snake oil bonspiel

Right now the Canada Cup of Curling is on the CBC. Now, curling’s reasonably mainstream in Canada, enough to get Sunday afternoon TV coverage, but it’s still a second-tier sport, so it tends to collect some odd sponsors. The men’s championship Brier, after being sponsored by Labatt for years, is now sponsored by Tim Horton’s; the women’s championship Tournament of Hearts is sponsored by Scott Paper, who produce tissues, paper towels, and toilet paper. The Canadian Juniors are sponsored by M&M Meats, a chain of frozen prepared food stores.

But none of that compares to the title sponsor of the Canada Cup: Strauss Heart Drops. Strauss Heart Drops are a herbal “medicine” which claims to clean out arteries, eliminate angina, prevent heart attacks, eliminate cholesterol problems and so forth, all after six $80 bottles of drops made from extracts of garlic, hawthorn, cayenne, bilberry, motherwort, and white willow bark. (“White willow bark extract” is salicylic acid, of course, and small regular doses of aspirin are an accepted preventative treatment for heart attacks, but baby aspirin is not $80/bottle!)

(Jim Strauss has an interesting history with the government, who charged him in 2003 with 73 charges under the Canada Food and Drug Act for his heart drops as well as a bunch of other Strauss Herb products, including false advertising, deceptive packaging, and not including expiry dates or lot numbers. A few years before that they were acquitted in provincial court having been charged with practicing medicine without a license.)

Their FAQ is a gem:

Question: Should I work with my doctor?
Answer: Ask your doctor for a copy of your angiograms and to monitor your progress.
Question: Do Strauss Heart Dropsā„¢ have any side effects?
Answer: No. We have never had a report of any negative effects from Strauss Heart drops. However, you may experience the following:
[heartburn, skin rashes, diarrhea, increased urination, headache, dizziness, nausea and/or gas, rise in cholesterol levels]
Question: What is the success rate with Strauss Heartdropsā„¢?
Answer: In our opinion, heart conditions that are caused by clogged arteries are improved in 95 per cent of users.

Ah, yes, their opinion! Well, that’s good to know.

To bring the bizarreness to the next level, there’s also apparently a multilevel marketing opportunity surrounding Strauss Heart Drops!

And somehow these guys can end up the title sponsor of the Canada Cup! Granted, the Cup is held in Kamloops near where Strauss is based, and they advertise heavily during the Brier, but still, I shudder every time I see their ads during this thing.

(And this turned out to be another year in which I think about learning to curl and then do nothing about it. And I can even see the Granite Curling Club from our balcony. I never think about it until late November, and the beginner’s clinics and leagues all seem to start in late September. Oh well, next year.)

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