Is there ever a bad time to set the record straight? In mythology Mercury is the god of communication. Now is as good a time as any to get our facts straight.  Medical truths concerning the element named in Mercury’s honor should be properly communicated.

A factoid is an untruth repeated so often that it gets taken as true.  A factoid example is equating homeopathic medicine with medical quackery.  Not only false, the exact opposite is true.

The term quack was first and justifiably applied to medical doctors guilty of prescribing high levels of the toxic metal mercury for syphilis but also for a wide range of other ailments. In ancient times mercury was called quicksilver and so doctors routinely giving Mercury to their patients became known as quickers. In common usage the term was shortened to quick. Then, as patients underwent neurological decline and soon expired this word morphed into quack.  

Medical history shows that more often than not it was homeopathic physicians who were burdened with cleaning up the mess left by their allopathic (non-homeopathic) medical colleagues. In order to help the quickened and failing patients they had inherited homeopaths applied the Law of Similars (using like to cure like). Their work involved developing a non-toxic version of mercury, but also other highly dilute medications known as remedies still in use today. To learn more about the homeopathic Mercury read Jonathan Hardy’s excellent profile of the remedy.

Possibly to deflect from the unpleasant history of quackery mainstream apologists speculate that the word quaksalver containing the Dutch, kwakken (to impulsively fling an object) as in heedlessly flinging a worthless remedy at a sick individual is at the root of quack.  But a clinical hallmark of mercury poisoning is in fact, mercuriality, meaning changeability and impulsivity! It is far likelier that the term quaksalver is itself derived from quicksilver.

It’s time the pot stopped calling the kettle quack.



Share This