178, 2018 January)
section covers the use of physical magnets. The philosophy of magnetism
is dealt with under hypnotherapy.
rock with magnetic properties (lodestone) has been known to
mankind for thousands of years. However, Aristotle, a
third century B.C. Greek philosopher, was the first person in recorded
history to speak about the therapeutic
properties of lodestones, and around 200 B.C., a Greek physician
named Galen used lodestones shaped in amulets and bracelets
to relieve pain. Many other ancient cultures including
the Chinese, Arabs, Egyptians and Hebrews also used
them for healing purposes.
In 1766, Franz
Antoin Mesmer wrote his dissertation on planetary
influences on the human body, and used magnets for healing
on Magnetic Therapy was undertaken in 1959 by Kyoichi Nakagawa, M.D.,
in Japan, and much research into the alleged potential benefits and
possible harmful effects of electromagnetism has been carried out by
others in recent times.
behind the alleged beneficial use of magnets is the fact
that blood contains charged particles (positive and
negative ions). An essential requirement for recovery from injury
and disease is an ample supply of oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood.
Proponents suggest when magnetic waves are applied, they stimulate the
blood flow and help create a more efficient functioning of the healing
In most cases,
magnetic therapy takes the form of physical application and, according
to its promoters, therapeutic magnets are highly suitable for
self-application. Usually of ferrite, they take numerous forms ranging
from bracelets, necklaces and inner soles for shoes, through adhesive
patches and supports for the knee, wrist and elbow joints, to full
There is no
scientific evidence to support the claims attributed to the use
of magnets for healing purposes. It is a pseudoscience pure
and simple. Magnets have been promoted for nearly
every disease imaginable, and the Food and Drug
Administration in the USA has prosecuted a number of marketers
of magnetic devices promoted for the relief of pain,
including Acu-dot, the Inductoscope, and various types of
magnetic bracelets. In March, 1991, the International Medical
Research Center, Inc. of Murrieta, California, agreed to
pay $40,000 in fines and court costs and to stop selling permanent
magnet devices as medical aids.
The fact that
well-meaning people can be fooled by the appearance of
benefits which were in reality only the placebo effect at
work can be seen in one of the earliest controlled
experiments recorded by John Haygarth, MD, in 1799. Five patients
suffering with rheumatic pain were treated with phony
magnets. Of these, four experienced relief. The following
day they were treated with genuine magnets - with the
identical results. As a result of this experiment, Haygarth
"This method of
discovering the truth distinctly proves to what a surprising degree
mere fancy deceives the patient himself".
caveat is as true today as when written two centuries ago.
Patients and medical observers alike can be deceived by
uncontrolled clinical results. The ultimate harm inherent in the
use of these devices is that the seeking of more appropriate
science-based treatment may be delayed, thus
aggravating the problem. "Cures" are most likely due to the
natural course of the ailment, which spontaneously remits
or has ups and downs.
On the one hand,
while some people put their faith in the supposed healing
properties of magnets, much public concern has been
expressed regarding the alleged harmful effects of
electromagnetic fields — in particular — electricity power lines. Many
epidemiological studies of residential exposure to magnetic
fields and acute lymphoblastic leukemia have been carried out. One
report by the National Cancer Institute published in The U.S. New England Journal of Medicine
(May 1995) concludes "the diversion of resources to eliminate an
unsubstantiated threat is incommensurate with risks, if any".
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1993. The Health Robbers,
Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY.
1994. Are There Risks from Electric and Magnetic Fields? the Skeptic, 14(4):23. Australian
Gordon, R. 1978.
Your Healing Hands. Unity
Press, Santa Cruz. CA.
1986. The Other Medicines.
Pan Books. London.
Halacy, D.S. (No
date) Radiation, Magnetism and
Living Things. Holiday House.
Kiev, A. 1984. Magic, Faith and Healing.
1996. The Driving Force: The Natural
Magic of Magnets, Harvard University Press.
1992. The Medical Messiahs,
H. 1999 Alternative, Complementary,
Holistic & Spiritual Healing, Australian Skeptics Inc