Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Detox: Foot pads

I didn't initially plan on using this product as part of my detox but, since they appear to be extremely popular, I thought I'd throw them into the mix. I've seen them advertised in catalogs like Gaiam and other places and, since they claimed to detox your body while you sleep, I figured I'd give them a whirl.

Basically, they are little pouches of herbs (the brand I got contains powderized double-distilled wood vinegar, tourmaline and germanium) that you attach to your feet at night with adhesive pads and voila! in the morning instead of being a bright white pouch, they are black. This blackness (I have read) is indicative that they are removing toxins. My take on it is that your feet sweat at night and soak into the pouch, exposing the black colored herbal concoction inside. Think of it like you are attaching tea bags to your feet.

The packaging has some information on how they are effective due to some foot reflexology action, which I find hard to believe is helpful since the pads are so small they don't cover enough of your foot to "stimulate" anything, meridian or otherwise. Granted, these things are designed for petite Asian customers and not my ginormous feet. That picture above must be a picture of a toddler wearing them. Or someone with a size 2 shoe. I suppose I need to super size them or, at least, wear two at a time per foot.

There's also some claim about them generating far infrared energy that helps with detoxing and healing, by stimulating blood and lymph circulation. This is attributed to the tourmaline in the pads.

There is much touting regarding the wood vinegar and its healing powers, yet I couldn't find any actual information or evidence suggesting its efficacy. I chalked it up to the possibility that, like acupuncture, it has some utility even if I didn't understand the eastern medicine explanation for it.

In any case, I bought enough for two weeks worth. They are supposed to lighten up the longer you use them and, since I took photographic evidence after the first night, I'll be able to compare the last one I use to see if my detoxing was "successful". Aside from being a little herbal smelling and feeling like I have tingling teabags strapped to my feet at night, they are otherwise harmless enough. Whether or not they are doing anything is debatable. I'd like to see some more of the purported "science" behind this one.

I still have another week to go with the foot pads. I'd like to think there is some merit to this product, but as of yet, I'm unconvinced. Can't one of these manufacturers run a research study on these to show some actual results rather than mere anecdotal claims? Or does the absence of simple lab tests done on used pads mean they are worthless?


Veronica said...

I love your blog and I don't mean to come off rude, but there are scam out there. Some herbal remedies( not all), homeopathy, etc. Because they aren't pharmaceuticals they aren't regulated by the FDA. If they did a true double blind scientific study on a useless product (which is what I believe these are) the company would only be hurting their profits. If a product like this doesn't do what it claims, but isn't hurting people chances are it will stay on the market for people to waste their money on.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Not rude at all. I'm more skeptical than the next person and chances are if there are not scientific studies done on a product, it generally means it doesn't do anything. I put the foot pads in that boat.

Some people swear by them and, even though I think it's just a placebo effect, if it does something positive for them, then it's probably money not wasted. For them.

Anonymous said...

I heard this on NPR a while difference in used/unused pads when analyzed by lab.

Adrienne said...

Yeah, I think these things pretty much *have* been proven to be a load of bull. Not in any double-blind academic studies or whatever, but things like the NPR link posted above are enough proof for me on this one. A lot of the other stuff you're doing, I don't know about, but it seems at least plausible... not these things.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what makes them turn black?

I don't think it really matters if products like this work scientifically. If it improves the way the end user feels than it's doing the job.


E said...

Looks like another bs product.

tourmaline isn't an herb...
and I wonder exactly how they "generate infrared energy"

Perhaps the manufacturer could supply info?

Anne said...

I am familiar with a by-product of lumber production called DMSO (short for a long chemical name). IS this the "wood vinegar" to which tou refer? there have been a number of interesting studies on the healing properties of DMSO, but so far as I know, none are for detox-- they have more to do with how well your body absorbs the DMSO into it.

Greenpa said...

Your skepticism is well founded- but so, actually, is your hope.

The whole field of "alternative" medicine is deeply confused by what it known as the placebo effect.

Now- the phrase "placebo effect" is fraught with emotional conflict. But it's actually a phenomenon I've had a long and deep interest in.

There is an aspect to is which is completely uninvestigated ; which drives me crazy. Here's the thing:

Does the placebo effect work?

In spite of many many MD's still believing it does not; the proof that it does is huge, many times replicated, and iron-clad. Yes, placebos do "work".

Alas, investigation from mainstream workers tends to stop, right there. And it shouldn't.

But there is still a great amount of emotional response among MDs, and research funding organizations, that if an effect is "psychological"; there, ipso fatso, it is not "real".

Gad. How medieval can you get?

There are doctors who delight in telling patients - "Ha! That's just a placebo! It doesn't really DO anything!" - when, in fact, the patient was experiencing REAL relief from the problem.

One aspect of placebo phenomena is that they normally "fade" over time (so do a lot of other medical phenomena- you need bigger doses with chronic use of tons of hard meds).

All of which makes taking data and doing studies desperately complex; and which generates tons of conflicting results, which confuses everyone further, and feeds the nay-sayers.

Does it work - for you? Then- by golly - it works. That's the hard science of it.

I've just developed a new argument for the nay-sayers. "No such thing, eh? Ok. I'll believe you know that for sure, as soon as you can explain Dark Matter to me. The Universe is 85% Dark Matter, yes? Can you show me some?"


Anonymous said...

I don't know if these work, but I do know that Vick's (menthol rub) rubbed on the TOP of the feet loosens a cough at least as much as rubbing it on your chest. Been doing that a lot the last two weeks...

Though I have to say these sound scammy to me. Even if the herbs are good for detoxification, can dry herbs penetrate the wrapper and adhesive? And why put them on the bottom of your feet, where the skin is thicker and full of callouses?

Able-Bodied Girl said...

i am really enjoying this series on cleansing. too often, cleanses come off as... a little crazy. but having followed you for some time, i have a little more trust and faith in what you say :) can't wait for your book to come out!

Brad K. said...


There is a folk remedy for some condition, I forget what, that has you take a thick slice of onion, and strap it onto the bottom of the foot for the night. The expectation is that the onion absorbs the 'illness' - turns black - and you are then closer to cured.

Your patches sound like a 'modern' variant of one old-world cure.

I like Greenpa's story of the placebo effect. One part that has to go hand-in-hand, is that belief that something works could give benefits - so belief that something doesn't work should also be able to disable something that otherwise might have worked.

Somewhere past the placebo effect, I think, is the spiritual component of how our bodies work, what it responds to for good or ill, and how it heals and changes. Is the placebo effect an interaction of the spirit? Or is part of 'pharmaceutical' approaches an interaction with spirit?

I tried the colon-cleansing stuff, with Vivalo cream (olive oil and stuff), rejuvelac (wheat berry ferment), and special herbs. The olive oil was rubbed onto the stomach, where it was supposed to be absorbed, and moisten and loosen the debris lining the large intestine so it could be passed. Did the olive oil really do anything, or was rubbing the stomach the only useful part? Did the herbs aid the cleansing, or did they form the part that 'proved' that cleansing was taking place? Did the rejuvelac fermented water do anything? Whatever. The health food store in Palo Alto sold some, anyway.

I mean, you might as well claim that leaving a bright night light or the TV on while you sleep might interfere with your body's rhythms, or even vision. Wait, let me think of something that wouldn't hamper the body.

One other way the patch might affect you. John Tesh's "intelligence for living" claimed that wearing socks at night keeps the feet a bit warmer, increasing blood flow at night, and reducing stress on the heart. It might just be that the patch is large enough to warm the feet enough for some of the benefit to be noticed.

As for the reflexology thing - there is a reflexology map of organs to areas of the foot and toes. The area that the patch covers might just be more important for detoxing, and the rest of the foot not as involved in detoxing.

fragmentaerie said...

Detox starts tomorrow! (Well, for those of us on this side of the blogosphere.) Yay!

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

Greenpa says it all. My husband is an M.D. but he is also a homeopath. He has done a lot of research on the placebo effect and has found that what the majority of MDs deride actually can have a healing effect on some people.

Veronica, my husband's patients have had far more success with homeopathy than they ever got with the pharmaceuticals he was prescribing. In fact, he does very little western medicine now because it doesn't actually cure anything. He was just putting people on more and more drugs to treat the side-effects of the original medication. Before you deride homeopathy, you should give it a try. And I certainly wouldn't let the FDA be your benchmark for what is safe. After all, many of their members have connections to drug companies. Homeopathy handled by a trained practitioner will never do the damage of the FDA-approved drugs like Vioxx, Thalidomide, and DES.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Hey, don't be knocking Thalidomide. It's what's keeping my husband alive.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Greenpa - There's an article in this week's New Scientist testing the placebo effect on people and pain. In one group they told people the drug was a fake and in the other, that it was an analgesic. Then they subjected them to a little pain.

Those on the placebo, who were susceptible to the placebo effect, showed differences in their brain scans versus the ones on the fake. In other words, the brain handled the pain differently, not treating it as pain but shunting it off to an emotional center in the brain.

The result was to find out whether or not certain patients could be treated for pain using a placebo (dependent on how susceptible they were), rather than using something with harsh side effects.

So, clearly the brain treats responses differently based on suggestion. If that's the case, what more can it do under suggestion? We just don't know at this point, but I'm glad to see some studies on this.

Greenpa said...

Crunch; many thanks for the ref, I'd missed that one. It seems to build on another very recent placebo study that hit mainstream news; they gave a placebo pain killer to the study group; and one section was TOLD it was a placebo. The big news; even knowing it was a placebo (and what that means) many of that section experienced significant pain relief. So the naynays were all going WTF?

I love it. Delighted to hear someone is looking at brain activity, that's an approach that's very hard to just blow off.

Bellesouth said...

The whole "black foot" thing is part of the foot-pad scam. Even a drop of water will turn them black. So naturally, because we have sweaty feet, they're going to turn black. Boo on the foot pads, but good that you only got two weeks worth. Might be good to give to a kid for a science project.

Heather said...

They contain "powderized double-distilled wood vinegar, tourmaline and germanium"?????

tourmaline is a semi-precious stone.
germanium is a metal.
and once you 'double-distill' *any* vinegar you end up with acetic acid (which is a liquid) and some water. If you then evaporate that (to make a powder) you end up with absolutely nothing at all.

So, assuming they're telling the truth (no idea what the rules are on such things), those pads should contain a mix of stone and metal - not herbs.

Unknown said...

@greenpa... there is a great episode of Radio Lab (public radio program) about the placebo effect.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

Crunchy, very glad it is helping your husband but I was speaking about the initial FDA approval that determined the drug was effective in treating morning sickness. We all know how well that turned out.

Veronica said...

Oh Mama, since you're already Contrary I'll try not to start a big fight, but homeopathy is water, and water has no memory. ( You can't dilute something to make it stronger, that's just not how it works. Homeopathy might not be directly harmful (because sugar pills are water are not) but if someone with a serious illness forgoes legitimate medicine it can be detrimental to their health.

As for trying homeopathy (other than the 40 or so ounces of water I already drink a day) I plan on having lots of it on Feb. 5th.

Jimmy Erickson said...

To Greenpa, I must say that the placebo effect does work, but only on subjective measures. However, when it comes to a measurable response, the placebo effect has no effect. In a study done on patients with enlarged prostates, when the patients who were given a placebo were asked if the medication increased their urine flow, most said yes, however when an objective test of urine flow was performed, there was no actual change with the placebo treatment. So the patients thought they were getting better, but they really weren't.

Knowing this, and taking into account that the placebo effect works on subjective tests even if people know it's a placebo, it appears that the placebo effect is really just the result of patients going to someone they view as a medical professional and feeling better because someone is paying attention to their problem.

As for wanting to see dark matter, it's the blue stuff in this picture:

Dark Matter is just the name we give to mass which isn't producing or absorbing light. And so by using gravitational lensing, we can determine where that matter is even though we can't see it. I'm a grad student in astrophysics, specializing in dark matter, so if you have any more questions, I can point you to multiple lines of evidence for it's existence.

Detox Foot Pads said...

I read your article but this product not effective for all persons.may be it's scam because my aunt used it last two months but it didn't give any beefit to her so it is not worthy for her and also wastage of money.

Anonymous said...

I've tried several different brands of detox foot pads over the last few years. Two of those three (Kinoki and one brand I don't remember that was brought from China as a gift from a friend who was visiting) smelled a certain way, and the color on the pad in the morning was uniform, depending on where the bulk of the powder was inside the pad.

The third, though, smelled different, and I actually saw spots in places that corresponded to the reflexology chart - shocked the heck out of me! If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that the real deal actually does what it claims to do, but the bulk of what is out there are cheap rip-offs that don't help you. If I hadn't experienced the difference and heard about the Kinoki scam ones you can buy at Walgreens, I'd dismiss them, too, but I really think there's some truth at the heart of it.

The ones I ordered came from Malaysia, and they're more expensive than the rest. They sell body patches, too, but I've only used the ones for your feet. Here's the link, if you're interested. I bought them two years ago for the first time, tried the others after that, and then went back to these last month.

Anonymous said...

Also, it's on their site, but they are actually approved by the FDA as a medical device, if that makes a difference to you.