Thursday, November 17, 2011

What Did "Papa" Do in the Cher song "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves"

"...whatever he could," but specifically, He "preached a little gospel, sold a couple bottles of Doctor Good."

Doctor Good is presumed to refer to snake oil.  Snake oil salesmen would travel from town to town selling the concoction as a magical elixir that cured everything imaginable, and hoping word to the contrary did not reach the next town until they could get out of there.  It is still used in China for relief of muscular and joint pain and doesn't have the dubious connotation it does in the Western world. 

Snake oil was made of different materials, depending on where and when it was sold.  In San Francisco's Chinatown in 1989, for example, the oil contained:

75% unidentified liquid, including camphor and 25% oil from Chinese water snakes.  The oil contained an omega-3 fatty acid as well as myristic acid, stearic acid, eleic acid linoleic acid and arachidonic acid.  The Chinese water snake is the richest known source of EPA, the material that the body uses to make series 3 prostaglandins, the biochemical messengers that control some aspects of inflammation. 

The 1917 version, called Stanley's snake oil, contained mineral oil, 1% fatty oil, red pepper, turpentine and camphor.

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