Respectful Insolence

Quackery and faith healing in Motown

I’ve complained quite a bit about the news media in my hometown. Indeed, about a year ago, I was stunned at how utterly credulous one TV reporter was about–of all things–orbs. I mean, orbs! Even dedicated ghosthunters don’t push orbs much anymore, realizing that they are nothing more than reflections or specks of dust reflecting lights in photographs. Then there’s Steve Wilson and his forays into anti-vaccine nonsense, in which he recycles some of the oldest, most tired, most highly debunked canards. Lately, it’s been some additional crappy reporting about Gardasil and a recent “autism” conference that was in reality nothing more than an autism quackfest. The list goes on.

Unfortunately, I learned that yesterday, The Detroit Free Press, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the text message scandal that brought down Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick last year and has embarked on an innovative but risky experiment in which it only delivers newspapers three days a week and provides the rest online, could apparently use some of that reporting chops and business savvy in dealing with health reporting. I’m referring to some serious badness that appeared in its Sunday edition, a one-two punch of woo that decimated in one fell swoop its credibility on health issues. Sadly, this sort of thing is all too typical of local newspapers, but when they hit my hometown paper, one I’ve been reading for well over 30 years on and off even when I didn’t live in Detroit anymore; so I couldn’t let it pass unnoticed.

Let’s start with item one, which appeared in the Life section under “Health” and reads like a paid infomercial more than anything else, an article entitled Detox at Detroit’s De’Spa Elite:

The candles emit an apricot-mango scent. Gold linens drape the massage tables. A cushioned chair awaits clients seeking pedicures.

In several ways, De’Spa Elite in downtown Detroit is like any other spa, with offerings that include Swedish massages, facials and manicures.

Then again, it’s not.

Owner Carolyn Hopkins says its alternative therapies make the spa “unique in the way that it focuses with people to detoxify” their bodies. Such treatments include Tong Ren, which seeks to unblock interruptions to what’s believed to be the body’s flow of energy, and Raindrop Therapy, a massage of medicinal oils.

Tong Ren? The utter quackery that is Tong Ren has invaded my hometown? I’m sure regular readers probably remember that I’ve written about Tong Ren before, in which I referred to it as an “unholy union of acupuncture and voodoo.” I stand by my characterization. If you don’t believe me, look again at this description of Tong Ren from its originator himself:

In a typical therapy session, the Tong Ren practitioner uses a small human anatomical model as an energetic representation of the patient, tapping on targeted points on the model with a lightweight magnetic hammer. The practitioner directs chi to blockage points corresponding to the patient’s condition, breaking down resistance at these points. As blood flow, neural transmission, and hormone reception are restored, the body is then able to heal.

An unholy union of acupuncture and voodoo is an excellent description of this “healing” technique. In essence, a practitioner, sometimes with the help of an entire class, focuses his “intent” on the acupuncture doll and then taps the various “meridians” while chanting. Don’t believe me? Look at the videos in my original post on the subject, which show an even more credulous news reporter swallowing without an ounce of skepticism everything that Tom Tam (yes, that’s his real name), the acupuncturist from the Boston area who came up with the concept behind Tong Ren, laid down. You’ll also see a disturbing testimonial by a pleasant Asian woman who claims that Tong Ren cured her breast cancer, even though she underwent considerable “conventional” therapy for it.

All at $75 a pop. That’s right. Linda Kent, the acupuncturist who does the Tong Ren therapy at this spa charges $75 for 50 minutes. I tell ya, I’m in the wrong business. Of course, I do have my skepticism and my sense of morals; I could never go the woo route. On the other hand, apparently Kent believes totally in the woo that is Tong Ren, saying:

“energy medicine is the new medicine for this century.” The tapping supposedly transfers energy to her clients to help alleviate ailments like allergies.”

At least Erin Chang Din, the reporter who wrote this, used the word “supposedly.” I suppose I should be grateful for small favors. On the other hand, other than the occasional use of the word “supposedly” the whole thing reads more like ad copy than a news story; so the favor is really, really small.

The next bit of woo advertised is Raindrop Therapy. I had actually never heard of Raindrop Therapy before, an amazing observation that tells me that, even four years into this whole skeptical blogging thing, there’s always new woo for me to learn about. On the surface, Raindrop Therapy looks like nothing more than a massage with various oils. Nothing horrible about that. On the other hand, whenever a therapy is described as a combination of “aromatherapy with the techniques of Vita Flex, reflexology, massage, etc., in the application of essential oils, which are applied on various areas of the body,” I can smell the woo along with the “essential oils,” especially when I see advocates say stuff like this:

Raindrop technique originated in the 1980’s from the research of D. Gary Young working with a Lakota medicine man named Wallace Black Elk. It integrates massage, utilizing the power of essential oils in bringing the body into structural and electrical alignment

Raindrop Technique is based on the theory that many types of scoliosis and spinal misalignments are caused by viruses or bacteria that lie dormant along the spine. These pathogens create inflammation, which in turn, contorts and disfigures the spinal column

Raindrop Technique uses a sequence of highly antimicrobial essential oils designed to simultaneously reduce inflammation and kill the viral agents (from the Essential Oil Desk Reference

Uh, no. For a bit more science-based perspective, there’s always Quackwatch, which points out just how much this is sheer woo. Not bad for $75 for 50 minutes, which makes me think that this woo is just as effective as Tong Ren or that, truly, you don’t get what you pay for, Donald Gary Young’s lame “it’s all a conspiracy by The Man to suppress The Truth about Natural Cures” pseudo-rebuttal, notwithstanding. However, if you’re credulous or stupid enough to fork over that much money for either (1) chanting over and tapping a voodoo doll or (2) getting some oils dripped on you for a massage with the claim that it will “detoxify” you, I can’t seriously blame people who are willing to take advantage of that. Of course, at least with Raindrop Therapy, there’s a massage involved. You can’t even say that with Tong Ren.

Finally, this place is selling that woo of woo, the “detox foot bath,” although in this case it’s called “Aqua Chi.” Here’s a glowing testimonial in the Free Press article:

Tracey Stevenson, 42, of Redford Township, recently visited the spa and soaked a foot in a tub of water infused with sea salt.

A flipped switch started an ionic charge that sent prickles through the water and tingles through Stevenson’s foot. As her foot soaked, the water turned from a hazy clear to a dusty orange to an inky, bubbly black.

The program, called Aqua-Chi, supposedly draws out toxins and material from the dermal layer of the skin. Changes in water colors are supposed to indicate the detoxification of different parts of the body, such as orange for the joints and black for the liver.

Stevenson says she wasn’t skeptical about the treatment, “just intrigued. I’ve spent time and money on the outside” of my body. “With this, I spend money on the inside.”

Not really, Ms. Stevenson. What you’ve really done is flush money down the toilet, metaphorically speaking, and in these tough times who can afford to do that? I’ve dealt extensively with this form of quackery. Suffice it to say that the water turns black whether your feet are in there or not. Trust me on this; it’s been tested numerous times by skeptics. There’s no “detox” going on, as you can’t “detox” through the skin of your feet. Your body can “detox” on its own quite well, thank you very much.

Finally, if you want a doctor not to go to, here’s one:

Dr. Michael Seidman, medical director of wellness at the Henry Ford Health System, says the value of these alternative therapies is debatable.

“When you ask me, ‘Does it sound crazy?’ My answer is ‘Yes,’ ” says Seidman. “But my response is also that it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong just because we don’t understand it.”

What’s not to understand about Aqua Chi? It’s quackery, pure and simple. By its own claimed principles it doesn’t work! Even the credulous have figured that out. What’s not to understand about Raindrop Therapy? There’s no evidence that scoliosis is caused by viruses or toxins or that Raindrop Therapy does anything to remove said viruses or toxins? What’s not to understand about Tong Ren? It’s magical thinking. There’s no evidence that “chi” exists or that practitioners can affect it with healing intent. It’s faith healing pure and simple.

Much like the subject of the next credulous article in the Detroit Free Press yesterday, entitled Detroit area reaches for faith to help heal bodies (how’s that for a segue?):

Inside a dimly lit living room in Clinton Township, evangelist Mary Frost faced a woman who said she has suffered for nine years from an ear disease that makes her dizzy. Frost’s voice rose with each word, her right hand cupping the back of the patient’s neck.

“I command the nerve endings in this ear to come to life,” Frost of Dearborn, a nondenominational Christian raised Pentecostal, declared on a Saturday night last month. “In the mighty name of Jesus, I arrest this condition, this vertigo. This night, you have been served your eviction papers. Leave this body!”

The ailing woman, Sharon LeGue, 56, was overcome and crumpled into the arms of a woman standing behind her. Moments later, she said: “I’m not wobbling now like when I came in here, wow. … I’m healed.”

Scenes like this play out every week inside homes, churches and hospitals across metro Detroit as many look to faith healers to cope with medical ailments or the stresses of daily life.

Critics in the medical community have long considered faith healing a fraud that takes advantage of vulnerable people. They say it can harm patients by drawing them away from legitimate treatments. In some cases, children have died after their religious parents refused them proper medical care.

I tell ya, if there’s one thing that ought to be required reading for any reporter contemplating doing a story on faith healing, it’s James Randi’s book The Faith Healers. It may be a 20 year old book, but it nailed it so well that it’s just as relevant today as it was when it was first published. Any reporter who read this book before approaching a story like this would be a lot less credulous and should add to his or her armamentarium a look at this interview with and video by Randi. (At the very least, the reporter should read this entry in Randi’s encyclopedia.) Then, a reporter contemplating such a story should then read Richard P. Sloan’s Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine before looking at the claims that religion is useful or somehow good for your health or cite studies like this:

Among them is a pair of 2007 studies. One said greater religiosity helped the mental performance of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The other said victims of heart failure or lung disease coupled with depression recovered better if they were active in religious activities.

The first of these studies, dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, appears to be this one. Reading it, I note that it’s a small study (only 70 patients) with a fair number of inconsistencies and unconvincing controlling for confounders. Even then its results are not that convincing. For example, measures using the Duke University Religion Index (DUREL)32 and the Overall Self-Ranking subscale from the NIH/Fetzer Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness/Spirituality subscales found that neither intrinsic religiosity, attendance at church services, nor religiosity self-rating correlated with slower cognitive decline, whereas measures known as spirituality self-rating and private religious activities did. It’s hardly convincing evidence, because there could be numerous confounders. The second study appears to be this one. Unfortunately, my university doesn’t have access to this particular journal, but from the abstract it appears to me as though a bit of statistical legerdemain went on here:

Although numerous religious measures were unrelated by themselves to depression outcome, the combination of frequent religious attendance, prayer, Bible study, and high intrinsic religiosity, predicted a 53% increase in speed of remission (HR 1.53, 95% CI 1.20-1.94, p = 0.0005, n = 839) after controls.

In other words, individual measures of religiosity didn’t correlate with recovery from depression in such patients. Rather, the authors had to combine certain measures. I can’t tell from the abstract alone why the authors picked the ones they did, but it sure sounds like cherry picking. I’ll have to try to get a hold of the article.

But we’re not talking about whether being religious can provide health benefits. We’re talking about religious people who claim Jesus can heal them through a priest or minister. And here is where the privileged place religion holds is in evidence:

Still, the popularity of faith healing can be seen throughout southeast Michigan, and it cuts across Christian denominational lines — Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Pentecostal, Orthodox and evangelical churches all have some type of faith healing services.

Faith healers and centers are not regulated by the state “because it’s a religious issue,” said James McCurtis, spokesman for the state Department of Community Health.

“It’s not our place to say whether these institutions are false or not. Some people do truly believe in them. We … leave it up to the people,” McCurtis said.

Why isn’t religious healing regulated by the state? Charlatans make health claims that they can heal people of debilitating or even deadly diseases through the power of prayer or Jesus. That, to me is a medical claim. We regulate device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and physicians. Yet, suddenly, if it’s religion making the claim, it’s OK. I’ve said time and time before that adults can do whatever they want with their bodies for whatever reason, but that does not mean that anyone can practice medicine under the guise of religion. Be that as it may, there can be legitimate disagreements over this issue and whether faith healing needs to be considered part and parcel of freedom of religion to the point where the government can’t do anything. What I don’t see nearly as much room for disagreement about is the irresponsibly credulous presentation of testimonials:

Beyond the immediate good feelings, some patients of faith healers say they have seen long-term benefits.

Yolanda McKenzie, 32, of Waterford said that her endometriosis, a condition affecting the uterine cavity, went away in 2007 after an intense faith healing in Detroit.

But she also underwent medical treatment with a doctor and had surgery just weeks after her faith healing. Still, she maintains God healed her.

And claims like this:

The Rev. Keith Barr of Clarkston, who treated McKenzie, also said he doesn’t charge. He promotes his faith healing on Web sites such as YouTube, where he claims to have healed hundreds — of cancer, blindness, even the effects of Agent Orange.

To skeptics who say he is misleading, Barr said: “Come and see … there can’t be that many actors in metro Detroit.”

Barr said Comcast has refused to run a cable ad he made touting his ability to bring sight to the blind. But he maintains that he can heal people.

“Jesus said, you have to pray and have no doubt. It requires a tremendous amount of faith,” said Barr, who is a Pentecostal minister.

Perusing Barr’s YouTube page reveals a disturbing number of videos showing the sort of “faith healing” that Randi was so good at critically examining. For example, there was a “healing service” in Ann Arbor (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4). Then there are videos like this, for instance, healing fibroids:

And back pain:

You get the idea. It’s nothing more than the standard faith healing nonsense that has been going on for centuries. Particularly sad is this photo caption:

Corliss Andrews, 50, of Detroit accepts the healing service of Nemeh. Andrews has had multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease, for 10 years. “I am still waiting for the Lord to heal me,” she said.

Although it may not be apparent on the surface, these two articles are very much alike. Both tout medical treatments that are not in any way science-based. Both make only the most token attempt at including the skeptical viewpoint. (Sorry, Stan Kurtz; I know you tried on the faith healing story.) Both present testimonials as if they were anything more than possibly evidence of the placebo effect. However, I actually find the faith healing article less offensive because it is at least very open that what we are talking about is religion and has nothing to do with science or accepted therapy. The story about the Spa of Woo presents the therapies as though they actually had some sort of basis other than a different kind of religious viewpoint (namely the Eastern concept of life energy, or chi, sometimes spelled qi). It’s all equally faith-based to the most amazing displays of faith healing by Rev. Barr; it’s just that it’s not based on Judeo-Christian religion.

Now if the Free Press could only take some of whatever won it the Pulitzer in political reporting this year and apply it to its health reporting. I’m not holding my breath, though.

Comments

  1. #1 Catherina
    April 27, 2009

    I have just sent you the Koenig paper (to you scienceblog mailaddy). You may have to check your spam folder.

  2. #2 Dangerous Bacon
    April 27, 2009

    I see big trouble with these healing modalities – they’re poaching on the territory of a group that gets very cranky when their rice bowl is threatened. For instance –

    “Raindrop Technique is based on the theory that many types of scoliosis and spinal misalignments are caused by viruses or bacteria that lie dormant along the spine. These pathogens create inflammation, which in turn, contorts and disfigures the spinal column

    Raindrop Technique uses a sequence of highly antimicrobial essential oils designed to simultaneously reduce inflammation and kill the viral agents”

    And “I command the nerve endings in this ear to come to life”.

    Hoo boy, the chiropractors are not going to take this lying down.

    Or else they’ll have to hurry and sign up for training courses. Maybe there are high-tech chiro machines with lots of dials and blinking lights for infusing the essential oils.

  3. #3 Danimal
    April 27, 2009

    I can remember when my family moved back to the States, watching some religious program where the preacher ask people to hold their babies against the television so they can be healed. I remember thinking WTF. Are people really this stupid? Do not answer, you will only make me sick, then I have find some television preacher to get healed by.

  4. #4 Mu
    April 27, 2009

    Somehow the picture of Sitting Bull getting his Raindrop therapy after a hard day of Custer slaughtering doesn’t quite fit. Must be a newer development, not quite ancient wisdom, or maybe a side branch of the tribe.

  5. #5 scotth
    April 27, 2009

    There, at least there is some factual info tacked on the end, now.

  6. #6 MKandefer
    April 27, 2009

    They use lightweight magnetic hammers in Tong Ren? I don’t recall that. Now I’m sold.

    It appears that Tong Ren is a combination of three forms of nonsense: voodoo, Chinese “medicine”, and magnet therapy.

  7. #7 Sastra
    April 27, 2009

    There’s no evidence that “chi” exists or that practitioners can affect it with healing intent. It’s faith healing pure and simple.

    Exactly. And I think that at least one of the reasons many doctors and health professionals are hesitant to criticize even bizarre forms of alternative medicine is that they do recognize that yes, it does sound just like religion, and yes, it does work just like religious belief — and you’re not supposed to criticize or question anyone’s religion. Faith is a “personal” choice, and one to be admired and respected. You don’t try to undermine it. Tread gently, if at all, and handle with kid gloves. You’re approaching something noble.

    In order for a science-based approach to evaluating extraordinary claims to gain acceptability, I think there has to be a concerted movement going after the idea that one ought to have “faith in faith,” as Daniel Dennett puts it.

  8. #8 Tsu Dho Nimh
    April 27, 2009

    Raindrop technique originated in the 1980’s from the research of D. Gary Young working with a Lakota medicine man named Wallace Black Elk. It integrates massage, utilizing the power of essential oils in bringing the body into structural and electrical alignment

    Conveniently, Wallace Black Elk died in 1004 and can’t correct these statements. There is NO Lakota tradition of electrical alignment.

    Considering that D. Gary Young spent the 1980s in Spokane and Mexico, committing quackery … it is unlikely that he would have had the time to catch up to Black Elk long enough to work with him. Black Elk had a very busy schedule.

  9. #9 tim gueguen
    April 27, 2009

    I first heard of Raindrop Therapy several years ago via ads on the sides of local buses for a Saskatoon woo business, Sagestone Wellness Centre. http://www.sagestones.ca/ Looking at their current front page it seems that the therapies they shill don’t help you with your spelling given that wellness is spelt wrong.

  10. #10 Janet Camp
    April 27, 2009

    I find woo everywhere and get nowhere trying to combat it. It’s always, “science doesn’t know everything” or “people can make up their own minds” (as if this is a legitimate debate with two equal opposing sides

    So, today I was perusing my local (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) summer recreation guide to sign up for water aerobics when I noticed a “Health & Wellness” section with the first offering entitled: “Five Secrets to Permanent Weight Loss” (Really? I thought there was just the one–eat less, move more–and it really isn’t a secret is it?).

    Anyway, here’s the “course” description:

    Recent research (no source given) has shown that metabolism and hormones may be the key to effective, permanent weight loss. Learning the “5 secrets” can lead to improved metabolism, permanent weight loss, and improved health and vitality. Participants will learn why fat doesn’t make you fat, why you must eat real butter and eggs, even if you are over-weight. Class is presented by Dr. John P. Corsi, D.C. Chiropractic Company. Fee is nonrefundable.

    Wow! All that in an hour-and-a-half “course” for only $7! Do you think the “doctor” is fishing for new “patients”?

    The whole thing is a blatant fiction, and could do real harm to people with heart disease. This is a taxpayer supported program and I just do not know where to begin to protest this and more like it. Any views appreciated.

    Dr. Corsi has three other course offerings as well: Arthritis: Alternative Approaches; Balancing Hormones Naturally; and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Causes & Cures. His entries are followed by another course offering in Reiki, which at least carries a disclaimer that says the class is for informational purposes only. The description, though, claims to “remove energy blockages, relieve physical pain, and (best of all!) provide a sense of peace to the recipients.” The name of the practitioner is not given.

    It goes on like this with things like Pressure Point Therapy. It’s all chiropractors except the Reiki. IS THERE NO WAY TO STOP THIS? If I volunteer to give a class in Skepticism or How To Spot Fraudulent “Therapies” or something along those lines, do you think they would allow it? Would anyone sign up who was not already a skeptic? It seems that this battle is already lost.

  11. #11 lemons
    April 27, 2009

    Janet, I feel your pain. My paper runs a column by a Weston Price follower (google WAP foundation for this particular woo) as health and nutrition. I haven’t wanted to stir up the hornets’ nest by contradicting her – it’s a small town – though I have countered some of the more outlandish claims in print.
    I think it would be great if you offered a class in evaluating alternative therapies, although you’ll probably get a lot of backlash. How about a primer on nutrition? Or a history of homeopathy? It’s hard to be the standard bearer for the view that wellness isn’t determined by magical energies.

  12. #12 DLC
    April 27, 2009

    Orac: I’m pushing orgones your way… keep up the good work!

    Janet Camp: The only way to stop these crazy woo-woo practitioners is to educate the people they prey on.
    Even then, there will still be plenty of suckers for these quacks, crooks and slimebags to rob.

  13. #13 ???
    April 28, 2009

    “Five Secrets to Permanent Weight Loss” (Really? I thought there was just the one–eat less, move more–and it really isn’t a secret is it?).

    No, there’s another one called “amputation”, and a third called “frontal lobotomy”.

  14. #14 Janet Camp
    April 28, 2009

    Thank you for your support “lemons” and DLC and LOL to ???.

    I think I will try to structure some kind of “rebuttal” class; maybe a discussion of the placebo effect and why one shouldn’t have to pay fees for this natural phenomenon. That “natural” angle just might work!

  15. #15 Janet Camp
    April 28, 2009

    Thank you for your support “lemons” and DLC and LOL to ???.

    I think I will try to structure some kind of “rebuttal” class; maybe a discussion of the placebo effect and why one shouldn’t have to pay fees for this natural phenomenon. That “natural” angle just might work!

    By the way, everybody–the QUACK CAST is great! And free, too. You can sign up at iTunes. It’s a great tonic for woo overload, but it won’t do a thing for your immune system–or your chi.

  16. #16 whoa
    April 30, 2009

    I wonder if you wooed the wrong thing. Have you ever had a “raindrop treatment?” I was skeptical too but honestly, it was a surprise and I ended up feeling fabulous after thinking I was coming down with a virus or cold. I had all the nasty symptoms of a 10 day siege. After the treatment that evening, I slept soundly and woke up remarkably fine.

    It was definately not just the massage. I’ve had plenty of those. It was quite warming actually. I smelled like an Italian dinner in a way but the results were unexpectedly positive. I left the oils on until the next morning shower.

    I’d like to know if anyone else commenting on raindrop treatment has actually tried it? Like I said, I was very skeptical but it certainly had a positive physical effect on me, and I don’t normally go in for that sort of thing.

  17. #17 Chris
    April 30, 2009

    whoa said “Have you ever had a “raindrop treatment?””

    Oooh… it is the old “have you tried it” bit! Excuse me, but what biological plausibility does it have? If I am going to be paying $75 for fifty minutes I want to know if it is real, or just an elaborate placebo!

    Though, in retrospect, more expensive placebos work better than cheap placebos:
    http://www.predictablyirrational.com/?p=307

    Oh, wait you said:

    I had all the nasty symptoms of a 10 day siege. After the treatment that evening, I slept soundly and woke up remarkably fine.

    I don’t understand. Did you get better after ten days (which is normal for some flu bugs), or did you have just one day of symptoms? Which is also normal for some milder 24 hour flu bugs.

    Still this is still true: the plural of anecdote is not data.

  18. #18 sohbet
    April 30, 2009

    Thank you for your support “lemons” and DLC and LOL to ???.

    I think I will try to structure some kind of “rebuttal” class; maybe a discussion of the placebo effect and why one shouldn’t have to pay fees for this natural phenomenon. That “natural” angle just might work!

  19. #19 del
    May 18, 2009

    Hi Dr. Orac,

    We read your most recent article. It is a nice and exciting message. Your message really encourages all of the Tong Ren practitioners who you called voodoo or woo practitioners. Please don’t be too nervous and angry, we, the Tong Ren practitioners are not the Martians who invaded the Earth. I hope you don’t feel like running away as the people in New Jersey did to escape the invasion of the Martians.
    Don’t fear us because we have “invaded” your hometown. In fact, if you really pay attention, you can see how fast Tong Ren healing is growing in the whole world, not only in your hometown. Many of the famous singers from Motown are also members of our group.
    Don’t be jealous, Linda Kent only charged $75 for 50minutes, to bang a voodoo doll. It is too cheap! If the people do not have money, they can join our website broadcast healing, or the conference call healing if they cannot physically join our Guinea Pig classes.
    You are lucky that you didn’t choose Tong Ren for your business. You are a surgeon. For one cut, how much do you charge and make per procedure?! Last year, in America the number one money maker was the surgeon. I told my children, not to do Tong Ren, but rather go to medical school to be surgeons. Guaranteed you make good money and high honor.
    Another reason you are nervous is because as there are more Tong Ren practitioners in the world, less people will need to get cut, saving more money for the tax payers’ pockets. It is good for our financial crisis.
    I would like to tell you one more piece of good news. Tom Tam has been selected and placed on the Top Ten list of the Quakometer. This is good news for us, because we are not with you guys in the same group. Tom is very proud to be the number one voodoo on the list. He had two cans of Budweiser to celebrate this honor.
    Already Tong Ren healing is spreading to the whole world. I know you cannot sleep well. Take care of yourself. Surgery cannot help people sleep, but anesthesia can. I know you don’t want anesthesia to help you sleep, if you accept or want to try a Tong Ren treatment to sleep well we will help you free of charge. Why not?!

    Hope you relax and sleep well.

    Sincerely

    Del

  20. #20 confused guy
    May 20, 2009

    I know Tong Ren is real Woo without any doubt, even Tom Tam never deny it. But I wonder how come so many people want to bang the voodoo doll and give up to see their doctors? Many people want to be a surgeon who can make the best salary in this country. Also, many people want to bang the doll without making nothing, and carry a voodoo name. The world is too strange. I still cannot understand it.
    Hope some day there are no more Tong Ren, also no more sickness if the doctor can help.

  21. #21 harvey
    June 12, 2009

    whoa said “Have you ever had a “raindrop treatment?”

    I cannot believe this, but I am going to agree. I was a huge skeptic of this Raindrop stuff, but my back pain would not go away. So I tried it from a friend at a hefty discount. I definitely smelled like a spice drawer afterwards, but within 3 or 4 hours my back was fine.

    This is not a sales job by me, folks. I thought this stuff was crap (and I still think the literature is crap, what with phrases like “electric fields” and “healing touch”) but something about the oils soothed some nasty back pain that dozens of visits to the chiropractor never accomplished.

  22. #22 Megan
    January 17, 2010

    Energy medicine works. Anyone who has ever had these therapies understands that it just ‘feels’ right. You can feel your body healing. The person writing this article has obviously never had a raindrop massage.

    Energy medicine is what’s happening right now people. The ones who resist it will simply be the slowest to emerge from the fog.

  23. #23 Chris
    January 17, 2010

    So we are supposed to believe it works just because you say it does? Why is that?

  24. #24 Travis
    January 17, 2010

    And of course, that feeling must be healing, it just has to be. It just ‘feels’ right.

    To be a little crude, I think a blowjob feels pretty good, in fact, it ‘feels’ right, really right. I wonder if I am actually healing? Maybe I should be booking weekly appointments with escorts. Cheaper than a lot of alt medcine as well.

    Lots of things feel good, that does not mean any real healing is going on. Show some evidence that energy medicine works. Pubmed is just a few seconds away.

  25. #25 ryan mkin
    February 4, 2010

    I really feel like the simple people in the world are the ones who cannot grasp how powerful our minds and bodies are in healing themselves.

    There is definitely a place for modern medicine. My only problem with modern medicine is the role the pharmaceutical companies play in it. They make 300 BILLION dollars annually off of keeping people sick, and often times making people sicker. Dr. Whittaker has a good article on statins (found in heart medication) and how harmful they are to our health.

    Essential oils are the life force of plants. They have been used for thousands of years to heal. My experience with raindrop massage is that it has completely healed my knees. I’m a basketball player and have spent the last 30 years tearing up my knees. When I sat down or stood up my knees would make a crunching sound and be painful. I would have to wear hot packs on them at night becuase they ached so much.

    My girfriend told me to get a raindrop massage. I just thought it was a regular massage, didn’t know much about it. But I was totally amazed at what it did for my knees! There is a part during the massage where I was asked to focus my mind on where I wanted to oils to go. I focussed on m knees. Well, that massage was about a month ago and I have had absoltuly NO KNEE PAIN ever since. I’ve even started playiing basketball at the gym again and all the guys have been joking with me asking if I’ve found the fountain of youth or something because I have such a spring in my step.

    If you have never experienced energy healing for yourself it is a hard concept to grasp. I was the same way. But when you think of how amazing our bodies are. How we can be moving, thinking, feeling creatures. How intelligent our cell communication must be in order for us to do the things we do….Even walking a chewing gum at the same time is pretty amazing when you think about everything our bodies are doing simultaneously! Why wouldn’t we be able to facilitate our own healing?

    Anyone who doubts energy healing, or needs “scientific proof” just needs to walk outside and gaze up at the starry sky. We accept what we’ve been told that space has no beginning, and no end… That time does not exist, but it’s just a concept human beings have come up with to categorize life… We dont question these things because they are written in science books.. But when you think about them, they are pretty far out ideas, and they are very hard to wrap your head around. The universe is amazing. We are all connected, and we are a part of that universe. We are amazing, and we are capable of anything. Energy medicine is simply a way of connecting us with the life force of the universe.

    I don’t really understand why some of you fight against it so much. . Because the people who are experiencing energy healing are benefiting from it, and as much as you think they care about you and your opinions, they really don’t. You don’t have to believe it or talk nicely about it for it to be any more real for us. You are missing out. And we don’t care about you, other than we might feel a bit sorry for you.

  26. #26 JohnV
    February 4, 2010

    “That time does not exist, but it’s just a concept human beings have come up with to categorize life…”

    “Time is an abstract concept created by carbon-based life-forms to monitor their ongoing decay.”

    Noted philosopher, Thunderclese.

  27. #27 Lisa
    February 4, 2010

    You mentioned there was an article on Quackwatch about Raindrop Therapy.

    Here is the rebuttal for anyone wanting to hear the REAL truth. https://www.youngliving.org/site_content.asp?TARGET=rebuttal.html

    Quackwatch is funded by the pharmaceutical companies. They pay to have negative garbage written on the internet. Then they pay big bucks to optimize the website so that it appears first in a google search. They are scared shitless that people will actually start PREVENTING illness and stop buying their drugs.

  28. #28 v.rosenzweig
    February 4, 2010

    If you don’t care about us and have no interest in listening to what we say, why have you come looking for old blog posts to lecture us? Yes, I can look at the starry sky (though it’s not that easy in some places; does energy healing not work on cloudy days or in overlit cities?). Then what. The universe may or may not be infinite, but what does that have to do with anything? You seem to be arguing that because you once accepted what some unspecified person told you about time, we should accept what you say about magical healing. If it’s that wonderful, please, prove it. I would love for you, or anyone, to be able to heal the two friends of mine who have lasting damage from strokes. And the one who hasn’t walked without pain in over 30 years, because she was hit by a car. If it’s that good, that powerful, why aren’t the people who promote this stuff taking on the hard cases?

  29. #29 ryan
    February 4, 2010

    They are taking on the hard cases. The cases are all documented in a report called “a statistical validation of raindrop technique”. It was compiled by Dr. David Stewart. I think you can order it on amazon.com. It is filled with testimonies from all over the world from people who have been helped by raindrop massage.

    As for your friends, I believe raindrop massage will help them tremendously. Perhaps you could find someone just starting out with raindrop that would do it for them pro-bono? Facilitators of raindrop might appreciate the challenge? They might do it in exchange for a testimonial at a later date when your friend has been helped. They may do it for the sheer enjoyment of healing people

    It’s worth a shot. Your friends will thank you.

  30. #30 Chris
    February 4, 2010

    Lisa, posting on an old comment:

    Quackwatch is funded by the pharmaceutical companies.

    Ah, yes, the old and very tired and unproven Pharma Shill Gambit.

    Ryan, you obviously do not have enough sense to get out of the rain!

  31. #31 Calli Arcale
    February 4, 2010

    Ryan Mkin @ 25:

    I really feel like the simple people in the world are the ones who cannot grasp how powerful our minds and bodies are in healing themselves.

    Yes. These simple people do not believe the body can heal itself. And so, if their pain goes away, they assume that some therapy they did must have done it. After all, the body wouldn’t be able to heal itself, would it?

    But pay close attention at who is really making the claim that the body cannot heal itself. For all but the serious cases, it isn’t mainstream medicine. It’s alt med. They tell you that your body can heal itself — but only if you visit them and take their remedy. “This adjustment to your spine will free the innate to heal you.” “This colonic cleansing will rid you of toxins so your body can heal.” “This chelation therapy will liberate your body’s healing powers.” “This unique blend of herbs will align with your aura to cause healing.”

    Mainstream doctors, if they are at all competent and take the time to actually explain things, will typically say something a bit different. “Drink plenty of fluids, try to eat, and get some rest while your body fights the virus.” “Get off the couch and exercise and your body will adapt to that level of activity — you’ll get in shape.” “Take this Nexium for six weeks to keep the acid down while your esophagus sorts itself out.”

    It is true that doctors will tell you if they feel your condition cannot heal itself. Some viruses can overwhelm your body’s finite ability to defend itself. Diabetes doesn’t heal, as the body doesn’t really perceive it as damage. Structural defects usually require surgical correction, but that correction itself relies heavily on the body’s ability to heal — essentially, most surgery is a careful channeling of the body’s remarkable built-in healing abilities. Growing new bone, new skin, new flesh.

    There is definitely a place for modern medicine. My only problem with modern medicine is the role the pharmaceutical companies play in it. They make 300 BILLION dollars annually off of keeping people sick, and often times making people sicker. Dr. Whittaker has a good article on statins (found in heart medication) and how harmful they are to our health.

    The pharmaceutical companies really are crooked, like very nearly all large corporations. That’s why they have to be regulated. Notice the difference between companies which manufacture mainly supplements and companies which manufacture mainly pharmaceuticals. Only the latter is heavily regulated, with the result being that you are far more likely to encounter purity issues with the former. In my opinion, the fact that pharmaceutical companies are crooked is not a reason to go to alt-med. Alt-med companies are every bit as crooked, and should not be exempt from regulation.

    Essential oils are the life force of plants. They have been used for thousands of years to heal.

    Um . . . no. Well, “no” on the “life force of plants” part. Essential oils are not the life force of plants. They’re pungent oily chemicals found in plants. They’re generally not very kind to the skin, and need to be diluted. Some have strong pharmacological activites. (Some are even deadly.) All are flammable, and also volatile, which should not really be surprising. They also tend to be corrosive. Orange oil has become popular not only as a fragrance but also as an effective cleaning agent, though care needs to be taken where you use it — it can damage some surfaces.

    It is however true that essential oils have been used since ancient times for medicinal purposes. Of course, so have leeches, bloodletting, purging, trepannation, scalding, and so forth. Just because it’s ancient doesn’t mean it’s right.

    My experience with raindrop massage is that it has completely healed my knees. I’m a basketball player and have spent the last 30 years tearing up my knees. When I sat down or stood up my knees would make a crunching sound and be painful. I would have to wear hot packs on them at night becuase they ached so much.

    I’ll take your word for it that you feel better, and I’m happy for you. But I want more than just someone’s claim that it helped them before trying it myself. For one thing, I’m allergic to some of those essential oils. For another, I really don’t like wasting time or money. I want evidence before investing in something like that.

    If you have never experienced energy healing for yourself it is a hard concept to grasp. I was the same way. But when you think of how amazing our bodies are. How we can be moving, thinking, feeling creatures. How intelligent our cell communication must be in order for us to do the things we do….Even walking a chewing gum at the same time is pretty amazing when you think about everything our bodies are doing simultaneously! Why wouldn’t we be able to facilitate our own healing?

    We *do* facilitate our own healing, but not the way you think. It’s not “energy healing”. You’re right that our bodies are amazing, and if you go and educate yourself about the body, you’ll be even more amazed. That’s because it’s even better than you think. Our cells communicate in a manner that would blow your mind if you let yourself grasp it, rather than just chalking it up to “energy”. It’s a fiendishly complicated system, but the basic processes are astonishingly elegant. And most of them are present even in creatures that you or I would consider stupid. Dumb animals. Plants, even. Bacteria! They are remarkable things, even though they can’t think. Try not to get too much caught up in anthropocentrism; just because we can think doesn’t mean thinking is needed in order to be special.

    You mentioned cell communication. Check out Orac’s post on the amazing video of a neutrophil pursuing a bacterium. It’s freakin’ awesome. That neutrophil has no brain. No eyes, either, and yet it chases that bacterium with unerring determination. What’s going on is that it is compelled by its own biochemistry to turn this way and that based on the concentration of various chemicals — brainlessly sniffing out its prey. Amoebas hunt exactly the same way. For something even more awesome, forget the immune system and forget healing. Think about an amorphous blob of embryonic stem cells sorting themselves out into various tissues and continuing this process until the result is a human being. And they get it right most of the time, despite having no controlling intelligence. Each cell is only aware of its immediate environs, and has to decide based on what its neighbors are doing to figure out what it should do. Astounding elegance, which produces something of breathtaking complexity.

    Anyone who doubts energy healing, or needs “scientific proof” just needs to walk outside and gaze up at the starry sky.

    I’m an amateur stargazer. I look at the sky very often, and I despair at how many do not. I set up my telescope outside once, during a lunar eclipse. Lots of people walked by, exercising their pets, but none had noticed the blood-red moon hanging over them, and only one family (our next-door neighbors, whom we’d specifically invited) had any interest in looking through the ‘scope.

    When I was in college, I remember enthusiastically telling the other Quiz Bowl teammembers that Comet Hale-Bopp was especially beautiful that night. Everybody immediately came with me to look — except for the team captain, who was completely baffled by our interest. He genuinely did not care. And it was so beautiful! It was bad enough to realize that nobody else had noticed the comet which spanned such a huge part of the sky; it was much worse to meet someone who just plain didn’t care.

    We accept what we’ve been told that space has no beginning, and no end… That time does not exist, but it’s just a concept human beings have come up with to categorize life… We dont question these things because they are written in science books..

    Maybe you don’t question them, but scientists do. You should see how often science books have to change! For instance, they have evidently changed since you had your science education, since what you’ve described is not what is taught today. The consensus today (such as it is; cosmology is a pretty contentious field) is that space and time began simultaneously, at least 14.7 billion years ago. Time most certainly does exist; there are philosophers who will argue that it is an illusion, but astrophysicists do not generally make this claim. In fact, astrophysicists will even talk about time appearing to go faster or slower; the mere fact that it can be manipulated implies that time is real, or at least as real as anything else.

    But when you think about them, they are pretty far out ideas, and they are very hard to wrap your head around. The universe is amazing. We are all connected, and we are a part of that universe. We are amazing, and we are capable of anything. Energy medicine is simply a way of connecting us with the life force of the universe.

    Do you want to know a secret?

    You are already connected to the life-force of the universe.

    This was true before somebody started convincing you to pay money for raindrop massages. It will continue to be true all your life, and even after your death, though the definition of “you” will become progressively less distinct after that point. There are two crucial principles to remember: conservation of matter and conservation of energy. The Universe is a closed system; therefore everything within it is connected to everything else within it. Even your tissues are connected to the rest of the universe. As the noted poet A. Yankovic put it, “My pancreas attracts every other / Pancreas in the universe / With a force proportional / To the product of their masses / And inversely proportional/ To the distance between them.”

    Or, as Delenn on Babylon 5 put it: “Then I will tell you a great secret, Captain. Perhaps the greatest of all time. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are starstuff, we are the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out. As we have both learned, sometimes the universe requires a change of perspective.”

    I don’t really understand why some of you fight against it so much. . Because the people who are experiencing energy healing are benefiting from it, and as much as you think they care about you and your opinions, they really don’t. You don’t have to believe it or talk nicely about it for it to be any more real for us. You are missing out. And we don’t care about you, other than we might feel a bit sorry for you.

    Oh how nice — you claim we don’t care, and then turn around and state right out that you don’t care. I think you are doing a bit of projection. If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t fight quackery and fraud. We care about people very much, or at least I do, and that is why we care when somebody else tries to deceive them. It is an injustice, and although you were not harmed, you should not assume that no one else was. You tried raindrop massage, and got better. You do not know whether those two events were related, but assume they were. Mabye they were; I don’t know. I have no way of knowing. Fact is, neither do you. I started a drug to treat an uncomfortable condition I’ve had for a few years. It went away. I was so happy! Then the condition returned, and I realized I had deluded myself. Skepticism is not easy. It’s so much easier to pick a formula (“my teacher said it, so it’s true” or “it’s against The Man so it’s true” or whatever) and judge everything by it, but that path will never lead to truth. It can’t. That is why you must question *always*.

    I have no problem whatsoever with people questioning science. Questions are the *point* of science, and vigorous argument is vital. But I do have a problem with people not questioning things. You are questioning science; that’s good! But you are not questioning your energy healers, and this makes you vulnerable to exploitation. Maybe the ones you’re working with are on the level, but how do you know? What if someone else comes along, someone who isn’t really concerned about your welfare, and tells you that they have an even better way of manipulating your energy fields, if you’ll just invest money in his device? Will you believe him, or will you question him? I hope you will question him. Too many alternative medicine fans overtly doubt mainstream medicine (regardless of evidence) while uncritically accepting alternative medicine, and that’s a problem. Heck, I’d rather you doubted *both*, though unbiased skepticism is much better than reflexive doubt.

    I do care very much, and if people are healed, that is good. But if people heal on their own but an enterprising “energy healer” takes credit for it, that is bad, for now the energy healer is in a prime position to exploit them. At best, they will waste money. At worst, they will eschew effective treatment for serious conditions, or even accept treatments which are themselves dangerous without having any hope of helping the patient. Sometimes the consequences are lethal, such as diabetics who have succumbed to their disease because they believed their “energy healers” and did not monitor their blood sugar or take insulin. That’s why I care.

    If you don’t care . . . well, that’s your prerogative. You are free to ignore me if you wish. But I do not speak only for you. This is about far more than just you, and other people will read this.

  32. #32 Calli Arcale
    February 4, 2010

    Lisa @ 27

    Quackwatch is funded by the pharmaceutical companies. They pay to have negative garbage written on the internet. Then they pay big bucks to optimize the website so that it appears first in a google search. They are scared shitless that people will actually start PREVENTING illness and stop buying their drugs.

    I didn’t respond to a similar claim in the last post because I wanted to save my response to this claim for your post: that pharmaceutical companies prefer to keep people sick.

    Actually, this is not true. This is because effective medicine always outsells ineffective medicine for the same complaint (which is why they bother going to all the expense of clinical trials — the payoff is huge). Why do you think Viagra makes more money than powdered tiger penis? Because unlike the powdered tiger penis, Viagra actually works. (Well, actually some folks will now believe that powdered tiger penis does work, because some traditional chinese medicine providers have started spiking their product with sildenafil — the active ingredient in Viagra.) Other companies immediately leaped on the bandwagon, making similar products to exploit Pfizer’s accidental discovery. Thus were born Cialis and Levitra, both of which are big sellers. And they’re such big sellers for the simple reason that they work.

    Fake drugs do not sell as well. They do sell, make no mistake, and they are typically a lot cheaper to produce, so a lot of companies do in fact make ineffective drugs. This includes herbal supplements, homeopathic remedies, and even some approved pharmaceuticals. There is very little evidence supporting old drugs like the cough suppressant dextromethorphan, but it’s still in a lot of cold and cough medicines, and people keep buying it. But they keep buying it largely because there isn’t an alternative. They’re desperate, and so companies exploit that, seeing a market niche and filling it. If somebody comes up with a drug that really does what Dimetapp and others claim to do, I predict they’ll wipe those old products out of the market practically overnight.

    Medicines for chronic illnesses sort of fit what you describe; drug companies like making a product that they know people will be forced to buy for decades to come. But that doesn’t mean the chronically ill people don’t really need the medicine. Don’t ask a diabetic to give up the insulin, or my mom to give up her synthroid, or me to give up the albuterol inhaler that I carry with me, or my grandfather to give up his warfarin (unless he gets a filter put in, though I think they found him a poor candidate for that).

    You also make another claim — that Quackwatch is funded by pharmaceutical companies (it isn’t — it’s funded by private donations, and honestly doesn’t have a very large operating budget anyway as it’s basically Dr Barrett’s hobby) and that pharmaceutical companies pay to have “negative garbage” written on the Internet. I don’t believe this is true, that the pharmaceutical companies pay people to diss alt med. For one thing, they don’t want to burn bridges — they don’t want to diss something which they might someday try to sell themselves. For another, they have far more effective ways to manipulate market forces. The biggest are direct-to-consumer advertising, free samples*, and good old-fashioned bribery. Oh, they don’t call it bribery; they call it free education, free meals, free vacations, even cheap crap like free pens and sticky notes. But it definitely gives them undue influence over doctors. Some clinics have started banning the cheap crap, but what to do about the expensive stuff? Last time I went hunting was with my dad. A drug rep was paying, and at the end, we got free doses of Lymerix vaccine (only later proven ineffective) and a lecture about the Lyme organism and how wonderful Lyme vaccination would be which counted as continuing education credits for my dad! I mean good grief! In my profession, I could be thrown in jail for accepting that level of a gift. But it happens all the time in medicine.

    So the pharmaceutical industry is crooked as hell. But they don’t have a vast network of bloggers and other folks paid to write nasty stuff about alt med on the Internet. Why would they? They don’t need it. They’re doing quite well with the old methods of screwing around with people. This is why I firmly believe that four things need to happen, legislatively, in this country:

    1) Ban or at least tightly-regulate direct-to-consumer advertising.

    2) Ban drug company sponsorship of continuing education credit lectures. They can still pay for lectures and things, but it shouldn’t count as a continuing education credit, because that’s a massive conflict of interest.

    3) Set a firm upper limit on the value of gift a doctor can accept from a supplier representative, with this limit being very low. (One digit would be preferable. I think pens are okay. But some doctors almost never have to buy their own lunches, and that’s a bad sign.)

    4) Repeal DSHEA: everything making medical claims should be treated exactly the same way, because it all has exactly the same potential for abuse.

    * The free sample is probably the oldest method of all, and even illegal drug pushers use it. I have mixed feelings about it in the pharmaceutical industry. On the one hand, it’s great for folks who have no money; doctors can help them. On the other hand, it’s a great way to shunt them towards a particular brand when they may not really need that brand in particular, and may not be in their best interests in the long term.

  33. #33 Joseph
    February 4, 2010

    Lisa’s claim about Quackwatch is extraordinary and it would be of general interest if true. I think Lisa needs to support her statement or retract it. In other words, put up or shut up.

  34. #34 Calli Arcale
    February 4, 2010

    Ryan @ 29:

    They are taking on the hard cases. The cases are all documented in a report called “a statistical validation of raindrop technique”. It was compiled by Dr. David Stewart. I think you can order it on amazon.com. It is filled with testimonies from all over the world from people who have been helped by raindrop massage.

    Is that some sort of study? Because it looks like nothing more than a collection of personal testimonies. Why not anything available on PubMed? Was this study (if it indeed is a study and not just an extended marketing effort) ever published in a peer-reviewed journal?

    One of the hallmarks of quackery is reluctance to expose studies to peer review, a process designed to weed out incompetence and fraud (though it is not foolproof, and bad studies do get through). That reluctance was displayed by Merck during the Vioxx scandal. If Dr Stewart has not published his results properly, I find it likely that he is engaging in the same sorts of shenanigans. But since he is not promoting something over which there is much regulation, he will not be caught. Merck was caught. I’m not distrustful of alt med because I think Big Pharma is trustworthy. I’m distrustful of alt med because nobody’s forcing them to give up the information necessary to check their claims.

  35. #35 Miranda
    February 4, 2010

    Lisa @ 27

    I went to the site in the link you provide, and noted from the main page that they sell many products. The description of those products include the statement “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

    Do you know where I can find essential oils that *will* help me breath better? I would feel more confident sending money to someone who at least says they will help me.

  36. #36 jon
    February 4, 2010

    That is a disclaimer that everyone in the alternative medicine field is recquired to label their products with. They are not allowed to say that it “cures without any doubt”.

    As for your breathing problem. I would suggest the essential oil of peppermint.

  37. #37 Calli Arcale
    February 4, 2010

    jon — strictly speaking, a manufacturer need only use that statement if they are not interested in proving whether their product actually works. Prove it works, and you don’t need to make that statement.

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