Black Goat Tonic


(Note: This post is extremely weird and dark.  Its focus is the underbelly of Asian alternative medicine.  A particularly ghastly recent news event is talked about in some detail, and some of the other content might not be for all readers.  Just a little warning: this isn’t funny and could be upsetting.)

My girlfriend handed me the McDonald’s bag and, as I took it, I was well aware that there was no Big Mac or any other delicious item from the Golden Arches sitting inside of it.  No, instead there was some strange juice concoction that she had gotten from a relatively remote area of South Korea, at my request.  It’s called “Black Goat Tonic” and is derived from what is occasionally called the KNG, or “Korean native goat.”  The KNG, or “black goat,” is something of a super animal; during the Korean War, much of Korea’s animal population died.  Oddly enough, the goat population continuously increased.  It was as though the goats were impervious to the perils of war, rising up as if they were planning to take control of the entire country and form a post-apocalyptic goat society.  Sadly, for the goats, things didn’t work out so well.  By the year 1997, 500,000 goats were being killed every year for their extract fluid.  It was that extract I held in the McDonald’s bag, which I would later ball up and stuff into the back of my refrigerator.  I had no idea how much the goat extract cost or what process was used to obtain it.  All I knew was that it was in my refrigerator, and I had requested it.

Strange medicine had been in the news a lot at the time.  In early May, Korean customs officials seized over 17,000 pills that contained the remains of dead babies, turned into powder.  The pills came from China, where there has apparently been a black market for “miracle cures” and “rejuvenation pills” dating back many, many years.  In the case of these particular pills, aborted or still born babies were sold to underground drug manufacturers who took the bodies, stored them, dried them in what is called a “medical drying microwave,” transformed them into powder, and combined that powder with various herbs to create the pills.  They were marketed as “stamina boosters.”  It is unclear who exactly was buying them, how they arranged to receive the pills, or how many pills had gotten through without being seized at customs.  According to the San Francisco Times, tests of the pills concluded that they were made up of 99.7% human remains, and scientists were even able to determine the genders of the babies used.

“What the hell is this world coming to?” I thought when I first read this story.  It was astonishing, like something out of a horror novel.

“I’ve heard older people say that things like that are good for the skin,” my girlfriend said, discussing the pill incident.  “That if you ingest something like that, or a placenta, it will make you look younger.”

Now, I have no doubt that my girlfriend has never and will never go near anything like that, but she had heard of it, and that was weird enough.  The alternative side to Asian medicines doesn’t stop there, either, as I’ve read, nor is it contained to Asia.  In 2011, three species of rhinoceros were driven to either extinction or near extinction by poachers in South Africa who killed the animals and ground up their horns to sell as miracle cures.  Similar problems have occurred with bears and sharks, whose body parts are also consumed in Chinese folk medicine.  I’d wondered before what the world was coming to, and as I read more, I began to realize that the scary truth was not that the world was progressing into something dark and dangerous, but that it wasn’t, for some, progressing at all.  The culprit here wasn’t some smooth talking salesperson; the real criminal was the past, tradition, years and years of beliefs that can’t be shaken.  Is there medical proof that swallowing a pill made from a baby or eating a shark fin has any real value?  Of course there isn’t.  But there is faith, and hence there is the existence of such thing as the pills, and the shark fins, and the goat juice tucked away in my fridge.

Black Goat Tonic is said to have many uses.  It can assist with mental fatigue, impotence, and can also thwart off age-driven problems like osteoporosis.  I was told that it could stimulate weight gain and muscle growth.  Drinking my first glass of it was a curious experience.  It comes in small pouches which contain enough liquid to fill about a third of a cup.  The tonic is a dark greenish black and has no real odor.  It tastes a bit like soy sauce with wasabi in it and can be slurped down in two or three large gulps.  In truth, it really isn’t that bad or offensive.

Africa Black Ant Sex Tonic

I didn’t know much about it other than the name for awhile.  I’ve since learned that it’s taken from the body of a young goat, about 4 months old, whose carcass is boiled for 22 hours.  The liquid is filtered to remove fats and then sold in 100 mL bags for $2 a pop.  Looking in the mirror at myself, it is yet to be determined if the tonic does in fact result in any discernible physical improvement.  While writing this, I wondered why I’d gotten the tonic in the first place.  Why was I, in essence, doing something I didn’t believe would work.  Desperation?  A lack of confidence in whey protein?  I suppose it was nothing more than curiosity, and the never-ending hope that my skepticism is wrong.

It’s a bizarre world we live in, isn’t it?  But who am I to judge it?  I have my opinions and beliefs, mostly from the Western world I was raised in.  To me, looking at the alternative medicine products available on a Chinese website is bewildering:  W+ Skin Cream Placenta Product, Bird’s Nest Skin Tonic Serum, Africa Black Ant Sex Tonic.  There’s a whole different reality out there.  It’s easy to call it sick or foolish, to think of it as the antithesis to modernity, scientifically ignorant to the degree of being dangerous.  At its core, though, it’s essentially very human.  It is, like all medicine, driven by the fear of dying.  Of aging, of loss, of ceasing to be oneself.  From a fundamental standpoint, there isn’t that much of a difference between a rhinoceros pill and, say, chemotherapy.  Or at least I would like to think that.  There’s a comfort in similarity, and thus I seek it out.  And so I try to tell myself that the world isn’t as strange as it sometimes seems, and that life itself isn’t a hard thing to sell, whether it’s in a hospital’s austere whiteness, or the shadows of a place where people buy horrifying miracle cures.


(Acknowledgments: Most of the information here comes from two articles.  The first is “Thousands of Baby Pills…Discovered by Officials in South Korea” by Richard Shears and Rob Cooper for  The other is “The Marketing of the Goat in Korea” by T.G. Min, K.O. Kong, and H.B. Song.)     


31 thoughts on “Black Goat Tonic

    • Hello Food Drink and Books! Your name has three of my favorite things in life. Yeah, to be fair, Asian alternative medicine is pretty cool for the most part. It’s all, like, yoga and taichi and stuff. But yeah, there’s some dark side too. Thanks so much for leaving the comment. Cheers! : )

    • Hi Impy! Yeah, wasn’t a huge news story. Totally crazy and disturbing though. There’s actually some further details that make it even more upsetting that I didn’t go into. On that note, cheers! Have a good day!

      Haha – Once in awhile something like this comes out…back to the silly nonsense shortly. : )

  1. I haven’t done any research, but it seems that the tougher and/or more virile an animal appears, the more likely a culture somewhere has decided that its horns or extracts or fins will help a lagging sex drive. Strong sex drives, in men at least, are synonomous with youthful vitality.

    As far as manly virtues, you’re a tougher (or crazier) man than I. Drinking the goat extract was wayyy more macho than I’ll ever be!

    • Hahaha – I doubt that I’m in any way more macho than you. More crazy…perhaps.

      You’re right on the money with what you’re thinking – eat a strong animal, get strong yourself. Simple. Although they eat dogs too, which don’t seem very tough. Maybe more delicious. Who knows?

  2. i can’t believe you drank Goat bile….dude.

    But shit, Western culture is nearly as stupid. Look at the millions of people who swear by Chiropractors. There is no more medical evidence that popping bone joints does anything more than ingesting dead baby powder.

    The greatet threat to man and earth: ignorance.

    • Hey…really it’s no different than eating a goat. Both are boiled. I’m just drinking extract.

      Good point with chiropractors. Although that’s pretty harmless and comes down to just being about money. Nobody gets hurt. And I’m sure it feels sort of nice. Kind of like getting a quality massage, I guess, just with popping involved.

    • Hey, what harm can come of drinking a little goat extract? I’ll mail you some if you’d like, Gaila. In fact, that goes for everybody. Goat juice all around! This round’s on me!

  3. See, this is what I like about you Bill. In one hand you admit the things that this world does is ridiculous, and in the other, you admit that you are human too and that you succumb to it. I like that a lot 🙂 And stop drinking the goat juice. It’s grossing me out…

    • Yes, that is me. Quick to say people are foolish, all the while doing foolish things myself. All you have to do, Cara, is say that the sweets on your blog will give me muscles, and I’ll be rushing to the grocery store to buy ingredients. It won’t ultimately taste right, but it beats working out.

      I admit that I drank goat juice this morning. Please forgive me. : D

      • But see, I like that. That is what being human is, isn’t it? We are constantly judgmental of others, meanwhile overlooking the dumb things we do as well. I like it when people can see their inconsistencies and not apologize for it.
        As for the sweets, yes! They give you HUGE muscles so go now and stock up. Bake up a storm 🙂 Or I will just send you a care package.

      • Cara, you are a woman of great wisdom. I say that in all seriousness. You’re exactly right and you articulate it wonderfully. We should have a podcast or something where we talk about philosophy. And I don’t mean, like, the subject of philosophy…like Kierkegaard or something…I mean our own philosophies. Just that and nothing else. It would be brilliant!

        Awesome! Chocolate muscle cookies! You can send me the ingredients and an oven to bake them in, and in return I’ll send you some goat juice! Deal???

  4. I agree with you. Everything has to do with tradition, a belief that was handed down from generation to generation. There was no proof but maybe there were coincidences that they thought are proof of effectiveness. Or maybe people resort to such medicine because the scientific methods of cure didn’t work for them and this was their only hope.

    Recently, I have heard about this cord blood banking. I am aware about the placenta thing they use on beauty products, but this cord blood (umbilical cord of the new born) used as treatment of several life-threatening diseases, like in the treatment of blood and immune system related genetic diseases,cancers, and blood disorders is new to me. Well, I hope it would be an answer to treat cancer. My brother’s friend died of leukemia a few years back. I wish there would be answers to all those who have this illness soon.

    Thanks for enlightening us with this kind of medicine. Great post as usual, though a bit peculiar. 

    • Hey Jeps! Cord blood, eh? That’s another good one. Who are the people selling these things? Who has a baby and goes, “Okay, now that that’s over with, we better keep this cord blood so we can give it to somebody to sell on the black market”? And who knows it’s even authentic? I’d hate to buy cord blood and end up with corn syrup with food coloring in it. Not really an item you can take back with a receipt.

      Haha – Yeah, I actually set out to write up a funny little post about drinking the weird goat tonic, and somehow it turned into this. Not sure how it happened. Have an awesome one Jepiner! You rock!

  5. Well, I have read a few about this cord blood thing. The parents have a choice to donate the cord blood after giving birth or they can keep in a private cord blood bank so their child can use it in the future or whoever is compatible with it within their family and relatives. They don’t put it in a drink or pill but the treatment has to do with transplant. But I am not really sure if it is effective in treating the disease I have mentioned above.

    Whether the writing is funny, weird, peculiar or whatever, we’re still interested to know the thoughts of topicless! 🙂

    • That’s really crazy! How much blood is in the cord? I’m kind of fascinated by this…the idea that someone could be helped by the umbilical cord, which has been chillin’ in a bank…wild stuff.

      Aw, gee, thanks Jep! Love the new gravatar pic, btw. : )

  6. I know enough about alternative medicines but this goat thing is gross. I’ve heard of all that monkey brains (yucks) and like your friend above, heard about this cord blood thing too. And this other Chinese (?) belief about some medicinal value in virgin boys’ urine.
    Of course, who am I to judge too but I’m grossed out. Shall share this with a friend who is an expert in Traditional Korean Medicine and get him to tell me more about it. Urgh.

    • Hey Rustic! Well, they typically eat the goat – the extract is kind of a second approach to the same idea that ingesting the goat will give one strength. Virgin boys’ urine? That’s a new and disturbing one. What if the boy turns out not to be a virgin? Do they turn green after drinking it like Udo Kier in Andy Warhol’s Dracula?

      I’d love to hear what your friend says – keep a guy posted! : )

      • Oh boy … that’s disturbing, never thought about it that way. I think they use urine of little boys, probably 6-8 years old? (still yucks).
        I’ll tell you once I hear from him! 😉

  7. You don’t have to go to an odd corner of Korea to get this. My neighborhood in Seoul had a place that made and sold this stuff. I was hoping it would be soup, because I like Mexican goat soup, birria. My friend told me, however, that the shop was selling medicine.

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