Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

Your Friday Dose of Woo: A healing footbath of woo

i-e7a12c3d2598161273c9ed31d61fe694-ClassicInsolence.jpgLast night, seeking to expand the name of Orac rather than his waistline, I did a skeptical meetup with a local skeptics’ group to discuss the topic of quackademic medicine. A fine time was had by all (at least as far as I can tell). What that means, unfortunately, is that I got back too late last night to have time to prepare a helping of new insolence that you all crave. (And you know you do crave it so.) Fortunately, the archives are here and chock full of excellent woo to republish from time to time, perfect for this situation, and I’m taking advantage of them now. The installation from Your Friday Dose of Woo that I’m about to repost dates back almost three years, and it’s such a “classic” that I can’t believe I haven’t reposted it before. If you haven’t been reading at least since the summer of 2007, it’s new to you, and if you have been reading that long, thanks and I hope you enjoy seeing this gem again. If not, well, nobody’s perfect, not even Orac. I know, I know, it’s hard to believe, but it is true nonetheless. I’ll be back with new material soon.

After over a year of doing Your Friday Dose of Woo, I can’t believe I’ve never come across this one before. Sometimes there’s a bit of woo that comes my way that’s so off the wall, so unexpected, the claims for which are so unrelated to reality that it startles even me. Moreover, unlike truly over-the-top woo like quantum homeopathy, DNA activation, or the SCIO, this one is utterly brilliant in the simplicity of its concept. It also makes me wonder about whether certain alties have a thing about feet. We know they have a thing about “detoxification” (without, of course, ever being able to identify what these “toxins” that have to be removed might actually be). We even know that they’ve at least once combined a thing about feet with a thing for detoxification in the form of miracle foot patches.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise, then, that someone has taken this concept to a whole new level:

Although we cannot make any Health claims, below is what others have used the Foot detox units for.

I’m sorry, but I have to interrupt here. What is it about woomeisters that they have to lie about “not making any health claims” for their products? Do they really think that this “disclaimer” fools anyone?

Never mind. On with the woo:

It is used as an Ion foot bath to cleanse, balance and enhances the bio-energy [the vital energy force present in the breath of bodily fluids]. This energy is the electro-magnetic force that is stored within the body and utilized by our cells. Chinese medicine refers to this energy as the “chi”. The complex energy fields permeate and realign the body’s energy field while improving oxygen levels. While the Ion Detox Foot Bath is widely used to increase energy [both physical and mental energy], vitality, and stamina, at the same time, it is used to purge [Ionic detoxification] the body of toxins, chemicals, radiation, pollution, synthetics, and other foreign material trapped in the skin layers that have clogged up the body’s systems of elimination.

Now we’re talking, people! It’s a footbath of woo! And this is what it can do for you (or so the manufacturers claim):

Its internal cleansing is believed by many to include parasite cleansing and liver detoxification, which results in less body fluid retention, reduced inflammation, improved memory, greater bladder control, a more balanced pH, a stronger immune system and significant pain relief, including headaches, gout and arthritis pain. We stand behind our Ion foot bath detox machines 100%.

All this from a soothing footbath! But how, pray tell, does it work? They’re only too glad to tell you:

As believed in Reflexology, each foot is actually a channel, a conduit, through which your body attempts to cleanse itself of toxic wastes and heavy metals that are building up in many parts of your body. During the foot bath, you will actually see the cleansing process take place as the water interacts with a compound electric current and magnetic field structure. This body cleansing process results in the correct frequency required for cells to return to a healthy state, and to release waste that has been bonded to them over the years. This Ion Foot Detox (Ionic detoxification) therapeutic procedure also enhances the effects of other therapies.

What an extraordinary claim! Surely they have evidence to support it! At least, you’d think so, wouldn’t you? And they do. Just look:


Or, even more convincing, check out this video here:

Digustingly amazing, isn’t it? Surely that guy’s feet couldn’t possibly be that dirty, could they? Or maybe there’s something to this woo. In only thirty minutes, the water went from clear to a disgusting brownish-red color so thick that you can’t see through it (although the nasty skeptic in me can’t help but point out that, early in the video, the water seemed to turn orange more from the edge of the bath than from the feet). What could the explanation be? Before we get to the bottom of this mystery, let’s tak a look at what the woomeisters say about this color:

Basically, the Foot Detox is based on electrolysis…When the Foot Detox “array” starts to work in the water, apart from the changes in the pHs, some of these substances can come to light as being present in the water. This is one of the reasons for the color changes and the release of small quantities of different gases like oxygen, hydrogen, chlorine and some sulphurs. The “arrays” are metallic and will release waste and will result in an electrolytic reaction which will in turn cause it to corrode. Another influencing matter is what we introduce into the water, lets say our feet. These have their own properties such as acidity or alkalinity. One can also find germ, bacteria, yeast infections and parasites. The skin can also contain remnants of soap, creams, dyes and fibers. There will also be a release of substances from the sebaceous glands and dead cells. All these factors combined will influence the color change. Last of all we have the internal condition of the body which will influence and manifest themselves in the water. Here we need to take into account sub dermis conditions, the capillary microcirculation and other internal influences that can be emitted through the largest human organ, our skin…

OK, thus far we have ionic detoxification woo. Not bad. But something’s still missing. After all, ionic detoxification sounds too–scientific. I know, I know, it’s a load of pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo designed to impress those without much knowledge of chemistry, but it’s still lacking that certain something, something that will propel it into the highest reaches of woo. If I were a woomeister, what would I add? What would add just that right bit of “mystic”-sounding science that alties love so much? Certainly an appeal to quantum theory might be an option, but that might be too obvious. Wait a minute! I know:

Detox Foot spa treatments are an unusual therapy, based on the research of the medical scientist Dr Royal Rife and is a type of aqua detox. It aims to improve, among other things, liver and kidney function through an electro-magnetic detoxification process carried out on the feet. The treatment is normally given by placing your feet in water in which an “array” will be activated. When the Ion Detox is activated it produces ions (positive and negative) This caused movement and Any time you have electrical movement you will have a magnetic field. A magnetic field will vary in force. This variance is called a wave length or FREQUENCY will cause a VIBRATORY RATE OR TONE.

Mentioning Dr. Royal Rife is a good start for amping up the woo. But I think that the last sentence suggests what this woo needs to distinguish itself:

In other words, the Detoxifying Foot Bath is currently charging our body with all the negative charges; aim to stimulate, improve, and stabilize the Bio-Energy of our internal organs; thus reaches the objective of Self-Detoxification.

OK, it’s getting warmer, more woo-ey, so to speak. Let’s see what else:

Every element has a different FREQUENCY OR VIBRATION. Every plant has a different wave length and thus a different vibration. We are made from the same thing that plants are made from: out of the dust of the ground. So, every organ of the body has a different vibration. Think of the body as a symphony orchestra. It plays together harmoniously although all the instruments have a different pitch. What happens when the body instrument is out of tune? We need to tune it up. How do we do this? We feed the body the plant, herb, or use the Ion Foot Detox to resonate which resonates through the water. The Foot Detox is designed to strengthen organs, glands, and other bodily systems.

Awwwwright! Now we’re talkin’ serious woo! Detoxification, bio-energy, “resonating” with the vibrations of the universe, this woo has it all. And all for the low, low sales price of $1,077, marked down from $1,677. Now there’s a bargain! But if that’s a little too rich for your blood, there is a less expensive version for $577; so the Foot Detoxx Store’s got your back.

But all is not well in woo-ville. No, sadly, it’s not. Let’s wander on over to someplace where we’d expect that there would be receptive minds willing to believe these claims and try out a little foot detox, someplace where the denizens are so credulous when it comes to all claims that smack of alternative medicine or that castigate “conventional medicine.” Yes, I’m talking about the Curezone. Even there, where only the most credulous dwell, there is discontent:

I recently saw my wife and several friends get duped about supposed benefits of an Ionic Detoxification Unit. Don’t get suckered into buying or paying for a session in an ionic detoxifcation foot bath! Guess what, the water turns “toxic” colors whether your feet are in there or not, because it is just the corrosion of the electrodes that causes the water to change color. The manufacturer below says that “sales pitches” are used to make people think that different colors mean different toxins were ionically removed from the body through the soles of the feet; in reality it is just the results of passing an electic current between electrodes in a conductive solution of water. Their own studies (backed by other independent fraud investigation analyses) find only what you would expect to find in water where electrolysis took place, ie, no “toxins” released from the body were found.

Think about it, how likely are your feet to start “leaking toxins”, if that happened then you’d find that happening in whirlpool spas etc. It doesn’t happen.

Those of you who are selling these or selling sessions in them should at a minumum stop charging for the sessions since they are worthless and you do not want to ripoff your clients do you? …Don’t sell them based on anecdotal evidence alone, and don’t be part of the scam! If you’re selling them based on anecdotal evidence then try running the unit with no one in it to verify what the manufacturer says below, and stop using that sales pitch.

Holy crap. It’s a woo-meister with a touch of skeptical thinking and, even more remarkably, some morals. Truly, DoubtIt (the person who posted the above bit) doesn’t belong in this business. And what on earth is someone like this doing on the CureZone forums? Not surprisingly, DoubtIt’s message was not exactly welcomed with open arms by the denizens of the CureZone discussion boards. Of course, this explanation for the color change makes perfect sense. Indeed, given that the water seemed to be turning to the color of rust, the above explanation mirrors my first thought about what was probably really going on. It also reminds me a lot of the explanation for the disgusting things people using “liver cleanses” fish out of their own poo. Here as for liver cleanses, the very treatment creates the “evidence” of its success, even in a healthy person and, in the case of this footbath, even without a person! The funniest thing about this woo is that a person’s feet are almost certainly far dirtier after this footbath than they were before it, meaning that the woomeisters get a person to pay to put his feet in progressively more dirty water.

This latest bit of woo makes me wonder if there’s anything so ridiculous that the credulous denizens of CureZone won’t believe it and support it when it’s revealed for a scam.

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]

19 replies on “Your Friday Dose of Woo: A healing footbath of woo”

Its internal cleansing is believed by many to include parasite cleansing and liver detoxification… [emphasis added]

This statement is probably true: the people who buy this contraption probably think it does. I suspect that few if any of them have any kind of medical background.

I was about to ask whether anybody had done the obvious control experiment of checking whether the water would become discolored without somebody’s feet in the bath. Then I saw DoubtIt’s testimonial, complete with a plausible chemical explanation for it. Though he is not as cynical as I was; my assumption was that the discoloration came out of some cartridge which was purported to absorb the toxins being leached out of the feet and would require periodic replacement, for additional profit to the manufacturer.

My Aunt asked me about this “treatment” a few weeks ago. I told her that it sounded like a glorified Pedicure with some snakeoil mixed in.

But I would counsel you, O mighty Orac, not to scoff at the magical healing properties of a good foot soak/professional massage & Pedicure. I treated my aching tooties to their first such experience in my entire 48 years a few weeks ago, and it was total BLISS.

Did I mention that the chair vibrated?

This statement is probably true: the people who buy this contraption probably think it does. I suspect that few if any of them have any kind of medical background.

I suspect that few if any of them have any kind of educational background.

Just discovered your blog. Excellent stuff.

And thank you for the introduction to Mike Adams. Revelatory.

I have no idea how he can juggle so many inconsistent beliefs without sustaining some sort of injury.

His latest piece on statins is true to his idea that conventional medicine is a malicious conspiracy, while using an article in the British Medical Journal as the source for his information.

According to Adams, doctors have “rarely heard” that statins can cause muscle weakness.

Doubtless because the medical fraternity hushed this up by, er…, publishing it in the BMJ. What sort of half-witted conspiracy is this exactly?

It’s hardly a secret that statins have side effects: it’s on the label of the damn bottles. And contrary to “rarely heard” [how many doctors did he interview to form that conclusion?], there must in fact be very few doctors who are unaware of the possibility of rhabdomyolysis in certain circumstances.

Since there are out-of-patent statins that can be had at a few cents per tablet (much cheaper than many natural remedies), there’s no financial incentive to prescribe… statins are prescribed simply because the current weight of the evidence suggests the benefits of not keeling over from a heart attack outweigh any side effects!

What da fuck? shortshrift…do you read?
Where’s the evidence that cholesterol causes heart attacks?
(not your “peer-reviewed” ego-based opinions..”double blind 50/50 maybe unqualified observations”…evidence chemistry/mechanics)

Do you know what cholesterol is?
Muscle weakness? Really? What exactly is that? What are the mechanisms?
What role does cholesterol play in the human body?
Why is the #1 side effect of statins immunsuppression?
Why is the #2 side effect cardiovascular disease?

Don’t bother answering….just keep pounding your head up Orac’s ass…

Funnily enough, I’m not sure this footbath stuff has anything to do with Royal Rife’s unique approaches to medicine (insofar as the Wikipedia article and its sources have an accurate summary of it). I was under the impression that he was more into breaking up microbes with EM radiation (based on my brief looking into it after the commentary on the Lorne Trottier symposium post).

Apparently co-opting real science is not enough. Woosters have to co-opt unrelated pseudoscience, too!

re: Apparently co-opting real science is not enough.

actually, it was for a while…but now the tide is changing:

“Novartis joins a growing list of pharmaceutical companies that have settled government investigations into health care fraud in the last few years, including Pfizer, which paid $2.3 billion; Eli Lilly, $1.4 billion; Allergan, $600 million; AstraZeneca, $520 million; Bristol-Myers Squibb, $515 million; and Forest Laboratories, $313 million. Pfizer, Lilly, Allergan and Forest pleaded guilty to crimes in the cases.”

“In a rare move, the Justice Department on Tuesday announced that it had charged a former vice president and top lawyer for the British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline with making false statements and obstructing a federal investigation into illegal marketing of the antidepressant Wellbutrin for weight loss.

The indictment grabbed the attention of pharmaceutical executives who have been bracing for a long-promised government crackdown on company officials — rather than the corporations themselves — in drug-fraud cases that have resulted in billions of dollars in fines and payments.”

novalox…it’s not, you idiot. it’s addressing a line from the comment before it. go to bed.

So, sciblag, you admit to being off-topic. Taken in the thread context you are saying: “Big Pharma bad, therefore footbaths works. Woot woot!.”

How many bets that sciblag is also “VD”?


Going to the old ad homenem attack route, I see, calling me names.

Doesn’t make your position any more tenable.

To address your off topic position, one medical company does not the whole community make. Also, one company, just because its actions were bad, does not invalidate the whole of SBM.

@ chris

In all probability, yes, since VD and sciblag have posted the same screed and links.

Heck, I I could place a bet on it, I think I’d make some money.

novalox, this whole blog is the poster child for ad hominem fallacies for anybody not on the SBM bandwagon.

re: “one medical company does not the whole community make.”

are you really that naive? that bad a reader? or even worse…that stupid? those quotations mentioned the following companies:

Novartis, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Allergan, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Forest Laboratories.

…6 of these are in the top 12 pharma earners in the world for 2009

= 50% of the top 12 earners is committing fraud.

cry me a river about your ad hominem attacks…think before you speak and then they will stop.


No amount of whinging over corporate malfeasance by large pharmaceutical companies will make these ‘detox’ footbaths a legitimate medical treatment. It reflects only, and badly, upon you if you consistently fail to realize this rather simple fact.

Only positive evidence of their clinical efficacy will.

Since no such positive evidence is yet forthcoming, there is no good reason for the ordinary person to accept them.

If such positive evidence could be procured, and was found to be (a) methodologically rigorous, and (b) not a fluke (since even at 95% significance, 1 out of 20 positive studies could occur due to chance alone), then of course ‘detox’ footbaths would become mainstream.

On the other hand, maybe that would discredit them in your eyes, since versions of them would be quickly created and marketed by those large pharmaceutical companies you so detest (that is, if they don’t do so already).


Keeping up the ad hominem attacks to hide your weakness of your position, I see…. Keep it up, it ought to be interesting to listen for a good chuckle or two

Provide evidence that 6 of the 12 top earners in the world are pharmacy companies.

And since when does high earnings = fraud?

Also, like Composer9 said, where is the positive evidence of the clinical efficacy of these foot baths??

novalox, you’re unbelievably stupid.

fraud = fraud when you’re found guilty in federal courts for fraud.

“Novartis joins a growing list of pharmaceutical companies that have settled government investigations into health care fraud in the last few years, including Pfizer, which paid $2.3 billion; Eli Lilly, $1.4 billion; Allergan, $600 million; AstraZeneca, $520 million; Bristol-Myers Squibb, $515 million; and Forest Laboratories, $313 million. Pfizer, Lilly, Allergan and Forest pleaded guilty to crimes in the cases.”

Ugh, it is the unbelievable idiotic bit that “Big Pharma” is bad, therefore all of their products are bad. So those foot baths work.


Keep up the ad hominem attacks, I’ll keep enjoying the laughs at your pathetic excuse to mock me.

So some of the pharmaceutical companies were convicted of fraud. Fine. It does not invalidate all of their products, or all of the good that they have done.

And how does that relate to the clinical efficacy of these particular foot baths again? Keep on trying to move the goal posts, but you haven’t yet replied to my original question. I’ll be waiting, but I guess I won’t receive a proper response for a while…

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