The Problem with the Honey-and-Cinnamon (& Every Other) Miracle Cure

A post making the Facebook rounds claims that “a mix of honey and cinnamon cures most diseases.” Mix honey and cinnamon together and your arthritis pain will vanish, your lost hearing will be restored, the flu virus ravaging your body will be killed, and your eczema and ringworm will disappear!

I know I should ignore this stuff. But I can’t. Every outrageous health claim I come across online (and there are many) cuts me to the quick, because of what they say about me as a person with a disability, and about us as God’s beloved creatures.

The Internet fosters a populist environment in which regular folks’ life wisdom, assumed to be more valuable than professional or conventional wisdom, is rarely questioned, despite obvious logical fallacies. For example, while many foods, including honey and cinnamon, indeed have therapeutic potential for reducing inflammation and boosting immunity, that’s a far cry from curing arthritis or hearing loss. Yet people click and share, apparently without pausing to consider how outlandish it is to claim that two common foods can cure—not ameliorate, but cure—a long list of health problems that have affected people for all of human history.

Honey and cinnamon will not cure my severe, bone-on-bone arthritis. It will not regrow my cartilage and reshape my bones, which rub together in all sorts of wrong ways after being ravaged for 46 years by my genetic bone disorder. I take opioids for pain, which allow me to function at a very high level, caring for three children and a household. I’m proud of how much I do in spite of my disability, and grateful for the doctors whose support and treatments help so much. But all it takes is one post about how honey and cinnamon will cure arthritis to make me feel like a fool duped by Big Pharma and the medical establishment, when all along the answers to my health problems were sitting in my pantry.

Besides giving dubious health claims street cred, the Internet allows self-appointed gurus to spread an insidious social hierarchy, in which health becomes the measure of one’s willpower, smarts, and achievements, an indication of whether you are living rightly or wrongly. Here are just a few of the health claims I’ve come across recently:

  • If you are healthy, you can do anything! (from a personal trainer)
  • If you make these changes to your diet, you will feel amazing! (from a yoga instructor/nutritional advisor)
  • If I [gave birth at home without medical help/cured myself of breast cancer with a special diet/went from being on disability to being a long-distance runner], you can too! (from about a zillion blog and Facebook posts)

So if I’m not completely healthy, does that mean I can’t do anything?

Read the rest of this post at Sojourners’ “God’s Politics” blog.

About Ellen Painter Dollar

Ellen Painter Dollar is a writer focusing on faith, parenting, family, disability, and ethics. She is the author of No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Faith, and Parenthood in an Age of Advanced Reproduction (Westminster John Knox, 2012). Visit her web site at http://ellenpainterdollar.com for more on her writing and speaking, and to sign up for a (very) occasional email newsletter.

  • David Hilfiker

    When I was a primary care physician, patients would sometimes come and ask for help in prescribing some weird miracle cure. (And this was before the Internet.) All of those requests were for diseases for which medicine had no treatment and certainly no cure. I saw it as a way to deny that there does exist suffering that has no cure. Given our peculiarly American theology that there should be no suffering along with very powerful modern technology, too many have come to believe that if the doctor has no good treatment, he or she must be either lying or ignorant. I would usually tell the patient that there was no treatment; if they insisted, I would help them get what they wanted if it was ethical for me to do so. (How could I deny a patient with a disease that I could not help from trying something … anything? Since medical science isn’t perfect, I suppose there’s a one in a million chance that honey and cinnamon could cure osteogenesis imperfecta, so I didn’t deny people. But I always felt vaguely dirty to go along with the fantasies.
    On another note: Many years ago, when I had severe depression unamenable to any medical treatment then available, I would listen to the Christian assertions that faith in God always brought joy. It seemed a universal assumption. Well, nothing brought joy to me in those years. Did I have no faith?

    • http://ellenpainterdollar.com/ Ellen Painter Dollar

      Excellent point about yet another way that these miracle cures lead to bad theology, by fostering the assumption that suffering does not have to be part of life and therefore all suffering must have a cure. And I’ve heard many, many Christians who have been severely depressed say that they received subtle and not-so-subtle messages that they did NOT have enough faith, because if they did, they wouldn’t be depressed.


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