Alternative MedicineSkepticism

Unthought is Death

Off the top of my head, I can think of three professions where you can legally be paid to get people killed. Soldiers, politicians, and quacks.

Granted, some alternative medicine has some science behind it. Some doctors visit native peoples to learn about their cures so that they can use them in conventional scientific medicine… after they have been tested scientifically to make sure that they work. But a lot of alternative medicine is just a bunch of scientific-sounding words strung together to get money, with no real regard for whether or not it will help the patient. Stick the word “quantum” on something and you know that it cures you!

Wandering around an Asian supermarket today, I came across a small corner of the store where they had an alternative health clinic, I poked my head in, picked up a few harmless looking brochures, and popped back out. When I got back home I started reading one about yoga which had a panel talking about their “VIGEN Medical” products which claims to send “far-infrared” rays into your body.

Far-infrared is a radiant energy that heats the body by penetrating four to five centimeters into the skin from muscles into blood vessels, lymphatic glands, and nerves. Far-infrared waves are between 5.8 and 1000 microns as compared to the wavelength of the human body at 6 to 20 microns. Its molecular vibrations activate every living cell and speed up metabolic exchanges between cells. As far-infrared penetrates the body it acts to improve our metabolism and boost our self-regulating systems to restore the body’s balance.

At the bottom it read:

Research the health benefits of far-infrared technology. Then, come and visit the Denver Dahn Yoga Center and experience it for yourself.

OK. I will. And I’ll have this research out there hopefully for anybody Googling it… along with my skeptical analysis.

The first search result came up with a page from “” which talks about “far-infrared” technology. You immediately know that it’s scientific when it tries to say that near infrared and mid infrared rays generate intense heat and cause harm.

Uh, no…

Far infrared waves are thermal. In other words, we experience this type of infrared radiation every day in the form of heat! The heat that we feel from sunlight, a fire, a radiator or a warm sidewalk is infrared. The temperature-sensitive nerve endings in our skin can detect the difference between inside body temperature and outside skin temperature.

Shorter, near infrared waves are not hot at all – in fact you cannot even feel them. These shorter wavelengths are the ones used by your TV’s remote control.

But hey, I can say with pretty good certainty that heat is not always a bad thing. Too much of it will burn you, yes… but when I have back pain or something a nice hot water bath works its magick pretty well. What is the harm in a bit of infrared radiation?

As with everything from magnets to quantum mechanics it seems, it turns out that far-infrared rays can cure cancer! Wow! So, why use far-infrared instead of trusting medical doctors? I mean, they’re just ordinary folks who went through years of medical school to pretend that they know better than you even though they don’t.

In the US the mainstream thinking on cancer treatment has undergone great changes. Surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy are considered detrimental to health and invasive treatments. Thermal therapy and immuo-therapy are non-invasive.

The mainstream thinking has? Really? Well, I’m going to go to a completely unreliable source called “”, the website of the National Cancer Institute, to see what they have listed as “Types of Treatment” for cancer.

  1. Chemotherapy
  2. Radiation Therapy
  3. Surgery
  4. “Other”

In case you’re wondering, “far-infrared” therapy was not listed as a treatment method.

But wait, if mainstream science thinks these treatments are detrimental, why is it on the National Cancer Institute’s website? This leaves three possibilities.

  1. The National Cancer Institute is really out-of-date about what types of cancer treatment the mainstream scientific community thinks we should use.
  2. The National Cancer Institute is lying to us because they want us all dead so they have more time to play World of Warcraft instead of attempting to cure cancer.
  3. “” is lying to make money.

I’m going to make a leap of faith and trust the government. But hey, maybe their stuff works after all. What else do they say about how it works?

1) Cancerous cells cannot exist if blood circulation is smooth and continuous.
A cancerous cell has to stop moving to proliferate.

The cancerous cell’s positioning, or settling down, is directly related to the capillaries, which are at the end of the blood vessels. The cancer cell tries to position itself by going through the capillary. If it goes through, there could be no settling down or positioning of the cancer cell – which is what happens if there is good blood circulation. If the cancer cell fails to pass through the capillary because of some functional disorder in the circulation, the cell could easily position itself. Good blood circulation of the capillaries – without functional disorder – leaves no way for the cancerous cell to settle down and position itself. The cell will then be killed by the immunocyte (the immunity cell).

Um… cancer cells can’t divide if blood circulation is smooth and continuous?

Actually, remember that completely unreliable source, “”?

Under “Other Treatment Methods” it lists a treatment method called “Angiogenesis” which cuts of blood flow to cancer cells.

  1. What is angiogenesis?
  2. Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels. Angiogenesis is a process controlled by certain chemicals produced in the body. Some of these chemicals stimulate cells to repair damaged blood vessels or form new ones. Other chemicals, called angiogenesis inhibitors, signal the process to stop.

  3. Why is angiogenesis important in cancer?
  4. Angiogenesis plays an important role in the growth and spread of cancer. New blood vessels “feed” the cancer cells with oxygen and nutrients, allowing these cells to grow, invade nearby tissue, spread to other parts of the body, and form new colonies of cancer cells.

  5. How can angiogenesis be stopped in tumors?
  6. Because tumors cannot grow or spread without the formation of new blood vessels, scientists are trying to find ways to stop angiogenesis. They are studying natural and synthetic angiogenesis inhibitors, also called antiangiogenic agents, in the hope that these chemicals will prevent or slow down the growth of cancer by blocking the formation of new blood vessels.

So, Cliff Notes version, according to that sleazy organization called the National Cancer Institute which cares more about playing World of Warcraft than saving lives, good circulation to cancerous tumors can actually help cancer along.

Oh, but how else can far-infrared rays help my cancer?

2) The cancerous cell has a weakness, heat.
It will die if the temperature goes above 42C/107.6 F.

a) Far Infrared treatment raises body temperature to 42 degrees C.
b) Far Infrared heat penetrates through the body and kills existing cancerous cells.
c) Far Infrared heat enables capillaries to expand, thus enabling good circulation and combating the potential existence of cancer cells.
d) Far Infrared thermal therapy can alleviate pain and prolong life when conventional cancer treatment fails.

It turns out that there is a method of treating cancer called “Hypterthermia” which heats up body tissue to kill cancerous cells. However, it isn’t quite mainstream medicine yet and worthy of pretty liberal amounts of skepticism until further notice (emphasis added).

Many of these studies, but not all, have shown a significant reduction in tumor size when hyperthermia is combined with other treatments. However, not all of these studies have shown increased survival in patients receiving the combined treatments.

A number of challenges must be overcome before hyperthermia can be considered a standard treatment for cancer. Many clinical trials are being conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of hyperthermia. Some trials continue to research hyperthermia in combination with other therapies for the treatment of different cancers. Other studies focus on improving hyperthermia techniques.

Note how was calling other therapies “detrimental” and “invasive” to people’s health. also provides several “testimonials” about people who claim to have gotten better due to far-infrared therapy. Only one problem, how do we know what really happened? Say you’re watching Benny Hinn’s Healing Crusade on TV and a person comes to a faith healer and the faith healer does the whole showy “power of Christ compels you” spiel and says they’re cured of their cancer. They then walk off camera.

Who actually follows up on these people to see if their alive and kicking the next day or a corpse on the floor of their houses?

What if they never had the disease in the first place but was misdiagnosed? Yes, medical science makes mistakes some times, but at least it knows what it’s doing the vast majority of the time.

Which is a good reason why this website, though their products may not actually do too much harm by themselves, is a danger. Again, note how they are saying that conventional treatments which we know work are detrimental to a person’s health. What if somebody reads that, believes it, and doesn’t get proper treatment for their cancer, thus dying?

Such a disregard for human life for just a quick buck has got to make quackery one of the most twisted careers one could possibly go into. I’m especially annoyed by their little laws they’ve managed to pass which make it OK for them to sell this stuff while spewing all that nonsense which can hurt people. Is it twisted of me to also suggest some people, ahem, place a few e-mails or phone calls letting them know what we think of them?

A lack of critical thinking kills.

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  1. Zambiglione
    August 3, 2008 at 2:24 am —

    Technically chemotherapy and radiation are “detrimental to health” as anyone who knows someone who has undergone them knows. They just aren’t as detrimental as say, just off the top of my head, cancer!
    Anyway, the cancer center does mention far infrared treatment. Didn’t you see number 4 “other”.
    How are these people allowed to operate. Can’t they be sued like the real doctors they are claiming to be better than.

  2. MaggieMoo
    August 3, 2008 at 5:48 pm —

    Gah Darn those government goons at the National Cancer Institute and their never ending need to play WOW! They MUST have covered this new treatment if it is sooooooooo helpful! (sarcasm guys. just kidding) 😀

  3. August 4, 2008 at 1:37 am —

    Crap like this makes me sick.

  4. Joy Wang
    August 4, 2008 at 10:43 am —

    Rystefn: It pisses me off to think that people are dying because these frauds insist that they can cure whatever fatal disease these victims have and end up killing them instead. Is there any way to get some regulations on these people?

    MaggieMoo: Don’t know why I haven’t said this earlier, but your avatar/picture thingy rocks.

    On a side note, Phil’s been appointed president of JREF!!!

  5. FFFearlesss
    August 15, 2008 at 6:12 pm —

    If you do a fair amount of research into a good number of alternative therapies, the overriding message is the same: ultimately it’s about triggering the body to fight off the (whatever) on its own. That’s the idea behind homeopathy and it sounds like the idea behind this treatment. It’s the idea behind raw diets, dairy free diets, gluten free diets, organic diets. The crime isn’t in the thinking because let’s face it, the body is pretty amazing and when it is properly equipped has the ability to fight off some pretty formidable stuff. But it’s when some quack focuses on ONE tiny subset of the overall idea of self-healing and attempts to sell something. Either they’ve missed the point completely or they are deliberately ignoring it to make money. In the end, I do believe that holistic approach to health is the best way to approach any maladie be it flu or obesity or yes even cancer, using things like chemotherapy only if the uber-natural approach doesn’t work. But that’s just me, and it generally doesn’t involve paying money for new products.

  6. August 15, 2008 at 8:17 pm —

    FFFearless: what “uber-natural approach” would you suggest for battling cancer? I might misunderstand your definition of natural, but if you mean something like changing your diet or taking vitamin supplements as a first attempt at battling cancer, I have to speak out and say that’s extraordinarily ignorant and dangerous.

    Discovering cancer in its earliest stages is a gift that should never, ever be wasted on “treatments” that simply will not work. The earlier it is detected and properly treated with chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or whatever other medical measures are necessary, the better.

    And just as bad are scams and pseudoscience like homeopathy, reiki, and faith healing, which are at their most dangerous when recommended for patients who still have hope of real, effective medical treatment. Too many people with treatable diseases have died with the false hope that pseudoscience could save them.

  7. FFFearlesss
    August 15, 2008 at 9:27 pm —

    Yeah you know as I look back over what I wrote, I don’t quite know what I was thinking when I said that. Thinking it over, I suppose I probably would weigh my odds with traditional approaches first. Honestly I don’t know what the success rate is for chemo or radiation having not done my research. Plus I know it’s different for different kinds of cancers. I know the survival rate for pancreatic cancer (for example) is tragically low. So for something like THAT, since traditional medicine hasn’t been able to do much for treatments, I would go completely alternative. I’d research the crap out of every anecdotal case of somebody overcoming cancer (avoiding anything that also encourages me to buy something) and take my chances with diet, herbs, essential oils, homeopathy, whatever. I figure if my chances of survival are only 5 percent as it is, I might as well go for broke with the alternative approach. For something like skin cancer, you bet, I’ll get that sucker lopped right off. For other cancers where the proven success rate is higher, I’m sure I’d go with chemo and radiation. But ultimately, if the success rate is less than 50 percent I don’t know if I’d want to go through the undisputed HELL that is chemo.

    Sorry to come off as a nature-or-nothing crackpot in the first post… or who knows, maybe in this post too. Ultimately I’m a big believer in preventative lifestyles, eliminating as many chemicals and artificial crap and things that run counter to our evolutionary/biological makeup as possible so that the body is best equipped to fight off cancer or whatever before it has a chance to set in. Failing that though, I’m not (quite) as suspicious of modern medicine as other people who give alternative methods the time of day.

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