Josh Axe: Fly On A Windshield

josh axe heavy metals cover

Sitting at a stoplight yesterday, I noticed a fly on my windshield.  It stubbornly held on while I accelerated to 10MPH.  It was still there at 20, 30, then 40MPH.  At 45MPH I admit a cruel streak brought on thoughts of flipping on the windshield washer, but the scientist in me fought off the urge, and so, curious, I accelerated hard and, finally, at 55MPH, the creature succumbed to the inevitable.

Chiropractor Josh Axe is a lot like that insect  Give him a bad idea and he’ll cling to it like a fly to a windshield in a tempest.  Hang on at all costs.  Never, ever, let go, despite the obvious outcome.  No matter how much the right thing to do would be to let go (of your incorrect opinion).

Back in December, 2015, I wrote that Axe was pushing Bentonite clay as a detox agent, even though the product was loaded with the same “toxic” heavy metals Josh claimed would kill you.1  Undeterred, on November 19, 2018, Axe used Facebook to recycle another Bentonite detox post.  Like a fly on a windshield, Josh clings to irony in a hurricane of hilarious gaffes.2  Let’s have some fun.

For reference, below is an analysis of one of the Bentonite clay products Axe was hawking back in 2015.1  I don’t have a breakdown of the bath product he’s pushing in his 2018 Bentonite resurrection, but it’s reasonable to assume the clays are chemically similar:

Chemical analysis of a Josh Axe Bentonite product from 2015

Chemical analysis of a Josh Axe Bentonite product from 2015 .1
Note the lead, cadmium, and mercury.

According to Axe, Bentonite clay is used to remove toxic heavy metals from the body, by either consuming or applying the mud topically.  Quoth the raven, er, chiropractor:

“Heavy metal toxins” usually refer to substances like mercury, cadmium, lead and benzene.”4 — Josh Axe, Ten Bentonite Clay Benefits and Uses

Isn’t it ironic then, that Axe’s own chemical analysis revels that Bentonite contains mercury, cadmium, and lead, the very elements he’s trying to remove?1 (See the chart above)

Now, this is the part in our story where Axe defenders leap in to invent a magical chemical matrix that works synergistically to scoop up the toxic heavy metals and channel them safely away.  “Even though they’re present,” (I hear you, David Avocado Wolfe!) “they aren’t toxic.  Their ionic charges are reversed causing them to blah blah blah…”

Go ahead Axe fans.  Make something up, I’ll wait. Then I’ll shoot you down in Axe’s own words.  Time is on my side.


Ready now?  You see, in his article, Axe confesses that Bentonite clay does not trap toxins.  He acknowledges that lead is present in the clay, and warns that it’s a danger, but only to pregnant women, except when you’re pregnant.  SAY WHAT?  OK, walk through this with me… it’s all from the same article:

“Bentonite clay benefits your body by helping to expel many of these toxins–Josh Axe, Ten Bentonite Clay Uses and Benefits3


“Some bentonite clay products contains trace amounts of lead and other heavy metals and may not be appropriate for consumption by children and pregnant women.”–Josh Axe, Ten Bentonite Clay Uses and Benefits3


“Some people use bentonite clay as relief for nausea and vomiting by pregnant women–Josh Axe, Ten Bentonite Clay Uses and Benefits3

So Bentonite clay expels toxins, except that it retains them when you’re pregnant (why only then?), so pregnant women shouldn’t use it, except that pregnant women should use it for nausea relief.  And what about the mercury and lead?

Oh God, just shoot me now. Josh Axe calls himself a doctor and he cranks out medical advice like this?

Dear reader, I humbly submit to you that (1) if you wish to eat mud it’s going to taste, well, muddy, but the trace amounts of metals found therein are not going to be of any health concern and, more importantly, (2) you can find far, far better sources of health information than chiropractors who falsely call themselves doctors and make their living selling you bone broth and mud for a living.

Live long and prosper.

(1) Axe-idental Poisoning (Bad Science Debunked)
Retrieved 20 Nov 2018

(2) Ten Detox Bath Recipes
Warning: Not a reputable/scientific article
Retrieved 20 Nov 2018

(3) Ten Bentonite Clay Benefits and Uses
Warning: Not a reputable/scientific article
Retrieved 20 Nov 2018

Image Credits
Josh Axe, Redmond Clay, website screen snapshots are used in strict compliance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”). This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Forrest Gump meme used under parody provisions of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”). This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Link to Rolling Stones/YouTube clip is done using tools provided by YouTube/Google, Inc.  Author does this in good faith, believing tools to link and embed are provided for this this purpose, and that videos available on YouTube are displayed legally, with the consent of the copyright owner. Author assumes, and makes no copyright claims to the linked/embedded video.


If it Quacks Like a Duck — Oscillococcinum

It’s perhaps the most amazing drug on CVS’ shelves today:  It features:

  • No side effects
  • No drug interactions
  • No active ingredients

That’s right.  No active ingredients.  Read on to see if Oscillococcinum might be right for you!

Oscillococcinum thumbnail

Oscillococcinum, a drug with no active ingredients. (See footnotes for image credit.)

Oscillococcinum was a drug originally made from the non-existent oscillococcinum bacterium (wink wink nudge nudge) and marketed as a cure for the flu.  This is curious, as the flu is viral, not bacterial, in nature.

Now made from duck parts that don’t exist — perfect for a quack cure — Oscillococcinum is homeopathic.  One of the features of many homeopathic medicines is that they are repeatedly diluted during production.  Oscillococcinum is typical:  the dilution is so extreme that there’s no original product left in the box when it goes out the door.

CVS-branded oscillococcinum

CVS-branded oscillococcinum. Get your sugar cheaper! (click to enlarge image.)

The dilution factor for CVS’ duck-based medicine is “200C”.  In homeopathy, “200C” means that:

  1. The original product is diluted with water to 1/100th the original concentration
  2. A small sample of the dilution is set aside
  3. That 1/100th sample is taken, diluted with water, and the process is repeated for a total of 200 iterations

As is the case with any homeopathic medicine diluted to such extremes, the odds of receiving any end product (in this case, duck) are so astronomical they border on impossible.

But would you actually want the duck?

A quick look at the CVS product info sheet tells us that Oscillococcinum:

“is made from tissue that might be infected with flu—ducks, which are known to carry influenza”

Wait.  What’s happening here?  Is CVS selling me an infected bird?  That’s freaky scary.  When I get the flu shot, at least I know the virus in the shot is dead.

Or, is CVS selling me pure water & sugar… a product from which all the duck has been removed?  Back to the product info sheet:

“Oscillococcinum is of 200c potency, meaning that it is diluted to one part in 10 400 (a dilution so high that even if you started with a chunk of duck the size of the sun, not one molecule would remain).”1

Wow.  Balls the size of… (!)

The imaginary active ingredient has been completely removed from this product, and CVS doesn’t even try to hide it:  they brag about it!

If you’re a CVS customer paying for this stuff, you’re paying for filler product.  Water and sugar.  Actually, it’s questionable whether or not you’re even getting any water.  The ingredients list only shows sugar.  What you’re definitely not getting is duck.  (For that reason, we’ll leave the dangers of ingesting a disease-laden bird for another article.)

Oscillococcinum gets a special mention in Jean-Marie Abgrall’s “Healing or Stealing?: Medical Charlatans in the New Age”.2  The drug was invented in 1919 when a Frenchman noticed an “oscillating” condition in flu patients and a corresponding “oscillating” amount of an imaginary germ he decided to call “oscillococcus”.  The only problem was, he thought he noticed the same microbe in herpes, chicken pox, shingles, and cancer patients — and decided all the diseases were caused by the same thing.  Mon dieu!8

The Frenchman tested a vaccine he developed on his cancer patients who, of course, died.  Afraid of being infected by his patients, the doctor went in search of his oscilloccinum bacterium in the wild.  He claims to have found it in a duck.  I’m not making this [expletive deleted] up.  No one else has ever seen oscilloccinum.  It doesn’t really exist.  But this hasn’t stopped snake… erm…  duck oil salesmen from cashing in.

oscillococcinum contains no active ingredients

Oscillococcinum isn’t all it’s quacked up to be.  It contain no active ingredient(s)! (Photo by the author)

Manufactured by the French company Boiron, Oscillococcinum has been singled out for deceptive marketing in the United States.  In June 2010, Homeopathy for Health, a Washington vendor, was cited by the FDA for a slew of violations, including marketing Oscillococcinum as a treatment for H1N1 (“Swine Flu”) and “relief of flu symptoms”.3 Although the CVS literature lists one late 1980s study with marginal results touting Oscillococcinum efficacy,2 no other studies back the CVS claims.  This is not surprising.  If you only have one study to back you up, take that study, trumpet it loudly, and hope nobody notices.

When sugar pills are shown to stop the flu virus, let’s all meet in the bakery aisle of the supermarket when we get sick, and skip the trip to the doctor.

As I write this, CVS is actively removing protests regarding Oscillococcinum sales from its Facebook page.  These posts, to the best of my knowledge, truthfully inform consumers that the product contains no active ingredients, has never been shown to be of any help in combating the flu, and, in fact, could be dangerous: influenza is a serious disease and can be deadly.5, 6

CVS places homeopathic medicines next to real medicines on their shelves (with similar packaging) with no consumer warnings, making it difficult for a trusting public to know what they’re buying.  When a pharmacy dispenses real medicine and real flu vaccines along with sugar pills without any cautionary text, it’s a problem.  Skipping real treatment in favor of Oscillococcinum could do real harm.

A “drug” made from sugar and non-existent duck parts?  A company that takes pride in its public health outreach programs4 should be ashamed of itself for this quackery — no pun intended.  I hope readers will take a moment to go the CVS Facebook page7 and express their unhappiness.  As consumers, we deserve better.

Postscript (18 December 2014)  Alert readers have pointed out that CVS is not the only vendor selling this fake medicine.  Indeed, since writing this article, I’ve found it online at Amazon and  It’s reportedly been seen on the shelves of Walmart, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid–though I haven’t witnessed that myself.  I’ll be writing follow-up articles to cover this.  No matter where you find it–if you find it–please encourage sellers of oscillococcinum to remove this useless product from their shelves.


(1)  CVS: Influenza: Studied Homeopathic Remedies

(2) Healing Or Stealing?: Medical Charlatans in the New Age
Healing Or Stealing?: Medical Charlatans in the New Age. pp. 40–41. ISBN 1-892941-51-1

(3) FDA Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations: Warning Letter

(4) CVS stops selling tobacco, offers quit-smoking programs

(5) CDC Fast Stats: Influenza

(6) Key Facts about Influenza (Flu) & Flu Vaccine

(7) CVS (Facebook)

(8) Mon Dieu! (My God!)


Legal Stuff

CVS Oscillococcinum product image used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Duck image by the author.  Copyright (c) 2014 Mark Aaron Alsip.  All rights reserved.