Talking with Shannon about her background research on these Phiten necklaces got me curious, so I did some research of my own, and with every rock I turned over, another crazy crawled out. Have I been living a sheltered life? A couple of these I had never, ever heard of.
It turns out that the great-grandchildren of the Wild West patent medicine salesmen have abandoned alcohol-laced elixirs for what ails you, and turned instead to magnetism, “intrinsic energies,” and ionic balance. And apparently, the great-grandchildren of the poor suckers who bought all those 100-proof patent medicines at county fair sideshows are now surfing the Internet, looking for the latest miraculous fix for all of their problems. Here are three of the more egregious examples:
Lifewave – These are adhesive patches distributed through multi-level marketing, with different patches for different effects. There’s an energy patch, a pain relief patch, a restful sleep patch, etc. Per the company’s website: “This is a non-transdermal patch with a new technology that gently stimulates acupuncture points to improve the body’s energy flow…” The Lifewave folks appear to be the only ones in this racket who have gone to the trouble to generate publications that resemble clinical research. They are a marvel of quasi-technical obfuscation: “When they (the patches) receive the infrared from the body, containing the information relating to the condition of the organ to which the acupuncture point is connected, the crystals vibrate and consequently bring about the rotation of the amino acids.” Rotating your amino acids sounds painful to me, but never fear, all you need to know is that the company founder, David Schmidt, “…was presented with an honorary doctorate by Dr. Alexander Marinaccio of the International Hall of Fame.”
CieAura – Another multi-level marketing scheme. Here, we’re purveying transparent holographic chips imbued with “intrinsic energies.” Similar to Lifewave, the chips are on adhesive patches. Okay, where to start? A hologram is an optical illusion created by illuminating an object with laser light and recording the scattered light on film. The three-dimensional illusion has no independent existence of its own. As for “intrinsic energies,” let’s go to the CieAura website: “The CieAura Chip contains a unique blend of intrinsic energies that are formulated to affect certain conditions of the human body. Since the CieAura Chips are non-transdermal, nothing enters the body.”
If you ask specifically how it works, you get this: “Our formulas are comprised of 5 to 250 different (intrinsic) energies that encourage the optimization of the body’s natural energies. The method of determining and embedding these energies into the chip and the formulas are proprietary information and is patent pending on the equipment, and methods and chip presentation… How our chips are made and work with the body is proprietary. Years of research and development have yielded an outstanding product that works.” Interestingly, no one on the executive team of CieAura appears to have anything to do with the conception, design, or production of the CieAura holographic chip. Most of them come from prior multi-level marketing backgrounds. Contrast this with Lifewave, which goes to great lengths to cast CEO/inventor David Schmidt as a guru and thought leader for the Lifewave troops.
Qray –Okay, this one I had actually heard of. Here, we’re dealing with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), “bio-energy,” acupuncture points, ionization, and Chi. Sold on late-night infomercials and a now-defunct website, the Qray bracelet supposedly taps into the energy meridians and acupuncture points described in TCM, creating balance. After getting dinged by the Federal Trade Commission in 2006 to the tune of an $87 million judgment, and a double-blind, placebo-controlled study by the Mayo Clinic (which revealed significant pain relief for both the experimental group and the placebo group), Qray no longer makes claims about pain relief. I’d be curious to know if the company’s founder, Que Te Park, was featured on the company website prior to 2006, because he’s nowhere to be found now.
So, this is what we’re up against, fellow health communicators: an abundance of magical thinking, and a frightening scarcity of critical thinking. Two questions for you: What have you seen in the way of herbal, holographic, magnetic, bio-energized, magical trinkets and amulets that need to be exposed, if they haven't already? How do we persevere in the face of indifference and inertia? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.