Diogenes long ago walked the streets of ancient Athens, lantern in hand, seeking an honest man. His search was in vain. I suspect he would have also been disappointed in many of the aisle ways at the IECSC meeting in Las Vegas.
As I casually strolled up to the Nerium booth at the Las Vegas IECSC show, I made sure my Truth Matters barefacedtruth.com button was strategically displayed on my jacket. “Can you tell me how this product works?, I inquired. The booth attendant’s reply stunned me:
“They didn’t teach me too much about the science.”
Seeing that I was taken somewhat aback, the pleasant lady quickly assured me the science was real and that the breakthrough came about as a result of cancer research at the M.D.Anderson Cancer Center. Scientists were studying the cancer treating potential of an extract from the decorative yet highly toxic Nerium oleander shrub when they allegedly discovered it could do miracles for aging skin. “Hmmm, that’s interesting” I thought. There must be more to this story. There was.
I had planned my reconnaissance to this booth carefully (I wasn’t even sure they would have a booth at the show) after a close friend from Ojai, California told me her best friend was selling Nerium AD, and the public’s enthusiasm about this product was meteoric. “What a great home business”, she added.
No wonder. I soon learned that Nerium is being marketed exclusively through a multi-level marketing structure and that Jeff Olson, the CEO of the company marketing it was a huge luminary in the MLM firmament. In fact, he saw the anti-aging product as such an attractive and lucrative money maker that he left his gig as the head of Pre-Paid Legal Services to start the fledgling company only a year ago.
I must compliment Mr. Olson on managing, by whatever means, to flood the internet with comments about this product, but much more importantly, the wonderful money making opportunity it purportedly represents to everyone. The hype and buzz is sheer digital cacophony.
Mr. Olson is a serial entrepreneur who has worked in the electronics, solar panel, satellite television, legal, and now skincare industries. His success with Nerium resulted in it being the February, 2012 cover story article in Success from Home magazine, a publication devoted to theMLM world. Now that is quite an accomplishment from a standing start only a few months earlier. Mr. Olson is a rainmaker, no question about that. Of course, there is also the possibility that enough money can buy the cover of any magazine, especially this one (you know, part of the cost of making it rain.)
But what about the email from my friend’s friend that said these oleander plants were rare and special and that they cost $150,000 each! And they were only using part of the plant – the bulb. Somehow that did not jive with the lady at the Nerium booth who told me that they had started plantations of nerium oleander plants in Honduras to have enough to meet global demand which was growing in leaps and bounds…and what a way to make money she insisted (can’t forget to get that in as often as possible).
It’s All About the Money
This multi-level marketing plan has 10 levels and if you are industrious and recruit lots of people below you, they do the work and you collect the money…every month!! And if you only get three people to sign up to the monthly subscription plan, you get your own product for free, for as long as they continue to buy. What a deal!!
But does it really work? “Tell me more about the science”, I asked. “Sorry, I know the marketing plan pretty well” she replied, “but am not all that clear on the science.”
“Well, tell me this: Are there any published studies in some peer reviewed scientific journals that I can read to understand how this all works?” Her shoulder shrug told me the answer to that question was she didn’t know.
This would take some sleuthing on Google Scholar, or at least on Google. Let’s start with an exploration of Nerium Oleander – the plant from which the name of the company derives.
Danger! Danger! Do Not Eat the Flowers
From my days as an emergency room physician, I knew the Nerium oleander plant was poisonous, something that has cost many a hungry animal or curious child their life. This was despite the fact that folk-medicine uses of oleander go back centuries to treat an assortment of disorders such as hemorrhoids, ulcers, leprosy, and as an abortifacient. Coroner records of cause of death are pretty sparse that far back.
Extracts derived from the leaves and seeds of the Nerium oleander plant contain substances called glycosides. Glycosides can have severe toxic effects on the body, including the heart and other vital organs. Ingesting any type of Nerium oleander extract or the raw plant itself can cause oleander poisoning resulting in nausea, vomiting, diminished appetite, bloody diarrhea, drowsiness, dizziness and dilated pupils. Handling Nerium oleander may also cause skin irritation, such as redness or itching. Large amounts can be deadly and may cause loss of consciousness, seizures, heart rate irregularities and severely low blood pressure. You may also stop breathing or develop heart block, a potentially fatal complication in which the electrical signal responsible for telling your heart muscle when to contract is blocked. None of these are good things.
Cardiac glycosides are a diverse family of naturally derived compounds that bind to and inhibit Na+/K+-ATPase, enzymes that affect the “pumps” that control the flux of sodium and potassium across cellular membranes. Members of this family have been in clinical use for many years for the treatment of heart failure and rhythm disturbances. Recent findings suggest cardiac glycosides may also participate in the regulation of several important cellular processes, highlighting their potential new therapeutic roles in various diseases including cancer.
Evidently, what interested the researchers is that oleander extracts cause apoptosis in various cancer cell lines and increases the sensitivity of PC-3 human prostate cells to radiotherapy. In laymen’s terms, this means that it kills cells. Now, that’s good if you are talking cancer cells. Not so good if you are talking about skin cells, includiung the ones making collagen. Is there any evidence that this “killing effect” is limited to cancer cells? No. According to the toxicology literature, it seems to kill all types of cells if present in high enough concentrations.
A hot water extract of this plant known as Anvirzel™, is being used to treat cancer, HIV/AIDS, and congestive heart failure. There was obviously enough interest for Phoenix Biotechnology, Inc. to raise 3.6 million dollars for the new Oleander Cancer Drug. Even so, that is a far cry from an anti-aging cosmeceutical that is not intended to be toxic to skin cells. But again, is it wise to put a cell killing drug on ageing skin?
So there must be more. Actually a lot more; M D Anderson has looked at scores, if not hundreds of plant compounds through the years and continues to do so today in its search for the silver bullet to combat cancer.
But not every plant can be the focus of a brand new MLM – that takes a special opportunity and specific confluence of events. Not so long ago it was the acai berry. Today, it’s Nerium oleander’s turn
Next up: we will talk about the Nerium MLM. We will name names. We will talk about why MLM’s are successful. We will provide you with all the facts so that you can decide the answer to our question: Anti-aging Miracle or Get Rich Quick Scheme?