Your Friday Dose of Woo: Naturopathy and “bioresonance”


It’s been a long and entertaining week. Well, at least part of the week was entertaining. After all, it was hard not to be mightily amused at what happened when Dr. Mehmet Oz, known to the world as America’s Doctor but to skeptics as America’s Quack, asked his Twitter followers to ask him anything under the hashtag #OzsInBox. It was, to put it mildly, a train wreck, but to skeptics it was an enormously entertaining train wreck. It seems fitting to finish it off with yet another example that provides compelling evidence of just how quacky naturopathy is. Why? Because it’s a point that can’t be emphasized too many times, any more than it can be emphasized too many times how dangerous and pseudoscientific antivaccine views are. Besides, the woo in this story is of such a level and quality (if you can call it that), that I think it qualifies for a segment of Your Friday Dose of Woo.

Unfortunately, I frequently see articles and stories about naturopaths in various media outlets that represent naturopathy as though it were evidence-based, just another flavor of medicine, as, for instance, nephrology is one “flavor” of internal medicine or minimally invasive surgery is one “flavor” of surgery. In other words, it’s presented as though it were a legitimate medical specialty, without one whit of skepticism. For example, Anna Murphy wrote an article for The Telegraph entitled Alternative health: what is naturopathy?, which basically consists of an interview with a naturopath named Katrin Hempel, who runs Natural Therapies Clinic in London.

For example, the article starts badly and goes downhill from there:

It is perhaps easier to list what the naturopath Katrin Hempel doesn’t offer her clients than what she does. “Bioresonance and live blood analysis, acupuncture, biopuncture, infusion therapy, oxyvenation…”

In her native Germany, the 37-year-old tells me, it is normal for one individual to offer such a wide range of therapies, normal too that they should be used alongside conventional medical treatment.

“Germany has a long tradition of natural medicine, so it’s more common to find conventional doctors who have also studied natural medicine and use these modalities. Here we are at least 20 years behind.”

If what Hempel says is true, I’d say that it’s good to be 20 years behind. Twenty years ago, quackery of the sort that’s become so popular and, unfortunately, seemingly respected in some quarters, was much less tolerated. Certainly, it wasn’t found in academic medicine, a phenomenon I like to refer to as the infiltration of quackademic medicine, at nearly the frequency it is today. Unfortunately, naturopathy is a big part of this infiltration. the most blatant recent example that comes to mind is the traditional Chinese medicine clinic started at the venerable and once-respectable Cleveland Clinic earlier this year. Elsewhere, although perhaps not with as much enthusiasm as the Cleveland Clinic, medical schools and academic medical centers are cozying up to naturopaths, whose “specialty” consists, as I like to say, of a veritable cornucopia of nearly every kind of quackery imaginable, including The One Quackery To Rule Them All, homeopathy, which is an actual requirement in naturopathy schools and as part of the naturopath licensing examination (NPLEX). Meanwhile, for the second year in a row, Congress has declared a week in October Naturopathic Medicine Week.

I wonder if they know what naturopaths say when they think no one is listening.

It actually rather sounds like what Hempel says in this article:

As diagnosis tools Hempel uses live blood analysis or a bioresonance machine. (“Every cell in the body puts out a certain electromagnetic frequency, that can be measured – a healthy stomach cell sounds different to a healthy brain cell – and the machine can put the right resonance back in, to trigger deep healing.”)

The most common problems she sees are related to the digestive and nervous systems: “These are the two fundamental imbalances in the civilised world.” Their cause? “Stress, mental and emotional – it has such a big impact on every cell in the body.”

Aside from nutritional therapy, acupuncture and biopuncture (in which the needles contain homeopathic injectibles), she uses infusion therapy (“if your digestion isn’t working properly there is a malabsorption of nutrients”).

She says her work is about prevention as much as problem-solving: “Bioresonance can pick up a condition before it manifests as a disease,” she claims.

So much nonsense. So little time. Live blood cell analysis, for instance, involves taking a drop of blood from the patient and putting it on a microscope slide under a glass cover to keep it from drying out. The practitioner then looks at the blood under a microscope, usually hooked up to a video camera, and takes pictures. The technique is called a number of things besides live blood cell analysis, such as dark-field video analysis, nutritional blood analysis, and many others. Usually, the cells are observed under dark field, which is a type of microscopy that makes objects appear to stand out against a dark background. Virtually always live cell analysis is performed by chiropractors or naturopaths. Perhaps its quackiest proponent (at least the proponent most regularly featured here on this blog) is Robert O. Young, who, among his acid-base woo, is a big fan of live blood cell analysis.

Of course, doctors do look at blood under the microscope to diagnose problems, but nothing like what quacks who use live blood cell analysis claim, such as the ability to diagnose all sorts of nutritional deficiencies and chronic diseases. Hempel is no different. Just look at what her website says about it:

Live blood analysis can be beneficial for the following conditions:
Arthritis, weakened immune system (recurrent cold – and flu’s), gastro-intestinal tract disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory conditions like Chron’s disease or ulcerative colitis, leaky gut, as well as allergies, hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, anemia and many more!

Live Blood testing can be especially useful in chronic, on-going conditions, that have not responded well to other treatments, as with darkfield microscopy many underlying factors that could be fuelling the condition can be detected, which aren’t always evident with other means.

It is an excellent preventative and prophylactic measure as usually changes in the blood can be seen long before the symptoms manifest or progress, so disease may be prevented from developing.

No, no, no, no, no. Diagnoses made from live blood cell analysis and real diagnoses are related only by coincidence, if even then. I do love the part where Hempel proclaims that looking at blood cells on a computer screen with her clients is a “great way to learn more about your own health.” No, it’s more a great way to impress people with insufficient scientific background to recognize that what naturopaths say about those glowing red blood cells on a dark background is complete and utter nonsense.

That nonsense is as nothing compared to the other related nonsense offer, though. I’m referring to dry blood analysis, which Hempel calls an “oxidative stress test.” What this involves is simply letting the blood “dry” (i.e., clot) and then looking at the clot under the microscope to diagnose disease and nutritional problems, such as “bowel health, functionality of the lymphatic system, antioxidant deficiency and much more.” If anything, Dry blood analysis is even less plausible and credible than live blood cell analysis, but they are both, as Mark Crislip so aptly put it, modern auguries, except that they aren’t so modern. They go back a long way. The video camera is simply a new wrinkle to sell the technique to the rubes, and even that’s not that new. It’s just been made easier by inexpensive computer and video technology. I started to watch a video on Hempel’s page, but it was so full of woo-speak, I had to stop for now.

Hempel also touts “bioresonance.” (I wonder if it’s homeopathic bioresonance.) Actually, bioresonance is a fantastically amusing bit of quackery involving a device that is claimed to be able to…well, let’s just let Hempel tell sell it on her website:

Bioresonance works on the principle that every living cell emits a healthy frequency, which can be detected, if disease processes evolve the vibrational output changes, which can be measured.

Bio-resonance is a kind of energy medicine (electro acupuncture or homeopathy are in the same rubric) or form of vibrational healing, which goes back several decades. The scientist Dr. Royal Rife discovered that pathogens (virus/bacteria) emit a certain unique frequency, and can be destroyed by exposure to a specific (inverted) frequency, without any negative effect for the body. He claimed he was able to cure cancer with a similar method, but faced extreme hostility and suppression by a powerful conspiracy headed by the AMA (American Medical Association).

Yes, Royal Rife faced extreme hostility from the conventional medical establishment because he was peddling an pseudoscientific bit of quackery that had no real basis in science. In any case, the specific bioresonance machine that Hempel uses is one of a number of similar machines out there that claim to do the same sorts of things, Sensitiv Imago. It’s an amazing bit of woo! According to the company website, it’s based on a technique known as MORA created by Dr. F. Morrel and E. Rashe, a doctor and an engineer respectively in 1977 in Germany. This is the technique that later came to be known as “bioresonance healing.”

So how is Sensitiv Imago claimed to work? You’ll love this next passage. I did:

MORA (frequency compensation) is an energy informative influence on the cells of the tissue and organs which causes them to change to their ideal condition (energy informative etalons of the healthy organism are registered in the memory of the device).

The level of the improvement can be traced during the MORA session on the screen in real time. Chemical medicines cure the symptoms of the disease, but don’t treat its cause. Sometimes they are necessary, but only nature can make a complete recovery. The human body is a complicated self-regulating biological system which radiates weak electromagnetic oscillations as everything in nature. These oscillations regulate all the levels of the human organism (sub cellular, cellular, organic, systemic) and keeps it in a healthy condition.

When the processes of self-regulation are violated in the organism there form and accumulate “incorrect”, pathological electromagnetic oscillations that lead to the development of different illnesses. Nowadays the method of bioresonance (MORA) is the only single fundamentally new method of non-drug treatment and prophylaxis.

Oscillations. Vibrations. Quacks are obsessed with them. All is vibration, which is sort of true, but definitely not in this way. In any case, according to the company, MORA is based on three principles:

  • Usage of the personal electromagnetic oscillations
  • Separation of a patient’s electromagnetic oscillations into physiological (“healthy”) and pathological (“unhealthy”)
  • Inversion and suppression of the pathological oscillations. Restoring and strengthening of the physiological oscillations

In other words, it’s magic! It’s not just magic, but it’s magic that, if you believe the company, can bring about cures through “the stimulation of the host’s defences, excretion of toxins and toxic metabolic products, deactivation of infections, tissue regeneration, and stimulation of restorative processes in an organism.” Apparently, it’s supposed to be especially good for “chronic skin problems, blackhead eruptions, warts, loss of hair, endocrine, hormonal disorders (frustration), migraines, weakened immunity system, osteoporosis, arthritis, psychosomatic over fatigue and many others.”

“Frustration” is a hormonal disorder?

But, wait! There’s more. So versatile is the Sensitivo Imago system that it give you not just one, but two forms of “bioresonance” healing! It’s not just MORA, but just straight up BRT, which, I assume, stands for “bioresonance therapy.” Particularly amusing is how BRT co-opts the language of homeopathy in hilariously woo-ey ways. For example:

The device uses an original technique of automated production of energy and information preparations – “spectronosodes” (spectronosode is a spectral frequency, characterizing any process or preparation). “Spectronosodes” are used for getting the special energy and information preparations, similar to homeopathic ones having a precise aimed action.

The effect of spectronosodes comes to awaking of hidden reserves of the organism. That explains the wide range of influence of the preparations and absence of side effects and contraindications when application of traditional medicinal means takes place at the same time.

The energy and information preparations – “spectronosodes” are produced with the help of the option “INF transfer” using the bioresonance chamber (a bioresonance can, a little glass) circuited with the hardware-software complex “Sensitiv Imago”.

Thus the information and wave influence of the equipment (combined influence of light, coherent laser beam and of acoustic electrical signal) is directed to a medium placed in the resonance chamber (put into a resonance can); as media can be used: water solution, water- alcohol solution, sugar or paraffin globules. In our case are used: distillation water, 50%-spiritus, homeopathic sugar globules. The bioresonance preparation made in this way will be given to the tested patient to be taken according to the principles of taking the homeopathic preparations and the bioresonance preparations.

That’s right. It’s basically homeopathic nosodes tarted up with a whole lot of woo about “resonance” and a computer program. If you want the full woo effect, there are multiple videos showing how this device works. I didn’t watch all of them, but wow. The first video is boring, just showing how to enter information into the application, but the second one begins to show the true woo that’s in this machine. There are lists of things like “systemic yin filter” and “systemic yang filter” for “detoxification-adaptation.” There’s a section on homotoxicology, which is pure quackery common in autism “biomed” woo. Naturally, it’s a variant of “detoxification” quackery.

Basically, the Sensitivo Imago machine is the EPFX/QXCI Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface, just without the headache-inducing user interface, if you remember that. Actually, the interface is only marginally less headache-inducing.

Then, of course, there’s the other woo that Hempel offers: Naturopathy (including Food intolerance and sensitivity testing, which is done using the Meridian Stress Assessment System, which uses the “latest health screening technology combined with acupuncture principles”), iridology, acupuncture, and, of course, biopuncture. (Remember biopuncture, the bastard offspring of homeopathy and acupuncture?)

This is the sort of “medicine” The Telegraph has promoted. There was a time when physicians would dismiss this sort of stuff as the pseudoscience it is, but unfortunately it’s not hard to find examples of acupuncture, homeopathy, and various other similar modalities in academic medical centers. What’s next? Reading entrails?