Complementary and alternative medicine Friday Woo Medicine Pseudoscience Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Your Friday Dose of Woo: How can you make acupuncture even more unbelievable? Oh, yes, add “harmonic” healing!



After a year and a half of doing Your Friday Dose of Woo every week with only a couple of breaks, it’s all I can feel or hear sometimes.


What is it about woo and “vibrations,” “harmonics,” or “waves,” anyway? It doesn’t matter if it’s sound waves or electromagnetic waves. Somehow the denizens of Woo World seem to think that vibrations have special powers beyond what physicists tell us that they have, such as the ability to transmit energy. Hardly a week goes by, it seems, when I don’t encounter claims by woo-meisters such as being able to “raise cellular vibration” or “use the ‘wave’ of laser light to reprogram DNA,” not to mention seeing invocations of Nikolai Tesla to justify a claim of being able use a “symphony of alternating currents” to heal (including a nice picture of the light spectrum to look more scientific, naturally), recording the “vibrational” pattern of youth and then using it to rejuvenate (holy Dorian Grey, Batman!), or using “healing sounds” to “tone” for global harmony.

I’m starting to see and feel vibrations in my sleep.

What more could the woo-meisters assault me with in terms of vibrational woo, I wonder? What variation could they possibly come up with that I haven’t seen before? There has to be something, somewhere–perhaps even with quantum vibration! I know.

Combine vibration with acupuncture, and you have Acutonics®. Ladies and gentlemen, we have woo! And very fine woo it is, as you shall see!

Experience has taught me that nothing quite makes a pseudoscientific claim sound more plausible to all too many people than the ever popular appeal to ancient knowledge:

Harmonic Medicine links ancient sciences and arts with modern healing methods and tools. This holistic modality uses sound and vibration to heal the body, mind, and spirit. At its roots, we recognize that to truly heal we must hold a unified view of the cosmos in which all things are inextricably bound and exist in relationship to one another whether it be an organ system, family system, ecosystem, or solar system.

Um, OK. But why must we hold a “unified view of the cosmos, in which all things are inextricably bound” in order to heal? It doesn’t follow at all. Perhaps Donna Carey, the pioneer of this fabulous system,” can explain:

Unlike many other forms of energy medicine that are practiced today, this system is grounded in the wisdom of 5000-year-old healing practices based on cyclic energy flowing in pathways in the body, and in elliptical and circulating fields outside the body. The methodology is both scientific and shamanic. Harmonic Medicine aligns, re-harmonizes, and attunes the human energy fields to achieve optimal health, actualization, and wholeness.

Sure. It’s all clear to me now. How about you? Not really, you say? Well, maybe an explanation of how it works will help you see the light (or feel the vibration, if you will):

The Acutonics Healing System is an energy-based non-invasive treatment that is similar to acupuncture. Precision calibrated tuning forks are applied to specific acupuncture and acupressure points to access the body’s Meridian and Chakra energy systems. These tuning forks represent a natural harmonic series based on the orbital properties of the Earth, Moon, Sun and planets. Their rich resonance and vibration connects with and supports the body’s natural frequencies. It brings us into alignment with the cycles of the Cosmos known since antiquity as the Music of the Spheres. The tuning fork is struck on an Acutonics® Acuvator then placed on the body or held near the ears. The sound waves of the forks vibrate and travel deeply into the body along energy pathways, affecting human physiology and reaching places not easily accessed by traditional medicine. Applying the forks stimulates and balances the body’s physical and subtle energy field to promote healing and inner harmony. Listening to the forks speaks to us deeply by connecting with our vestibular system, within the inner ear canal, and accessing our sense of motion, balance, space, memory, and healing.

Wow! Who knew that putting tuning forks on acupuncture meridians could have such power? Certainly not me. Certainly not modern science- and evidence-based medicine. Somehow, some way, Acutonics is claimed to invoke “remembrance of the cosmic tone,” whatever that is, in order to accomplish many wonders:

This healing methodology has the power to connect us with the source of original harmony. It provides access to a deep inner balance by sonically resetting negative cellular patterns. The work is powerful and profound; it has the capacity to relieve chronic and debilitating illnesses and imbalances of the psyche and soul. Through the Acutonics Healing System we are able to realign and reharmonize ourselves with the greater cycles of the universe.

You know, I need to buy me one of these tuning forks. Who knew that simple tones could sonically reset negative cellular patterns. (I really have to remember that term, except that I might spice it up a bit.) The question that I have, though, is: What good is it? I mean, what can it really do? Lots of things, of course. In fact, it’s claimed that Acutonics can treat back, neck, shoulder, and knee pain; arthritis, fibromyalgia; tendonitis; bursitis; sprains and strains; migraine headache; sciatica; peripheral neuropathy; stroke residuals; food allergies; heart burn; peptic ulcer; constipation; chronic diarrhea (how does it treat constipation and diarrhea?); indigestion; gastritis; irritable bowel syndrome; stress; depression; anxiety; anorexia, insomnia; allergies; sinusitis; asthma; environmental illness (imagine the power of combining Acutonics with “detoxifying chelation therapy!”); bronchitis; colds; flu; irregular or painful menstruation; PMS; infertility in women and men; menopause; fibroids; incontinence; urinary tract infections; sexual dysfunction; prostatitis; fatigue; hypertension; and chemical addictions.

Is there anything Acutonics can’t treat? I didn’t see cancer there. I wonder why not. After all, what better test for “sonically resetting negative cellular patterns”? I can’t think of a more “negative cellular pattern” than a malignant cell. Perhaps Acutonics isn’t that strong, after all, the talk of “aligning and harmonizing with the greater cycles of the universe” notwithstanding. Even the Acutonics people seem to admit this:

NOTE: Acutonics® and Harmonic Medicine are powerful forms of healing. If you are suffering from a serious health problem we suggest that you work in concert with the appropriate members of your health care team.

Oh, no, it’s what Pal, MD likes to refer to as the Quack Miranda Warning! I guess all those case studies and testimonials should be taken with a grain of salt. I do really love one of the sets of diagnoses that Acutonics was used to treat in one of the case studies:

  • Limping situation, excessive Yang on the back and deficient Yin from the front
  • Hormone imbalance from Grave’s disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Adrenal burn out
  • Liver Qi stagnation
  • Kidney Qi deficiency
  • 2nd and 5th Chakras blocked as a result of thyroid and lower back issues

I wonder how you code and bill for these diagnoses. Oh, wait. Woo-meisters don’t have to worry about that. It’s all cash on the barrelhead.

My curiosity about this amazing new vibrational healing technique wasn’t sated yet, though. I wanted to know more. Even the information on the website wasn’t enough. Of course, I wasn’t so curious that I was going to fork out up to $450 for a set of tuning forks, up to $1,800 for a set of hand chimes, $39.99 for a “Belted Acuvator,” or to subscribe to the Journal of Harmonic Living. Fortunately, Donna Carey, along with Ellen Franklin, CEO of Acutonics, was happy to educate me further in this interview:

Julia: Can you explain how the tuning forks reflect the planetary frequencies?

Donna: The forks are calibrated to the planetary energy, and they are 23 to 33 times higher than the planets. This takes us to the audible range, and it makes the invisible sound of the spheres — the invisible song of the planets in the Universe — audible.

Our forks are made with Space Age metals, not alloys, so they never go out of tune. Also, these are not like other chromatic tuning forks that go up the chakras or go up with A, B, C, D, E, F, G. Our forks reasonate with the frequency of the planets. They are non-linear, and are not based on middle C. Our 5th, or our Zodiac 3rd, is not perfect; there is a space there for movement and change.

The linear music that our culture has now, with its basis on middle C, is music that was constrained by the church. This is a different framework entirely.

The methods that go up the chakras — always with the same color and sounds — don’t line up for everyone. I imagine, for example, that if seen from a vibratory perspective my liver appears quite different from that of someone who doesn’t have a family history of alcoholism. Nothing is exactly the same for everyone, and there is that room for flow and movement in nature. Our work reflects those natural components.

Ellen: Also, the intervals are important. When you strike two forks, there are two notes or sounds, and there is an interval between the sounds. The interval is the space or resonance between two notes, and that’s also a vibration. The sound makes powerful waves or frequencies on the spine or acupuncture point, and — because the body contains a large percentage of water — it reverberates through the body. Sound travels four times faster through the body’s water content, and so this energy of the planets or the cycles of the solar system is brought into the body in a powerful way.

The planetary vibrations from the tuning forks actually realign the body with its own natural cycles and bring in the Divine Blueprint.

Of course, this raises more questions than it answers. For example, why 22 to 33 times higher than the “planetary energy,” whatever that is? I suspect it was a number pulled out of someone’s nether regions in order to justify using tuning forks in the audible range. But, then, what do I know? I’m just a dumb surgeon. Perhaps an astronomer out there could tell me what this “planetary energy is.” (Calling Phil Plait!) More interesting to me is this–shall we say?–unique view of inherited disease or tendencies to disease:

This method is very successful with inherited disease — what’s called “grandfather-grandson” in Oriental medicine. What has happened with inherited disease that the organism has simply passed the vibratory rate of the disease from generation to generation. But the higher frequencies of the planets can move away the vibratory rate of inherited tendencies.

Silly me. I always thought that inherited disease was usually due to the transmission of DNA and the disease gene or disease susceptibility genes to the offspring. I should have realized that it was vibration. I’m beginning to think that Donna should meet up with the DNA activation guy. Could you imagine the woo? Maybe she could team up with him to super-activate her own DNA. She could cleanse her DNA of its negative vibratory rate, realign it with the higher frequencies of the planets, and thereby become one with the universe.

At least then I could sleep without having nightmares about vibrations.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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