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This page looks at the development of magnetic therapy
and why effective magnotherapy is a very recent thing.
Magnets first became known through lodestones — natural magnetisable crystals of the iron ore we call Magnetite, which can carry a natural magnetic flux. This is rarely stronger than the earth’s current magnetic field, but lodestones will be attracted to each other and to iron and other magnetite, and will face in a consistent direction when dangled from a thread — a compass.
This ‘magic’ made them truly magical objects. So it’s not surprising that they came to be used for healing, and the consistent stories over the millennia make it likely that some people did respond to lodestone therapy. We think that it occasionally works today.
Here are some early examples:
The Yellow Emperor: The first mention of magnotherapy comes from China in about 2,500 BC, from one of the first books ever written. Huang-
4,500 years later, modern Chinese doctors are still using traditional magnotherapy. There is a recent Chinese medical study on its use for parasites in small children. It mentions fewer side effects compared with conventional medicines.
Cleopatra is said to have slept with a lodestone on her forehead to keep her young and preserve her beauty. The Indian Ayurveda medical books also recommended using lodestones on the body for healing. Tibetan monks still use magnets on the forehead to help memory and learning ability.
The Greek physician Galen in 200 AD wrote of using them as a purgative. It’s not clear whether this was an external or internal application. Galen worked in a Gladiator hospital.
Around 1000 AD, Ali Abbas, a Persian physician, wrote about using lodestones for gout and spasms in his Perfect Book of the Art of Medicine.
During the early 1500s the Swiss physician Paraclesus used magnets to treat hernia, dropsy and jaundice, as well as many other diseases.
The doctors of Elizabeth I are said to have prescribed magnets for the arthritis in her back. But there was a dissenting minority opinion among them. In 1600, one of them, William Gilbert, was the first person to state that the Earth itself acts like a giant magnet. He built a spherical model of the Earth out of lodestone and showed that it had a magnetic field around it similar to the field of the Earth. He also suggested the first links between electricity and magnetism. However, he did not agree with his colleagues that magnets had curative properties.
Historically, therapeutic magnets were used with only one pole against the body — no-
Three things were lacking which stopped modern magnetic therapy from getting started earlier:
Yet even today, the majority of magnetic therapy appliances you can buy use the age old single-
With thanks to John Bain.
Where now? Click next to see how modern science has solved the problem.