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Arthritis, Tiger Bones, and the Choices We Make

by Barbara D. Allan
Author of Conquering Arthritis

There are hundreds of traditional remedies for arthritis, all of which work for some people and all of which have avid supporters.  These run the gamut from emu oil, certo (which is a plant derived pectin used for canning), raisins soaked in rum, apple cider vinegar and honey, turmeric, ginger, garlic, fish oil, flax seed oil, cherry juice, and vegetarian diets to more edgy treatments such as urine therapy. 

Tiger Photo by TeryKats
Photo by TeryKats on

I know of dozens of other arthritis treatment that have been tested in the scientific literature and have been proven to help, often better than the drugs that are so commonly prescribed when one visits the rheumatologist.  These involve many different dietary changes, many different vitamins and nutritional supplements, many different exercise regimes, including tai chi, yoga and weight lifting, and even certain kinds of prayer.

It seems to me that the problem isn't that we don't have good and effective arthritis treatments.  We actually have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to cheap and effective ways to treat arthritis.  The problem is that arthritis pain can make people desperate for pain relief.  Sometimes they go for a quick or easy fix instead of looking further for remedies that do no harm and work well long term.

In the US that means many people never look beyond the drug options offered by rheumatologists.  But that is not the problem that has my attention today.

What does have my attention is that tiger bones are an ingredient in a traditional Chinese remedy for arthritis.  China's powerful tiger farm lobby is currently pressuring the Chinese government to lift its 14-year-old ban on the sale of tiger parts.

I don't know if tiger bone wine really helps arthritis or not, but I do know that it is ludicrous to legalize an arthritis remedy that will genetically harm captive tigers and lead to the extinction of tigers in the wild when there are so many other good arthritis treatment choices that work. 

I don't care that tiger bones are traditional.  Many bad human behaviors such as genocide, genital mutilation, and slavery have also been defended as being traditional or cultural, but that doesn't make them right.

Why do I feel so passionate about this?  I recently spent a day at a park called  "Out of Africa" near Camp Verde, Arizona.  This park has many animals, including tigers.   It matters deeply to me to live in a world that includes healthy tigers.

One of the tigers was a rescue animal because of severe health problems caused by genetic inbreeding.  The demand for white tigers in the exotic animal trade has lead to breeding done without regard to the health of the animals produced.

If China lifts the tiger part ban, there will be even more money to be had in the tiger trade and there will be incentive for bad breading practices for all captive tigers, not just the ones carrying the white tiger gene.

Because of poaching there are only about 20 wild tigers left in all of China.  China legalizing trade in tiger parts will likely result in the rapid extinction through poaching of the few wild tigers left worldwide.  This is because many Chinese consumers think the wild tiger's anti-arthritis potency can't be found in the tame ones.  Chinese are willing to pay high prices for wild tiger parts.  There are already well established smuggling networks.  Even with the ban, worldwide poaching of tigers for the Chinese market is a serious problem.

How you choose to treat your arthritis matters.  Please choose arthritis treatments that do no harm to yourself or our larger world.  Please choose treatments that are likely to actually lead to healing, instead of only suppressing symptoms.  I deeply desire that each of you heal and that we leave this world a better place in the process.

→Check Out Our Drug Guide For Alternatives
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