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Biomagnetic Pseudoscience and Nonsense Claims


Miguel A. Sabadell

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 22.4, July / August 1998

The following is a short excerpt from an updated version of a paper titled “Magnetotherapy, the Latest Magic Touch” presented at the Ninth European Skeptics Conference, in La Coruna, Spain, September 4-7, 1997.

One of the main ways magnetotherapy is applied is through the use of permanent magnets. According to proponents, you can get their benefits as follows:

  1. Local application: Effects depend drastically on which pole you apply. North pole: against pain, inflammatory and infectious processes. South pole: provides strength and energy. Does your shoulder hurt? No problem. Put the north of one of the magnets on the front of your shoulder and the south of the other one on the back of it (like a sandwich).
  2. General application: The aim of this method is to provide a general magnetic flow inside the body. This helps to regulate the disorders of the organism. A correct application of the general method is said to involve a deep knowledge of the polarity of the human body and its affinity with therapeutic magnets.

Proponents contend that the north pole has negative electric potential and south, positive (nonsense x 1010) and that it has been established (by whom?) that the front and the right side of the human body are positives, and back and left side, negatives. So on the right side you must apply north and on the left the south. Pay attention to the extraordinary therapeutic: if your illness is above the waist, you must correctly apply the magnets on the palms of your hands. But if your sickness is below the waist then magnets must be placed below your feet. Isn't it great?

Their claims. — The following collection of nonsense claims about magnetotherapy has been compiled from booklets and radio programs. In parenthesis are my comments, perhaps cynical but . . . who could help it?

Medical applications. — After this wonderful exhibition of deep scientific knowledge we could expect specific treatments for different diseases. It’s amazing (well, not much from what have seen so far), that only one treatement is needed to help nearly eighty common diseases:

  1. Apply the therapeutic magnets following the general method;
  2. Apply the therapeutic magnets in the zone of the disease. North is for pain; south is to recover lost energy and vitality;
  3. Drink magnetic water. It’s so easy . . . By this method you can get cured of: abscess, acne, allergy, anaemia, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, cellulitis, sciatic, diabetes, diarrhea, dyspepsia, stringent, frigidity, impotency, flu, herpes, headaches, zoster and a lot more!

    Some of the supposed ‘cures’ are quite obvious. For example, for stringent they recommend drinking two or three litres of magnetic water daily (if you don't succeed after drinking three litres, what else can you do?). Or to gargle with magnetic water and lemon juice if you suffer pharyngitis (my grandmother said that it is better to use lemon juice and honey . . .) Finally, it is quite impressive to learn that to cure for all child diseases we must only apply low power magnets and make them drink magnetic water.

Miguel A. Sabadell

Miguel A. Sabadell is an astrophysicist and associate professor at the University of Zaragoza, 500009 Zaragoza, Spain.