Something you may not know about your humble narrator: I am way into herbs.
No, not that kind of herb. I did write about that kind one time, but that’s because I’m interested in emerging business and its social consequences. I don’t touch the stuff myself.
I’m talking serious herbs
Because I seem to be shooting for some kind of Fluffy Hippie Stereotype Bingo, I make my own seasonings and herbal teas. I have bulk quantities of chamomile, damiana, Darjeeling, mugwort, skullcap and valerian in my cupboards right now, which I’m pretty sure qualifies me as at least an adjunct professor of Potions. Hogwarts, call me.
Alas, that also qualifies me to tell you that BS of the kind Catlin Industries just got called on is way more common than it should be.
In case you haven’t had time to deep-dive into the latest herbals news, Catlin Industries promised an herbal supplement that would alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal, specifically opiate withdrawal and dependency on opiates. Yikes.
Opiate withdrawal is absolutely brutal
In fact, opiate withdrawal is on the less-than-wonderful shortlist of types of withdrawal that can straight up kill you. That’s a rarity, thank your deity of choice, but even tapered, monitored, “healthy” withdrawal means tremors, panic, your circulatory and digestive systems going nuts, and sundry other flavors of suck. Other forms of withdrawal, such as from alcohol or tranquilizers like Xanax, are equally godawful, even when carried out under healthy circumstances.
Healthy circumstances, of course, means health care.
In case this is your first day in America (welcome! It’s rad here!) health care costs money, often a great deal of it. As most people do not have a great deal of money, over-the-counter herbal supplements that make withdrawal survivable would be a gift from the heavens.
If they worked. Catlin’s don’t. They say they do, they just don’t. Supplements like Catlin’s do that a lot.
Legally, the supplement industry runs on the honor system
By law, “dietary supplements,” a legal category including virtually all OTC herbal treatments, do not have to be proven effective, or even proven safe, before they hit market. Swear to the heavens, in 2015 a review of supplements available at fly-by-night operations like GNC, Target, Walgreens and Wal-mart found only 20% even contained the advertised ingredient in a functional form.
As a rule, the FDA, FTC or anybody else in the alphabet soup is only allowed to look at supplements, let alone sanction or ban them, after a claim of negligence has been made.
That is to say, usually after they’ve hurt somebody. Or a lot of somebodies.
Dear foot, meet door
Grim as all that is, it represents an extraordinary opportunity for entrepreneurs and adventurous venture capitalists. You want an industry to disrupt? Get into herbs. Trust me. I’ve got Severus Snape on my LinkedIn, remember? I literally enjoy this, and I still find it a pain to buy herbs in bulk, weigh them out, mix them up and bag them in muslin before I even start to produce a half decent herbal tea for insomnia.
Do it for me. I’ll pay you. Take the slight hit on overhead, run studies, and manufacture herbal products that can legally make medical claims, because, you know, they actually do things. Be Uber for Catlin, with ad narrative to match. Show them how it’s done.