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Ion Bracelets: the natural way to lose pain and money
By James Koo
What is an ion bracelet?
The ion bracelet is a balance bracelet that contains mineral ionizers. The Tourmaline Bracelet, for example, is a processed combination of silicone rubber, titanium, tourmaline (a silicate mineral http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tourmaline), and ceramic. (http://www.intheholegolf.com/page/ITHG/PROD/TWB/TNL) The Tourmaline Bracelet closely resembles the Rayma bracelet. The only difference between the two is that the Rayma bracelet simply contains “special metals” which contain alternate types of mineral alloys (http://www.rnsupply.com/BalanceBracelet.html). However, despite their differences in composition, these bracelets, along with almost all other ion bracelets, work on the exact same principles. These bracelets (along with necklaces, rice cookers, washing machines…) are primarily a product of Japan and are one of the numerous products associated with using “minus-ions.” (http://www.japaninc.net/article.php?articleID=961)
What does an ion bracelet do?
The purpose of the ion bracelet is to reduce pain and restore bodily energy. Golfers, for example, may use a bracelet to help relieve stresses in their wrists, which enables improvement of their golf swing. (http://www.sims-sport.co.uk/raymaconcept.html) Other specific effects the bracelet is said to have include: restoration of important balance of ions, warming of feet and hands, greater focus and concentration, and improved recovery of athletic fatigue. (http://www.titanrules.com/pages/2/index.htm)
How is the ion bracelet supposed to work?
The bracelet uses yin-yang therapy and what is known as the “autoinduction principle.” According to bracelet advertisers, the yin-yang ideal works by giving off specific alternating electrical currents (like your wrist). The currents are composed through different interactions between positive and negative ions. (http://www.opamerica.com/product_info.php/products_id/803)
Positive and negative ions are found everywhere—from the air, to the ground, and in our bodies. In salts, such as common table salt, sodium chloride (NaCl), the molecules are connected with ionic bonds. Once the bond is broken, (may it be through water, wind, or some other outside force) the salt forms a cation and anion. Cations are positively charged and anions are negatively charged ions. These different types of ions circulate all throughout our bodies and serve as everything from the constituents of our pH level, to chemical signals for proteins. (Tocci & Viehland, 1996)
According to advertisers, through the autoinduction principle, the bracelet absorbs the static electricity given off by the body in order to seek balance between these ions. Pain is caused by an imbalance when organs or tissues lose some of their energy. As energy is given off, it may fall within the bracelet’s range of frequency; then bracelet will give off an opposite form of energy. This process returns the organ’s or tissue’s energy to its original state, thus negating the pain. (http://www.opamerica.com/product_info.php/products_id/803)
Unfortunately, the only research on the “autoinduction principle” was based on a principle published in 1965 by Marshall Urist a UCLA orthopedic surgeon. His principle revolved around morphogenetic proteins involved in bone-grafting, not mineral anion therapy. This information was found at http://cms.nursingcenter.com/dev/prodev/ce_article.asp?tid=543563#45, a well documented site but purely related to orthopedic surgery. In researching various other medical, biology, and chemistry journals, there no existence of the “autoinduction principle” could be found. Therefore if the “autoinduction principle” concerning ion bracelets truly exists, it is apparently not at all acknowledged in the scientific community.
As for evidence behind the specific mechanics on minus-ion therapy: there is none. None of the bracelets are FDA approved, and many of the sites with disclaimers explicitly state that the bracelets have no medical claim. The most similar reported studies examined negative ion particles in air, but even those studies have no substantial claim. In order to gain FDA approval, the product must be clinically tested and proven effective. (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_04/21cfrv1_04.html). Most of the minus-ion technology that has been created is based in Japan, and is usually grouped with holistic remedies. The primary reason the product sells so effectively is the mass media craze concerning their apparent “health benefits.” Once the word “minus-ion” has been stamped onto a product, it sells extremely well and thus marketers exploit this label. Thus the products are continuously sold and bought with no backing of evidence or scholarly approval. (http://www.japaninc.net/article.php?articleID=961)
How do I know if it’s really supposed to work?
Advertisers claim the bracelet can be worn 24 hours a day, but that it will only retain its bioelectric charge for 18-36 months depending on one’s “pH balance”. Unfortunately, however, because everyone’s exact pH balance is not uniform; the effects are unique to the user. (http://www.opamerica.com/product_info.php/products_id/803) Therefore, theoretically, this gives the marketers a scapegoat explanation if someone realizes that the bracelet may have no effect on them at all: It is not the bracelet’s fault. Your pH balance is just off.
Customers are also informed that for most people, there may be no noticeable effects for more than 4 weeks. (http://www.balancebracelet.com/usageguide.html) Unfortunately, most of the online return policies expire long before that time. (http://www.opamerica.com/returns.php, http://www.healthbracelets.net/returns.htm, http://www.rnsupply.com/ReturnPolicy.html) Therefore, in order to test for a bracelet’s “true effect” the customer must be wary that they may be stuck with a non-working bracelet if they want to wait the full recommended 4 weeks. And by the time 4 weeks pass, if the pain is only minor there is the possible explanation that the body recovered itself due to its own natural immune system, and not the bracelet.
Additionally, the bracelet should not be worn with any other metallic jewelry or items, or else the bracelet may lose its effect. (http://www.balancebracelet.com/usageguide.html) Unfortunately, none of these restrictions or loss of effects are given explanation for their reasoning. The short answers given are that they simply are not good. And as seen in the examples above, the usual case is the person’s fault, not the bracelets. Characteristics of the user’s bodily chemistry or pain frequencies hinder the bracelets’ effectiveness.
Rayma bracelets have testimonials from various athletes and professionals. Other websites and bracelet brands also publicized other testimonials from customers, but Rayma was the only major brand to provide stories of their experiences of bracelet effects from prominent well-known figures as well as photographs. The following are supposed Rayma bracelet testimonies:
Tom wears a bracelet because he believes it helps prevent the chronic fatigue he experienced in 1998. Kay states “[that the] band will help boost my immune system and aid me in my recovery from training helping me to realize my goal of competing in my third Olympics.” This interview was at initially taken from http://www.sims-sport.co.uk/raymaconcept.html but on 9/20/05 the site had http://www.sims-sport.co.uk/raymaconcept.html been shut down. He was a three-time World Championship gold medalist rower in 91’, 92’ and 94’. (http://www.ara-rowing.org/TK2000.htm) However there is no alternate evidence that Tom has ever worn or has ever endorsed the Rayma Band, leading one to question the validity of the testimony.
Lawrie is quoted saying "since I began wearing the Rayma bracelet I cured my wrist injury and won the Open Championship! I now wear it all the time." (http://www.healthbracelets.net/testimonials.htm) His photograph as seen on http://www.topfoto.co.uk/gallery/britishopen/default.htm was taken after his 1999 US Open victory with his bracelet on his right wrist.
Both of the testimonies were by existing, prominent people. Both Tom Kay and Paul Lawrie have their sports achievements well documented on several websites. (http://www.topfoto.co.uk/gallery/britishopen/default.htm, http://www.ara-rowing.org/TK2000.htm)
Are there any harmful side effects or precautions I should know about?
The wearer of Tourmaline bracelets must be weary under certain conditions. If one suffers from long-term chronic illness, then one must consult a doctor. Also, if one uses an electrical device (such as a pacemaker) you must also consult a doctor. (http://www.opamerica.com/product_info.php/products_id/803) However, similar to any of the claims about its effectiveness, there are no explanations given explaining exactly why one should consult a doctor.
The majority of the websites have the disclaimer informing the customer that there are no medical claims about the products and that the information on the websites should not be considered as advice or medical claim but simply as “general information.” (http://www.healthbracelets.net/tandc.htm) The lack of medical claims and valid information indicate the lack of evidence and substantial data to prove balance bracelets as a valid form of medical treatment. This does not deny that the fact that it may truly provide advantageous effects, it just has not been proven yet.
Is there any evidence?
Although there was no evidence of clinical trials or tests that have been used to validate ion bracelets, according toGenerally speaking, negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain; resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy," (as cited in ) Center for Applied Cognitive Sciences in Charlotte, N.C. "The safest course of action, in my opinion, would be to use units that have been demonstrated effective in our clinical trials and trials to come." (http://my.webmd.com/content/Article/65/72756.htm?pagenumber=2) Therefore, although there may be some research accomplished that can help validate the theory of negative ions, there is no evidence that shows that the bracelets are truly beneficial.
And the bottom line is…
In conclusion, the bracelets are unscientific. In order for something to be scientific, a theory or hypothesis must be testable and have some element of falsifiability. The ion bracelet has no element of testability and they is not allowed any falsifiability. Instead, the advertisers claim that the reason the bracelet may not work is because of the user’s strange pain frequencies, or pH balance, or some other weird abnormal disfiguring trait about them—all indicating that the bracelet is not at fault, and essentially it should work. This does not prove that the bracelet does not work, but because it is unscientific gives it no more credibility than astrology or mythology. The bracelet’s methods of mechanics change in order to “match” explanations.
The bracelet is not a product of western medicine but yet does not follow the same rules of China’s theory of yin-yang or chi either. Instead, it elevates these therapies on an extending set of assumptions that not only is there electrical currents in the body, but that a small bracelet (usually made of a rubbery compound mixed with traces metal) can actually absorb positive ions coming from your organs and tissue, and replace it with negative ones. Moreover, one must follow the assumption that these negative ions (and not the positive ones) are actually beneficial for one’s health. All these inventions should force one to consider if spending 10’s to 100’s of dollars is truly worth being put into essentially a rubber band bracelet, necklace, or anklet which may…or probably will not work for you.
Howard, P.J. (1999). The Owners Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind Brain Research. Austin, TX: Bard Press.
Tocci, S. & Viehland, C. (1996). Chemistry: Visualizing Matter. New York: Holt.
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