I love electronic gadgets and I’m an acupuncturist. There’s a group of electronic gadgets that some acupuncturists and naturopaths use that are claimed to be able diagnose diseases from allergies to cancer, help select remedies from homeopathics to Chinese herbs, and even deliver “vibrational medicine” from stored frequencies of herbs, all based on acupuncture meridians. That sounds fun! Why don’t I use an electrodiagnostic device? Perhaps I will, if someone can prove to me that they work.
In fact, I’ve got a $500+ offer on the table for someone who can pass my simple test and convince me that these machines can reliably do one simple task. If someone passes my test, I’ll let everyone know, publicly apologize for insulting proponents of similar techniques, take classes offered in these systems, help the person who passes my test write up the results for publication in a scientific journal, and work to split the James Randi Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge. We’d get half a million dollars each while making a historically significant contribution to science and medicine. Neat, huh?
Yesterday I had a slight glimmer of doubt, thinking I may lose my $500 to Heiner Fruehauf’s MORA Machine. Really, that would be fine with me. If he’s right, he certainly deserves $500 and a public apology from me after some of the things I’ve written about him and his formula line, Classical Pearls.
What if Heiner’s MORA electrodiagnostic device just measures how sweaty someone’s hands are and how much pressure they put on a probe? Then it is likely that he has tricked and deceived himself (perhaps unintentionally) and many patients, students, and other practitioners over the years.
Why does it matter?
Heiner has introduced a line of Chinese herb formulas called Classical Pearls to the market. One of them, Ocean Pearls, is marketed as “a remedy for toxic conditions in the lower burner, such as venereal disease, abnormal cervical changes due to HPV, and prostate and ovarian cancers.” Yes, this is one pill being promoted to acupuncturists who look up to Heiner as a trustworthy scholar in the Classical Chinese Medicine field. They, in turn, sell it to their patients with the same claims that it is a superior remedy for gonorrhea, herpes, and ovarian cancer. There is a whole line of formulas, each with its own claims. I am certain that the MORA machine was instrumental in helping Heiner decide what his his herbs can do. I suspect he even uses the MORA device to diagnose those conditions (cancers, venereal diseases, and other minor complaints) and probably to proclaim them cured as well.
So basically he’s either right (and is a genius deserving of widespread recognition for his medical and scientific breakthroughs), or he’s wrong (and is a deluded charlatan who is defrauding patients and acupuncturists, whether he consciously admits it or not). There may be some middle ground, where his machine is bunk but his formulas still work (my theory remains that his favorite herb Aconite mainly works due to its well-documented analgesic and anaesthetic effects which are largely opioid in nature). Given that the world can desperately use a cure for ovarian cancer, we should all encourage Classical Pearls to do good quality research to prove or disprove their claims.
Are you with me, dear reader? Is my thinking process flawed, or my aims unreasonable?
I’ll up the stakes a little bit
Whether or not Ocean Pearls actually is “a remedy for… venereal disease… and prostate and ovarian cancers,” it is illegal to market them with those claims attached, even if they are only sold to licensed acupuncturists. Those claims make his herbal supplements misbranded (they are not approved drugs at this point). This is, surprisingly, just a misdemeanor. However, if he has the intent to mislead and defraud, it is a felony. I’ve written quite a bit about the criminally corrupt pharmaceutical companies, namely Pfizer and Merck. I’m certainly no “shill” for them. Intent to mislead and defraud can be indicated by several actions, including attempts to keep regulators from seeing marketing materials. Of course, you’re supposed to get pre-market approval from the FDA before selling a new remedy for any disease, particularly cancer. Even if you loathe the FDA, I suspect you’d want to know a cancer treatment was shown to be safe and effective before choosing it for yourself or a loved one.
I’m not an outsider
In fact, I filled little glass vials with different Chinese herb granular extracts for Heiner’s MORA machine at his Portland clinic in the late 1990′s. I had recently graduated from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, heard great things about Heiner, volunteered as a student intern and filled granular formulas in his clinic, and gladly paid to go to a seminar on “Taoist Fingernail Diagnosis” he put on with Wang Qing Yu.
I have a Master’s Degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. I borrowed over $70,000 from Sallie Mae to get it, and started as a full time student of Traditional Chinese Medicine, esoteric studies, herbal medicine, nutrition, martial arts, etc. about 20 years ago. Before the internet! I know it sounds like ancient history now. Imagine if you were interested in something like acupuncture or herbal medicine and couldn’t go online to search for different ideas about it. Bookstores and libraries were the options back then, and most of the sections on alternative medicine were small and only contained books which were strongly promoting those traditions. I wanted to believe and wanted to learn to help people with body-mind-spirit techniques, both ancient and modern.
And I do help people with my natural medicine skills!
I’m still a full-time practitioner of acupuncture and herbal medicine. However, I’m spending more and more time writing and researching these days, because there are so many important and interesting things to explore and share. I sell what I feel are good quality Chinese herbs on my site, ancientway.com, though I try to do so in a legal and ethical way. That means I try not to sell highly toxic herbs (and I now put stickers on products with notes about potential toxicity as I ship them out), endangered species (which is unfortunately difficult as more TCM plants and animals I didn’t think were endangered are being listed), and don’t do online consultations (unlicensed practice of medicine across state lines) or categorize herbs on my site by disease category (i.e. Alzheimer’s herbs, cancer herbs, etc.). This type of approach has limited my sales, as there are so many other sites selling similar products which are glad to help people choose herbal cancer treatments, promote smuggled-in Chinese herbal remedies for “STD’s”, and generally prey on vulnerable and gullible people (which includes many other acupuncturists, who are targets for many seminars and products like astrological tuning fork therapy and NAET for allergies and autism).
This is part of my “disclosure statement” which is largely unheard of in the alternative medicine world. Given that I am curious to know the Truth, want to grow my business in legal and ethical ways, and want to continue gaining a following as an author and cartoonist, writing about these issues is part of my larger strategy for riches and fame. Well, I’d rather just have riches, as fame is usually more trouble than it’s worth…
I’m not really an uptight or super-conventional person. One of my “things” currently is colloidal gold and colloidal silver. Even when I’m excited about something like the alchemical use of gold in ancient Taoism, I tend to have critical things to write. The more I read about scientific research, the more interested I am in doing good quality, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded clinical research trials to find out how well gold works for improving cognitive function and intelligence. The world could certainly use an IQ boost!
It’s all about proving claims with good studies, which can be inexpensive
Among the excuses acupuncturists make for not doing good quality studies, one of the main ones is “they’re expensive.” As I’ve pointed out with my muscle testing 10 vial test kit (which I sell for $15 and demonstrate in video), scientifically testing some basic claims can be very easy and very cheap. When you’re selling treatments for serious diseases, seminars to teach methods, or fancy machines that go “ping,” it is the least you can do to take a little time to design a suitable test to show that your foundations are sound. Otherwise, you build a house on “woo.” Woo still sells, but the internet is changing things quickly, so scientific inquiry and skeptical criticism aren’t shelved in a different area of the store anymore. At some point, the lack of supportive evidence becomes a form of evidence on its own: that someone is willfully hiding the truth in order to make money.
Enough introduction, let’s get back to Electrodiagnostic Devices
The basic principle of Electrodermal testing is that everything has a specific vibration. Both allergens and medicines are said to have individual vibrations. By putting a substance in a tiny glass vial on a metal plate on a machine (like the Mora machine pictured above), the vibration of the test substance is purportedly introduced into the energetic field of the human body through holding probes on 2 spots in the body.
Different vials can be rapidly tested, and the machine gives a reading by moving a needle, putting a number on a display, or making a sound, all of which indicate the changing electrical resistance which goes through the probes on the test subject’s body.
Parasites, Poisons, and Panaceas
Many proponents of electrodermal testing are very interested in parasites. I went through a serious phase where I was into this theory, largely inspired by Hulda Clark’s (sadly disproven) concepts as published in _The Cure for All Cancers_ and _The Cure for All Diseases_. She theorized that all diseases were caused by a combination of parasites and pollutants (especially rubbing alcohol, benzene, & mercury fillings). She designed an electrodermal testing device she called the Dermatron as well as a treatment device called the Zapper. As an acupuncture student, I spent more time than I care to admit working with her system. I’d sell her books just to get rid of them, but am afraid someone may take them seriously so I’ll keep them in my book dungeon.
Hulda used her Dermatron to diagnose Cancer, AIDS, parasites, pollution, etc. She got in trouble in Indiana for diagnosing a medical investigator with AIDS and then telling her she could also cure it in 3 minutes with the Zapper. Because it’s a small world, my wife was roomates with one of Hulda Clark’s employees at the time. When Hulda ran off to Mexico, they had a hard time paying the rent.
Heiner uses the MORA machine to help him choose Chinese herbs to give to his patients. He is also very involved with parasite theories–he uses the old Chinese concept called “Gu.” He told me that he first picks the most likely herbs using his traditional training, then refines his choices using the MORA machine. The claim is that the machine’s readout reliably indicates whether an herb is good or bad for the patient holding the probes.
There’s no need to get so complicated, just test the damn thing!
My 10 vial test kit has 5 vials of Vitamin C and 5 vials of MSG. One could use water and gasoline, ginseng and rat poison, aconite and astroturf, or any other 2 substance, ideally one of which is thought to be “good” and one of which is “bad.” The nice thing about Vitamin C and MSG is they look the same.
The only easy way to tell these vials apart is to open them up–the MSG vials have blue Sharpie under the lids (making them even more energetically toxic and different than the Vitamin C vials). This makes it a blinded test, it is double-blinded if there are two people involved and they have mixed these up in a bag, box, or hat and draw them out randomly. I don’t think anyone needs a million dollar grant from the National Institute of Health to do this test.
If any of these Electrodermal diagnostic machines work, they should be able to reliably divide the vials into accurate groups of 5. Please note that if you do 20 rounds of 10 vials each, it’s likely that 1 round will have a 100% accurate score. Ignoring all of the inaccurate results is not a suitable way to do this. This takes a degree of honesty and integrity, which can’t be put in a vial (and is why strict controls are necessary when testing anyone who has a financial or emotional incentive to prove an unlikely theory).
Many proponents of Electrodermal testing state that if you put a toxic thing on the test plate, you can also add a treatment, like a homeopathic remedy, and it the detector will balance out. Hulda Clark claimed that if you know the frequency of a bacteria, virus, or parasite, you can feed that frequency in to shatter it like the legendary a crystal goblet shatters for an opera singer who hits the right note.
Working on that theory, homeopaths should be very eager to promote good quality research with these devices. ”High potency” homeopathic remedies all look the same. They all chemically test the same for modern lab equipment (i.e. as milk sugar pills). They don’t have any molecules of the original substance in them if their potency is beyond 6x. This is bad news for homeopaths, especially given that all good quality studies and systematic reviews have shown all high potency homeopathic remedies to be no better than placebo. This is despite the fact that one company makes $20 million per year off just one homeopathic remedy, Oscillococcinum (which is made from duck heart and liver).
Med J Aust. 2010 Apr 19;192(8):458-60.
Homeopathy: what does the “best” evidence tell us?
Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom. Edzard.Ernst@pms.ac.uk
To evaluate the evidence for and against the effectiveness of homeopathy.
The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (generally considered to be the most reliable source of evidence) was searched in January 2010.
Cochrane reviews with the term “homeopathy” in the title, abstract or keywords were considered. Protocols of reviews were excluded. Six articles met the inclusion criteria.
Each of the six reviews was examined for specific subject matter; number of clinical trials reviewed; total number of patients involved; and authors’ conclusions. The reviews covered the following conditions: cancer, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, asthma, dementia, influenza and induction of labour…
The findings of currently available Cochrane reviews of studies of homeopathy do not show that homeopathic medicines have effects beyond placebo.
The thought struck me that if a homeopath could put half of the contents of 10 bottles of homeopathic pills into vials marked only with a code inside the lid, then use an electrodiagnostic device to reliably match the frequencies of the 10 remedy bottles and the 10 identical vials when pulled out of a hat (they should make a distinct harmonic when the frequencies match), it would be an amazing and significant breakthrough for homeopathy as well as electrodiagnostic devices. The cost for that blinded study? Those little vials are about $0.35 each. The same type of study could be done with standard muscle testing (called applied kinesiology), pendulum dowsing, or flipping a magic coin. We don’t need to know how it works, just that it does.
Don’t hold your breath (unless you’re doing Pranayama)
I don’t want to spoil the chance for Heiner or anyone else to get my $500 and all of the goodies that come with winning my challenge, but similar things have already been tested. Before I cover a few of those, let it be clearly stated that there is plenty of bad research out there. Finding one study that says something works is not proof. Often times if you get the whole study and look at the methodology, you can see the flaws in how it was designed (such as the NAET autism study with no placebo group).
Let’s look at some of the research and history around these types of devices. Feel free to share other links, your thoughts, or personal experiences in the comments–I read them all!
Here is a page from a proponent of Mora therapy:
Most of these machines go back to Electroacupuncture According to Voll (EAV), from Germany. But some Germans aren’t fans of them:
Hautarzt. 1993 Jun;44(6):408-9.
["Allergy testing" with "Dr. Voll electroacupuncture"].[Article in German]
Klinik für Dermatologie und Allergie Davos.
Electroacupuncture according to Dr. Voll (EAV) is one of the numerous unconventional methods propagated for allergy testing in Germany. From an experimental examination for “drug testing” of this method, it can be concluded that EAV is unsuitable for any form of allergy testing.
From The British Medical Journal:
Is electrodermal testing as effective as skin prick tests for diagnosing allergies? A double blind, randomised block design study
Results: All the non-atopic participants completed all 3 testing sessions (810 individual tests); 774 (95.5%) of the individual tests conducted on the atopic participants complied with the testing protocol. The results of the electrodermal tests did not correlate with those of the skin prick tests. Electrodermal testing could not distinguish between atopic and non-atopic participants. No operator of the Vegatest device was better than any other, and no single participant’s atopic status was consistently correctly diagnosed.
Conclusion: Electrodermal testing cannot be used to diagnose environmental allergies.
The Vega test machine is another variation of this type of device.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for the Vega Test?
Four Vega-test practitioners, each with at least 10 years experience, agreed to participate in a study conducted by a proponent of EDT testing. 1 Thirty people volunteered to participate as patients. Half the volunteers had known allergies to house dust mites or cat dander (as determined by skin testing), while the others were not allergic to these allergens. Each participant was tested with six items in three separate sessions by each of three different operators of the Vega machine, resulting in a total of more than 1,500 separate allergy tests over the course of the study. The results showed that the Vega-test practitioners were unable to distinguish between allergic and non-allergic participants. In addition, no individual operator of the machine was more accurate than any other.
One of the only positive studies I found for allergy testing with a skin galvanometer device was from 1984 and had confusing methodology. It was funded by a mysterious religious fund and apparently wasn’t published in any journal. Anyhow, here’s one of the more interesting parts of the report:
In addition, the EAV technique uses actual food items to determine allergic reactions to these particular items. If a particular food item is placed on an aluminum plate, which is attached to the galvanometer, and the indicator drops, this is said to demonstrate the presence of allergy to the food item. If a diluted form of the food extract (resembling a homeopathic preparation) is placed on the aluminum plate, and equilibrium of “50” should be reestablished.
Perhaps I should have saved some time and just appealed to Wikipedia in the first place:
Electroacupuncture according to Voll or EAV is a pseudoscientific alternative medicine device purportedly used to diagnose ailments, but for which no credible evidence of diagnostic capability exists. Its import to the United States is effectively illegal as it is not licensed by the FDA.
Units reportedly sell for around $15,000 and are promoted for diagnosis of conditions including “parasites, food and environmental sensitivities, candida, nutritional deficiencies and much more.” It is promoted for diagnosis of allergies but “results are not reproducible when subject to rigorous testing and do not correlate with clinical evidence of allergy”.
In tests, the output of the device on a given patient was found to vary according to the pressure applied. There is no scientifically tested mechanism by which the electrical properties of the skin could be used to diagnose disorders of the type claimed for EAV. In double-blind trials, “A wide variability of the measurements was found in most patients irrespective of their allergy status and of the substance tested. Allergic patients showed more negative skin electrical response at the second trial, compared to normal controls, independent of the tested substance. No significant difference in skin electrical response between allergens and negative controls could be detected.”
Apparently, proponents of EAV don’t even have a convincing argument to get their side in Wikipedia’s entry. I didn’t realize it was illegal, but as it is a medical device, I suppose it does need FDA approval before being marketed or used. Perhaps that’s why nobody with these devices wants the publicity of taking my test! I wonder if their patients know they are illegal. So is a MORA device the same as an EAV device, and is it also illegal?
Since I just learned something about EAV from Wikipedia, I’ll appeal to the WikiOracle again. MORA device doesn’t have an entry, but it comes up under BioResonance Therapy:
Bioresonance therapy is a form of electromagnetic therapy in alternative medicine. It was invented in Germany in 1977 by Franz Morell and his son-in-law, engineer Erich Raschebut. Initially they marketed it as “MORA-Therapie”, for MOrell and RAsche. Some of the machines contain an electronic circuit measuring skin-resistance, akin to the E-Meter used by Scientology, which the bioresonance creators sought to improve; Franz Morell had links with Scientology.
Oh crap! Am I trying to reason with a Scientologist? I had no idea that the MORA device was linked to that crazy cult, though I’ve read about their E-Meter before, so it makes sense that there would be a connection. Wikipedia tells more about the controversy:
Lacking any scientific explanation of how bioresonance therapy might work, researchers have classified bioresonance therapy as pseudoscience.Scientific studies did not show effects above that of the placebo effect.
Proven cases of online fraud have occurred, with a practitioner making false claims that he had the ability to cure cancer, and that his clients did not need to follow the chemotherapy or surgery recommended by medical doctors, which can be life-saving…
In the United States of America the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies “devices that use resistance measurements to diagnose and treat various diseases” as Class III devices, which require FDA approval prior to marketing. The FDA has banned some of these devices from the US market.
I know that linking to anything on Quackwatch is a sure way to get some alternative medicine folks to discount anything else I say. However, their page on devices has many links for those who want to look into related devices, and since Scientology is now in the MORA camp, I’d rather hang out in any other camp, including with Stephen Barrett, who would probably tell me I’ve wasted 20 years studying Chinese medicine, but at least not try to get me to sign up for auditing to remove my Thetans. He even has another site dedicated to devices.
Since I’ve already linked to Quackwatch, I may as well bring a news item Barrett documented about a MORA Machine-using baby-killing naturopath from Australia:
In August 2003, Reginald Harold Fenn, 74, of Port Stephens, Australia, was found guilty of manslaughter in connection with the death of 18-day-old Mitchell James Little who was born with aortic stenosis — a structural heart defect that surgery can repair. During a nine-day trial, witnesses testified that Fenn had treated the baby in 1999 with herbal drops and a “MORA Machine” and declared that he was cured. He recommended that parents, Michael and Elizabeth Little, not allow their baby to undergo surgery. Mr and Mrs Little then canceled an appointment at Westmead Hospital where Mitchell was to be evaluated for an operation to repair or replace the narrowed aortic valve that was putting pressure on his enlarged and overworked heart. The appointment was rescheduled after doctors intervened, but Mitchell died of heart failure before an operation could be carried out .
What does a Scientology-linked German device that doesn’t work have to do with “restoring Classical Chinese Medicine”?
Going back to Heiner Fruehauf’s publicly stated mission, I am really “getting” the disconnect that has become apparent. Heiner runs a couple sites. One is ClassicalChineseMedicine.org, where the home page states:
Classical Chinese Medicine reflects the voices of an international movement seeking to honour and restore the classical origins of Chinese medicine. This site features articles, lectures, and practical demonstrations by Heiner Fruehauf, Ph.D., L.Ac., Founding Professor of the School of Classical Chinese Medicine at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, and a group of like-minded scholars in China and the West who are committed to transmit the time-honoured science of Eastern medicine as a highly sophisticated and deeply spiritual art form.
Heiner’s product line, Classical Pearls, has its own site, where it states:
The Classical Pearls Herbal Formulas™ product line is an organic offspring of Dr. Heiner Fruehauf’s prolific career in the research, teaching, and practice of Chinese medicine. Heiner is at the forefront of a global movement to return to the true roots of Chinese medicine.
Herbal medicine was once the only modality to cure serious diseases. Today, the intricate alchemical principles and the experience based approach of traditional herbal science has become overshadowed by laboratory parameters—often to the detriment of clinical results. It is the mission of Classical Pearls to launch a return to the classical and clinic-based roots of Chinese herbal medicine.
Heiner is a teacher at NCNM, his bio page is here. He has a Ph.D., but his medical license is the same as mine, an L.Ac.. I can’t legally order blood tests, stool tests, X-Rays, or other standard lab tests, as my training didn’t cover those as part of my licensed scope of practice. I suspect that means that I can’t legitimately use an unapproved bioresonance device to tell people they have cancer either.
When I did a Google search for Heiner Fruehauf +MORA, 4 pages came up, none of which actually mention the MORA machine. That will change soon after I post this!
It is well-known in Oregon acupuncture circles that Heiner relies heavily on his MORA machine. It’s even been criticized to me directly by other highly regarded acupuncturists who wish to remain anonymous, as well as verified by some of his recent patients. As I mentioned, I personally filled little vials for his machine about 15 years ago–I was curious but didn’t really know enough to criticize it at the time.
So how do we reconcile that Heiner has placed himself at the “forefront of a global movement to return to the true roots of Chinese medicine” and makes a product line with the stated mission “to launch a return to the classical and clinic-based roots of Chinese herbal medicine” but heavily relies on an illegal (because it doesn’t work and thus can’t be approved to do what it claims to do) electronic gizmo which is directly linked to Scientology but definitely not linked to the way ancient Chinese medicine has ever been practiced? Since Classical Chinese Medicine (and modern medicines, herbal or otherwise) has no record of successfully treating ovarian cancer (just to pick my favorite shameful example), can we assume that Heiner developed his formulas and decided what he thinks they can treat based on his MORA machine? I think that’s a safe assumption, which makes it an unsafe medical system.
But WHAT IF Heiner is right?
OK, kids, I’ll state it one more time. If Heiner is right:
- He can use his MORA machine to pass my 10 vial test a few times and I’ll give him $500 cash and make a public apology.
- I’ll volunteer time to write up the success of the MORA device, which may help it actually get legal status in the USA.
- Having established that his herbal remedies are founded on a groundbreaking new science that can read subtle energies through glass vials, I’ll help him win the Randi Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge.
- If we win, the money and publicity should go towards top-notch Random Controlled Trials of Classical Pearls so they can be approved to treat cancers, STDs, and the other diseases he’s already marketing them for. Heiner will be hailed as a medical and scientific genius by MDs and Scientists around the world, and his products and theories will help millions of people live longer, healthier lives.
OK, Kevin, I see that situation is exciting but unlikely. What if he’s wrong and has based his system on deception and delusion?
I’m not going to answer those questions for you. Perhaps you can give some suggestions in the comments.