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

Your Friday Dose of Woo: The secret life of plants

Last week’s woo was pretty darned hard to top, don’t you think? It had it all, after all: Boner potentiation, penis enlargement, magnets, near infrared, and more. The only thing it lacked that would have made it absolutely perfect woo were references to pseudoscientific “vibration” or, even better, quantum theory. That’s the reason I could only give it a 9.5/10 rather than a perfect score of 10/10. All I can say is: Better luck next time.

In looking for something that could at least live up to last week, if not surpass it, I was surprised that there actually was such a link in my ever-reliable Folder of Woo. Even better, it was yet another form of woo that I’ve somehow managed to miss in this nearly two year odyssey into the depths of pseudoscience, spiritualist mumbo-jumbo, and, of course, woo. But what, you my intrepid readers might ask, could possibly match last week’s peerless descent into vulgarity. You’ll see soon enough, and you’ll get your opportunity to decide for yourself whether or not it is worthy of a Friday installment.

One of the key characteristics of a whole large subcategory of woo is, as any connoisseur of woo knows, “natural” sorts of remedies. The reason, of course, is that if it’s natural it must be better for you than any big pharma-manufactured abomination against nature. Or so the woo-meisters tell us anyway. Certainly curare is incredibly healthy, as is strychnine, deadly nightshade. Oh, wait, they’re deadly poisons. Well, what about taxol, which comes from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree? Not a bad example, given its effectiveness against various cancers, especially breast cancer, except that big pharma had to go and make is so that women don’t have to chew on bark to get all that natural goodness. Instead, it had to go and defile the tree and extract all the anticancer goodness into a product that has to be injected IV. Oh, well.

But that doesn’t mean that plants aren’t our friend from a woo point of view. Besides, it’s not enough that a natural substance derived form plants function through old-fashioned pharmacological actions, such as binding to a receptor, interfering with an enzyme, or activating a signaling pathway. Oh, no. That’s materialistic and unimaginative! If I’m going to use plants to cure diseaes, I’d want them to do something far cooler and more…energetic. Fortunately, I’ve found just the thing! Actually, Dr. Brent W. Davis has. Indeed, he’s found a way to extract the essence of living plants and harness its power for for your–yes, your!–health. Before we see his creation, let’s introduce you to him:

Dr. Brent W. Davis divides his time between his integrative healing and chiropractic practice in Nashville, Tennessee and the FlorAlive® forest/farm/training center about 75 miles outside Nashville. He travels internationally to photograph, study, and prepare highly energized flowers which have the potential of becoming new flower essences. When not traveling, he teaches seminars and is a sought-after conference speaker.

Well, all right! He’s an “integrative” healer and chiropracter! I’m sure he’s totally an expert in this stuff. At least, that’s what he tells us, and why wouldn’t I believe him? But what, exactly, is his woo? It’s something called Floralive, and it brings you the power of floral essences:

At the turn of the millennium, however, Dr. Davis shifted the focus of his research and practice to the discovery, clinical proving and production of our patented UNCUT flower™ essences.

This research took him to some of the last pristine places on Earth, where he encountered the divine Source frequencies of certain extraordinary plants, often growing around vortices of enormous “information transfer” downloading to Earth. Traditional healers frequently lead him to these remote and sacred environments.

Aware of the power of intention in achieving a goal, Dr. Davis created patented methods of collection and extraction that are in harmony with the healing intentions of Nature. (The designation “UNCUT” refers to a unique, co-operative, non-invasive approach to the plants themselves, necessary for the highly sensitive process of full transfer of their healing information.)

Yes! Somehow Davis is extracting the healing essence of the plants without actually, well, extracting anything physical out of them. He’s getting all the natural goodness out of them without actually crushing, cutting, or kiling them. How great is that? So great that he claims it’s patented! Even better, it’s “scientifically proven“! I know I’m in for only the finest of woo when I see that Davis quotes Rudolf Steiner and his description of “spiritual” science in the introduction. Of course, what is particularly hilarious is that Davis claims his flower essences have been validated by “all three” kinds of science, “hard,” “soft,” and “spiritual.” Looking at the latter two, however, I get the feeling that they are more consistent with woo than science, given that Davis states about “soft science:

“Soft” science uses a rational and orderly approach to assessing experimental questions which are inherently less objective than “hard” sciences. It may use tools such as questionnaires in the field of psychology, or applied kinesiology muscle testing in the natural healing arts.

Applied kinesiology? Ha! It doesn’t get more “woo-ey” than that, other than perhaps homeopathy or reiki. Personally, whenever I hear woo-meisters cite “soft” science or, even worse, “spiritual” science, I tune out. It’s always a load of crap. This is no different:

At FlorAlive® we feel fortunate to be able to employ the three types of science in the development of the (r)Evolutionary quantum frequencies from FlorAlive® uncut flowers. Though in its infancy, the UNCUT flower™ phenomenon is enabling enormous transformation of human consciousness in a short time and with very little effort.

Yeah, baby! Davis brought abuses of quantum theory into it! Now I really know I’m dealing with first class, grade A, super-charged woo. Of course, I love it when I see woo-meisters refer to “hard” science:

A belief in Higher Guidance from the supersensory world is what prompted Dr. Davis’ dream at the turn of the millennium where he saw in his mind’s eye what is now the patented FlorAlive® extraction process and apparatus.

Two “hard” science studies suggest that FlorAlive® essences contain a greater concentration, amplitude, and range of healing frequencies than the world’s best known and widest selling flower essence.

“Soft” science in the form of one clinical study using questionnaires and statistical analysis show that in one month the quantum frequencies of FlorAlive® essences diminished and removed destructive beliefs of the participants by as much as 50 percent. Validation by clinicians properly trained in applied kinesiology muscle testing shows on an ongoing basis that FlorAlive® essences remove self-destructive and limiting subconscious beliefs when tested by means of self-referential statements.

So let’s see what sort of hard science Davis marshals in favor of his amazing Floralive plant essences:

The first evaluation was performed by the laboratory of Prof. Fritz-Albert Popp at the International Institute of Biophysics in Neuss, Germany. Frequencies emitted by biological systems may be so subtle that conventional laboratory instruments cannot directly measure them. So Dr. Popp devised an ingenious way, tested over many years, to measure subtle frequencies (such as those found in homeopathic remedies and flower essences) by measuring the amount of re-emitted photons from standardized sprouting seedlings that have been treated by the substance under investigation. (A sophisticated instrument that can actually measure individual photon emission was used.) Two standardized sprouting seedling systems were used, each one having been treated by one of the flower essences. Both systems are then exposed to the exact same quantity and intensity of light, and the light that each system re-emits is directly correlated with the vitality of the test solution (each company’s flower essence.)

Most hilarious of all is the graph:


How’s that for dissing a fellow woo-meiseter’s product? I’m convinced. How about you? Davis even included error bars to crank up the “science” factor and make the whole thing look more convincing to the lay person who doesn’t know much about science and data presentation! But where’s the p-value? I mean, if you’re going to make the “data” supporting your particular brand of woo all “science-y,” why not go whole hog and include a p<0.05, to show that the difference in "life force" between the two floral extracts is statistically significant? Of course, even if Davis could measure "life force," the size of those error bars would pretty much preclude any statistically significant difference. There's just too much overlap between them. Bummer. Maybe Davis's other bit of "hard" science will convince me:

The second evaluation consists of an ingenious new technology made available in 2007 in which a very sensitive, ultra compact RF (radio frequency) monitor is placed within a small sample of the solution under investigation. The monitor can detect the strength (amplitude) and spread of frequencies (hertz range) of each test sample. This is a direct measurement. Initial tests show a very exciting finding relating to ReviveAll™. The dominant resonance of the atmosphere around the earth is the Schumann frequency of 7.83 hertz (cycles per second), and this is a critical part of the natural frequencies of the brain and life cycles in biological systems. Direct measurement of ReviveAll showed the distinct signature of the frequency of living plants – a hertz range including the Schumann frequency – which communicates information in biological systems. That low hertz range was not present in the test sample of Dr. Bach’s five flower formula.

Nope. Sorry. it sure sounds good though. I particularly like the bit about the Schumann frequency and the distinct “signature” frequencies. Very nice use of common features of many varieties of woo, namely “vibrational frequencies” or “natural frequencies” of lief essences.

So, failing the “hard” science, I had to wonder what sort of other “science” Davis could marshal to support his plant woo. Quite a lot, it turns out. He provides a number of graphs of patient’s subjective responses to Floralive on self-worth, resentment, and a number of other emotional responses. Can anyone say “placebo effect”? Sure, I knew you could. But what about “spiritual” science? I was tempted to swipe a couple of Davis’ case studies to show the before-and-after photos used in the Floralive testimonials, but I thought it would be better if you just followed the link to see the full depths of this woo yourself. Personally, I was disappointed; the only difference in the “before” and “after” photos that I could see was the lighting and composition, with possibly one exception; so I think I’ll close with what to me is the most convincing testimonial of the whole bunch from a woman named Vicki:

I have been an energy worker for the past six years. I have worked with color, crystals and Reiki. Through my healing work I observe human auras and energy fields, watching how they shift – and that shift is a gradual one. While attending your seminar in Fredericton, I saw auras change instantly when you used the FlorAlive flower essences.

I saw a person connect directly to Heavenly Source with a warm golden light and each of her chakras become connected with a golden arc, and then they became illuminated. It was a very powerful and moving experience for me and unlike any I have had in my healing work. As a result, I booked an appointment with Dr. Davis to have a flower essence assessment, and was again amazed with the essences he tested on me, as I instantly felt energies shift in my own body.

As, I’m sure, have we all, Vicki. As have we all.

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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