such as iron or zinc), the human body does not use silver. Therefore, the only thing your body can do with ingested nano-silver is to store it in various parts of your body, starting with the gums.
This leads to a condition known as argyria or silver poisoning – essentially, you start turning blue – for which there’s no known cure. Yep, it’s permanent.
One more thing, despite being more expensive than antiseptic creams, the health benefits of colloidal silver have yet to be proven.
2. Aloe vera gel may not be made of aloe vera
Whoa, so getting too close to inorganic silver turns us into freaky looking creatures. Better stick with organic material instead. Like aloe vera.
Ah, the patron saint of sun-worshippers everywhere, is there anything better than a tube of aloe vera gel after a long, idyllic day of tanning? Yes – a tube of aloe vera gel.
No, we didn’t spend too long baking in the sun and somehow short-circuited our short-term memory. What we mean is that not all aloe vera gel is created equally, and sometimes, it’s not really aloe vera in that bottle in your shopping basket.
The term “aloe vera gel” can be used to mean several things: A gel that contains aloe vera; the gel found in the leaves of the aloe plant (aka the good stuff); a preparation that contains a combination of the two in any proportion.
Which means that when it comes to spotting shenanigans on the store shelves, consumers like you or me have to read carefully to make sure we get our money’s worth.
Look out for the term “XX% Pure Aloe Vera”. This tells you how much of the genuine stuff is contained inside. Other phrasings such as “Aloe Vera 100% Gel”, or “Aloe Vera Extract” – used by two popular brands sold in Singapore – merely mean that some parts of the plant had been involved in the products’ manufacture, at some point in history.
When it comes to aloe vera gel, the pure stuff costs more. However, the higher the concentration of pure aloe vera there is, the faster and better you’ll heal. You’ll also be able to use the same product to treat more conditions beyond sunburn.
So overall, paying more for pure aloe vera gel will save you money and pain in the long run.
3. Natural cleaners may not disinfect (or even be natural)
Commanding a market size of US$600 million in 2014, natural cleaners are a big business. Because consumer guilt is an infinite resource, you’ll never see the end of all-natural detergents that don’t contribute to the choking death of Barney, the goldfish your 3-year-old just consciously de-coupled with (via the toilet).
You know what else these natural cleaners may not do? Sterilise or disinfect, otherwise known as the 2 primary reasons why we bother to wash anything at all.
Perhaps a little embarrassed at how manufacturers are allowed to slap “natural” all over anything they please, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US has at least required cleaning agents to pass standards for sterilisation and disinfection ability.
Therefore, if you are determined to (financially) flog yourself every time you do the dishes, check that your all-natural cleaner carries the EPA certification. That way, your overpriced fancy dish soap is at least keeping you as safe as what the dollar store sells.
Or, just do what we do and only ever eat out of disposable plastic containers.
4. Coconut water is not better than regular water
Loved by everyone from Rihanna to Demi Moore to Matthew McConaughey and Gisele Bundchen, coconut water has seen a very loud and very expensive renaissance in the Western world, much to our amusement here in our tropical, Asian corner of the world.
But just in case you’re too tragically hip and must follow the trend, know that coconut water won’t magically turn you into a super athlete. (Sorry, actual exercise is your only hope, so go do some push-ups.)
In fact, drinking too much coconut water can end up making you more thirsty, thanks to the sodium the beverage naturally contains. Instead, you should be imbibing coconut water to top off your levels of potassium, a nutrient crucial for good health.
Still, coconut water is a better choice than those fancy vitamin waters – it won’t overload you with excess sugar, at least.
But, the million dollar question here is; does coconut water hydrate you better than regular water? A 2012 study (funded by Vita Coco, no less) says not necessarily.
This story first appeared on Singsaver on May 17, 2017.