Your Friday Dose of Woo: Harry Potter called and wants his broom back

It's Friday, which means that it's time once again to delve deeply into the world of woo, all for your edification and (I hope) education. Even though I started out with less motivation than usual for tending to the blog, it actually turned out to be yet another rather eventful and surprisingly productive week on the old blog, with topics ranging from plumbing the depths of antivaccination lunacy, to doing some nice straight science blogging about the anticancer drug dichloroacetate (which actually gave me some ideas for my research), to discussing the "individualization" of treatments in alternative medicine, and finishing up with the Discovery Institute's latest sockpuppet, Dr. Michael Egnor. Given the utter embarrassment that Dr. Egnor routinely brings to surgeons everywhere concerned with good science, it was actually pretty easy when I dipped into my Folder of Woo to look for this week's victim--I mean, subject.

After Dr. Egnor's "I can't see how evolution could have produced so much biological complexity so it must be wrong" and "God of the gaps" pontificating, I feel the need to make, if you'll excuse the term, a clean sweep of things. Yes, I feel the need to clean out all those "toxins" and all that "negative" energy that leads me to want to keep applying my infamous brand of Respectful Insolence⢠so liberally to pseudoscientists like Dr. Egnor (at least with respect to evolution; I have no idea what kind of scientist he is otherwise). Fortunately, Le Canard Noir had already shown me the way a couple of weeks ago. I had just forgotten about it until I delved into my Folder of Woo the other day! Yes, what better instrument to achieve this "clean sweep" than the Healing Broom, a beautiful gem of woo that earned the coveted perfect score of ten canards? If you believe the claims of its makers, the Healing Broom is every bit as magical as Harry Potter's famous flying broom.

What, you may ask, is the Healing Broom? Ah, my friends, it is the answer to all the woo needs you have or could ever have. It'll clean out those toxins and realign your qi to only the finest vibrational energy. Just ask Ronald J. Williams, M.Ac., Lic.Ac, of the Salem Bodywork Cooperative:

By using the Healing Broom, one can increase circulation of "Qi" (or energy) and blood, either to an area of concern or throughout the whole body. The stimulation caused by the broom and one's holding of breath and tensing of the muscles affects many levels. It causes the cells to vibrate into an excited state, thus giving more energy to the internal body. It decreases lactic acid and breaks up toxic accumulations. It will also greatly increase the amount of Qi in the area being stimulated. This in turn will release stagnation in the meridians and increase the Qi flow to the internal organs. It will also stimulate the bone marrow, thus efficiently producing red blood cells.

It is my opinion that the Healing Broom should be included in one's practice. In treatments such as arthritis, chronic fatigue, osteoporosis and poor circulation, it is a most valuable tool.

That's just what I like: My cells vibrating into an excited state. I wonder if this thing's an aphrodisiac. Probably not. After all, just look at it:


I'm sure you're wondering two things. First, what is that smaller metal thing next to the Healing Broom? Why, that's the Tooth-shaped Rolling Magnetic Acupressure Stick. Isn't it obvious? If you're going to flagellate yourself with the wondrously powerful Healing Broom, you're going to want to do acupressure afterwards, and mabe even reflexology--better yet, acupressure and reflexology with magnets. The second thing you're probably wondering is: Why are the fibers of the "business" end of the broom made of thick metal wire? That certainly looks like it would hurt to use it as shown in this advertisement:


After all, doesn't the above Healing Broom look a lot like this:


The difference, of course, is that religious self-flagellation rituals like the one depicted above usually use rope or leather devices, and even that can draw blood, although some use small chains. So, there must be a really good reason to be using a metal broom instead of leather or rope, mustn't there? Oh, ye of little faith! Of course there's a very good reason that the broom must be made of metal. It's simple, really:

In order to maximize stimulation, the products are made of a special blend of alloy to yield an ideal weight. When the Healing Broom is used, the metal rods clash against each other releasing ions. As a result, the metal sticks may appear dark after a few uses. Use mild dish detergent to clean the broom tips. Wipe with paper towel to dry.

There, doesn't it all make sense, now? And the benefits of the Healing Broom are incredible (as in "not believable"):

The Healing Broom can benefit almost every adult in a holistic way. For example, athletes and gym enthusiasts can use it as a warm-up before the sporting event or workout, senior citizens for daily low-impact workout, martial artists to relieve sore and achy muscles, computer/office workers to ease and relieve carpel tunnel and Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), busy business men and women who can't find time to stay in shape, and holistic health conscious individuals who want to strengthen their inner body resilience. The following summary points describe the general benefits you can gain from regular usage of the Healing Broom.

  1. Improved blood circulation: helps relieve aches and pains.
  2. Vibration of cells back to normalcy: cleanses off impurities, help cells shift back to their correct position.
  3. Exercise: stretches and flexes muscles.
  4. Stimulation of potential energy: When the human body is stimulated, it creates a natural reaction. A potential energy of self-defense automatically switches on and stimulates to activate cells and helps repair our body's biological tissues, which leads to improved physique and health. This is known to some as the "Knife Therapy Theory" in which every living creature has this kind of potential self-defense energy. An example, when fruits from an old tree become inferior, farmers usually cut a few places on the tree trunk, branches and roots. This stimulates the tree's potential life energy that causes newly born fruits from the same tree to become big and beautiful. This is the concept that the Healing Broom is based on. When the aching feeling passes on to the hypothalamus in your brain, it secretes H.G.H. (Growth Hormone) to nurse and heal affected areas.
  5. Chi Practice: breathing therapy strengthens internal constitution.
  6. Holistic Healing: stimulates your body's acupuncture points, meridians, and reflex areas to activate your body cells and avoids dependency on medication and negative side effects.
  7. Persevere and results will follow: Although results vary for each individual, make slapping entire body your daily regimen to help improve your overall wellness.

I wonder if it will do anything for neurosurgeons with creationist tendencies. Maybe Dr. Egnor would like to give it a try. Just a thought. In any case, that's just what I want to do: Slap my entire body every day with a metal broom. It sure sounds energizing, if pain energizes you. I wonder if it would be too much for me to point out here that people are not trees, and "cutting a few places on the tree trunk and branches" won't make us become big and beautiful, unless it's done by a truly talented plastic surgeon. You know, it just occurred to me. The whole reference above to cutting seems to be an implicit admission that, if you hit yourself with a metal broom, even if you do it fairly lightly, you will break skin from time to time and you will bleed. Maybe the real reason the broom becomes dark with use is a combination of oxidation and blood. Maybe that explains the recommendation not to use the broom if you're prone to bleeding and these additional recommendations:

  • Do not wear light color clothing when using the product to avoid staining.
  • Wash your face after slapping on your face
  • You can use the broom cover to cover the product up before use. When slapping the head area and upper orbit, you can have the product covered up to avoid hair or eyebrow damage.

Staining? Staining with blood, I'm guessing. I have a better idea: If you're going to slap your head and upper orbit, instead of using a metal broom with a cloth cover on it, why not use something nice and soft, like a big fluffy pillow? Of course, my favorite warning is the one where they tell you, "Do not slap on reproductive organs or artificial heart." Good advice, particularly the former if you're a male. The thought of hitting my nether regions with a metal broom, as you can imagine (particularly if you're male) does not sound at all appealing.

So, Orac, you may ask. This is weird enough, but is it really YFDoW-worthy? If you still have doubts, I point you to this instructional video below. Tell me that it isn't one of the more bizarre bits of woo that I've ever presented:

Come on, you can use the Healing Broom to perform "bone marrow washing" to cleanse and produce blood cells more efficiently! Just ask the acupuncturist. I have to admit that I'm having trouble visualizing how hitting yourself with a metal broom will "wash" your bone marrow out, but maybe that's just me. Or maybe it causes you to bleed enough that the bone marrow has to into high gear to replace the lost red blood cells. Of course, we're informed that, you want to think of it in terms of Western science, by whacking yourself across the back, butt, arms, legs, chest, and head, you will bring the cells to an "excited state." i-2b306b6b2b5501cf4052984909a22090-oakie.jpgAnd who wouldn't want that? (I do question, though, whether the same result couldn't be obtained with a bit of Starbucks extra high test coffee.) Of course, "excited state" is usually a term reserved for chemistry in referring to the orbits of electrons in atoms, usually to be followed by the electron dropping to an lower-energy orbital and releasing the extra energy as a photon. I didn't know that it could apply to entire cells, but, then, when it comes to woo, I guess I learn something new every day (or at least every Friday).

Still not convinced? Well, take a look at this nice young woman as she instructs you in the finer points of how to use the healing broom on your arms, head (don't forget to put the broom cover over the broom and to grit your teeth so that you "can slap your head properly"), back, and legs. And, above all, don't forget to learn how to use the Tooth-shaped Rolling Magnetic Acupressure Stick to deliver magnetic therapy to your body wherever and whenever you need it. (I particularly like the look on her face at the very end of this last video.)

What are we missing now? Let's see. Woo? Check. Bizarre "mechanism of action" that makes little sense physiologically and relies on a nonmeasurable, amorphous "life energy." Check. Testimonials...wait a minute. We haven't had testimonials yet. Fear not, they're here, and various woo-meisters who use the Healing Broom on their clients praise it here.

So, why would this device be appealing? Why would people shell out $89.99 for the set of the broom and the Tooth-shaped Rolling Magnetic Acupressure Stick, plus either $9.99 for the instructional DVD or $6.99 for the illustrated manual? Well, I'm sure that it probably does temporarily improve blood flow to the areas that are slapped, much in the same way your face turns red due to pain and an inflammatory reaction when you're slapped with a hand. Also, I have little doubt that hitting yourself with this broom all over your body can be a pretty good workout that leaves you feeling as refreshed as a normal workout, as long as you you're careful not to hit yourself too hard or get any blood on those nice white workout clothes. Unfortunately, there doesn't look like there's much of a margin for error. And besides, wouldn't a workout at the gym followed nice massage accomplish many of the same things?

It just occurred to me, though. If people will pay good money to buy a metal implement with which to flagellate themselves, maybe they'll pay good money to purchase something else with which to hit themselves and thus "improve blood flow" and "stimulate the flow of qi" in the treated areas. Yeah, I have just the ticket:

Sorry, it was the best YouTube of this I could find, but you Python fans out there definitely get the idea. If you don't, maybe this will clarify it a bit:

Ah, yes. Gets 'em every time. How could the marks--I mean, customers--resist? How much, I wonder, would the purchasers of the Healing Broom pay for the Healing Board of Antioch, with which to slap one's head, vibrate one's cells back to normalcy, and stimulate potential life energy?

At least $49.99, I'm hoping, plus an extra $9.99 for the instructonal DVD on how not to lose consciousness while utilizing the Healing Board of Antioch.

More like this

Man, all these years I've been trying to make a legitimate living in useful industries and now higher education - when I could've been selling self-flagellation devices at a huge markup?

Oh, the wasted time.

By anonimouse (not verified) on 09 Mar 2007 #permalink

Hmmm. Some of those statements look like claims that would make them medical devices. Medical devices are regulated by the FDA, the same agency that regulates the "anticancer drug dichloroacetate".

Again - Comments on the regulation of "woo" are requested: 8756 Federal Register / Vol. 72, No. 38 / Tuesday, February 27, 2007 / Notices…

Draft Guidance for Industry on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Products and Their Regulation by the Food and Drug Administration

For best results, make sure to take a video and show it to your friends and family. The sheer realisation of embarresment will do wonders for the blood circulation in your face...

By Andrew Dodds (not verified) on 09 Mar 2007 #permalink

Oooh this looks naughty. Also, much sleeker than low-tech birch branches and sauna.
Let me repeat: I see clear fetish potential in this metal broom. Should newage people fail to spend their money on it, a sex shop is always an option. Didn't the producer have precisely this in mins, I wonder...Kinky woo...

By hipparchia (not verified) on 09 Mar 2007 #permalink

I first took it as something you'd use to hit woo-woos. Then I realised it's a portable brick wall, to be used when banging one's head.

One more potential use : if you're a jazz drummer, you can use a pair of these to play, as they look very much like jazz brushes (a bit oversized perhaps). But with the rolling stick, I don't really see what you can do. Strike a triangle, perhaps ?

By Christophe Thill (not verified) on 09 Mar 2007 #permalink

Whip It - Devo

Crack that whip
Give the past the slip
Step on a crack
Break your momma's back

When a problem comes along
You must whip it
Before the cream sits out too long
You must whip it
When something's going wrong
You must whip it

now whip it
into shape
shape it up
get straight
go forward
move ahead
try to detect it
it's not too late
to whip it
whip it good

When a good time turns around
You must whip it
You will never live it down
Unless you whip it
No one gets their way
Until they whip it

I say whip it
Whip it good


Wikipedia comments:

"Whip It" is the title of a 1980 single by the New Wave band Devo. It appears on the album Freedom of Choice. There were two 7" single releases of "Whip It", one backed with the track "Snowball" (which appears on "Freedom of Choice," though an alternate version) and one backed with "Turn Around" (a song later covered by Nirvana). "Whip It" was Devo's biggest hit, and peaked at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

DEVO is a good word to associate with anti-evolutionary woo and the egregious Egnor. Are we not men?

I think you need a picture of EneMan with that thing, though the thought is pretty terrifying.

Wait a sec. "Dr." Whatzisfart in the instructional video tells us that this thing was invented 1500 years ago by some Indian guy. But...

the products are made of a special blend of alloy to yield an ideal weight. When the Healing Broom is used, the metal rods clash against each other releasing ions.

I knew the Indus River inhabitants were advanced, but I had no idea they had already invented modern metallurgy a millennium and a half ago! Friggin' Bessemer stole it from them, the bastard.

By Johnny Vector (not verified) on 09 Mar 2007 #permalink

How exactly does one slap ones artificial heart? How did they come up with this as one of the warnings? I can only imagine the brainstorming session that produced these too ideas.

One more potential use : if you're a jazz drummer, you can use a pair of these to play, as they look very much like jazz brushes (a bit oversized perhaps).

I wonder if I could use these to channel Tony Williams or possibly bring him back from the other side...

Clearly this makes TCM obsolete. Who need to visit a healer and pay hundreds when you can increase the circulation of Qi in your own home for only $50. Anybody that doesn't believe that I challenge to prove that the Healing Broom doesn't increase the circulation of Qi. =)

The shot of Kaptain Robert Rodriguez makes me think of an obvious use for the Healing Broom: smacking the crap out of the bad guys in a martial films. Its not hard to imagine them in the hands of Jackie Chan laying some "healing" on the heavies in one of his films.

I almost fell off the couch when the guy cited Boddhidarma as the source for the Healing Broom. I wonder how he explains the tragic loss of this practice in the Zen tradition for the last fifteen hundred years.....

But with the rolling stick, I don't really see what you can do. Strike a triangle, perhaps ?

Since it looks like it would fit snugly in a 1/4" jack, you could use it to show the bassist who the boss of the rhythm section is by breaking his amp.

Orac this a spectacular and hillarious post. Thank you!
However, if you read some of the quotes:

"by whacking yourself across the back, butt, arms, legs, chest, and head, you will bring the cells to an "excited state."

I think you are taking this a little too literally, it is not the cells you hit that "excited" it is you, if you are a self-flagellating masochist, who has not quite yet come to terms with the idea of drawing blood for pleasure, but would jump at the chance if given some sort of woo excuse.

By old hippy (not verified) on 09 Mar 2007 #permalink

Oh, come on! This isn't woo! This is just a silly parody of woo! Right? Right??!

Hey, look:

It decreases lactic acid

Does this mean that the 0.01% of DCA users who actually have a mitochondrial disorder can now use the broom instead?[1] I imagine that superficial bruising from being whacked with a metal broom is probably a step up from the DCA side effects!

[1] I know that this doesn't *quite* make medical sense, just couldn't resist :)

Actually, martial artists do use something kind of like this, but not for "qi gong." It's actually used to build bone density by banging it across your shins and forearms.

Orac, you really do have to figure out how to turn off comments after a reasonable time. It is really silly for folks to post a comment after SIX months!