Sold Out

Skip to content
Ask at


Herb Frauds Debunked

Questionable Practices

Strange but Not True

I practice an "alternative" medicine, which I assume is why many of my patients confide in me about their other 'alternative' practices. I've found a few of these worth mentioning, as they are both highly popular and shamefully fraudulent.

Ear Candle Scandal

I'm not sure why ear candles have sometimes been called Chinese ear candles, as they have nothing whatever to do with Chinese medicine. 

Ear candles are conical tubes made of waxed fabric.  You insert the narrow end of the tube in your ear while the wide end is lit on fire. It burns like a candle (hence the name), but much faster (and more dangerously).  

In theory, the flame creates a vacuum in the tube that draws the wax out of your ear. Afterward, you look inside the tube and, voila, there's nasty brown gunk, apparently sucked right from your ear.  So I tried it.

After candling for the first time I found a large wad of disgusting wax.  "Amazing", I never imagined my auditory canal was so clogged. Pretty impressive, I thought, at first.

What made me suspicious was that the second time I tried it, a few days later, I found the same amount of wax, as I did the third time.  "Hmm I thought", how could I have accumulated that much earwax in just a few days? Could anybody have that much earwax?

The common-sense answer to this is no way.  When I told my colleague about my experience he laughed.  “Just try burning one of these candles away from your ear and see what happens.”

Of course, what happens is that no matter where you burn the candle, you'll find 'earwax'.  As a matter of fact, the 'earwax' turns out to be a mixture of candle wax and fabric. Sadly, we’ve heard of people actually becoming obsessed with their monstrous earwax production, thinking that it must be the cause of all their medical issues.

Ear candling is ineffective, but even worse, it can harm you.  Holding a lit candle close to your head is just not a good idea.  Melted wax could easily burn your face or even drip into your ear canal. Worse yet is catching your hair on fire or damaging your eardrum.

Assuredly there are safer ways to clean your ears, And the fact is that excessive earwax production is very rare. 

Shen Clinic TCM consultation

 Foot Detox Debunked

This “miracle” product allegedly pulls toxins from your body through the soles of your feet leading people to believe their body is full of toxins.

You can actually buy these at Walmart, so some people might think they’re actually legitimate.  You stick these patches on the bottom of your feet and leave them there overnight. When you peel off the pad in the morning, it’s turned an ugly brown or black color, which according to the manufacturer and gullible proponents, are the toxins that have been removed from your body.  Some patches are purported to contain Chinese herbs. Whether or not they actually do contain Chinese herbs is entirely irrelevant. They’re a scam, plain and simple.

The Federal Trade Commission has even charged some distributors of detox foot pads with deceptive advertising.   The National Council Against Health Fraud, considers detox foot patches to be consumer scams, noting that the most popular brand, Kinoki, was removed from the shelves by the FTC which filed suit alleging the marketer made false claims. Stephen M. Barrett, M.D., states, "All such products should be regarded as fakes, and the proposed mechanisms should be regarded as nonsensical."

Detox foot patches are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and therefore, can’t claim to treat or cure your medical condition. An April 2008 segment of ABC's 20/20 looked into two detox foot pad brands, Kinoki and Avon. The foot patches did indeed turn dark after use, but dropping water on the pad had the same effect. Furthermore, a laboratory analysis of foot patches used by volunteers revealed that no heavy metals, poisons or solvents were secreted into the used pads. The sole benefit of detox foot patches appears to be the placebo effect experienced by gullible consumers who believe they work.

Independent tests have also shown these to be phony, revealing the fact that used patches contain no more or less toxins than unused.  Even distilled water will cause the patch to turn black or brown, proving that the patches discolor through moisture (like from the sweat of your feet).  

If you’ve used these products and feel they have helped, you’ve experienced a good example of the placebo effect. Ask yourself, is it really possible to pull out black toxins time and time again.

While there are effective Chinese herbal patches (GAO) on the market that deliver herbs transdermally, they work because of the herbs they put into you.  No patch pulls the bad stuff out folks, don’t fall for it.

In fact, toxins are rarely the problem. Though Alt-Med devotees have spread the idea that we are all toxic because we live in a toxic world.  Actually our bodies  do a pretty good job in filtering and eliminating toxicity.

Despite what you may think, ‘toxins’ are not usually the root cause of most of your ills. And many symptoms you may attribute to toxicity are more likely caused by imbalances, poor flows, extremes, or deficiencies.  Incorrectly diagnosing these signs and symptoms as toxicity delays timely and appropriate therapy.

Moreover, detoxification treatments can be plainly harmful in themselves.  Purgation, fasting, and herbal detoxification, by nature tend to drain the qi and can actually make weak people worse.


The Great Gallstone Grift

I recently did an email consultation with a woman from abroad, who was seeking herbs to rid herself of chronic gallstones, which she believed was the cause of her “red eyes, hot head, cold hands and feet, migraines, stiff shoulders, lower back pain, muscle pain, stiffness of back of the neck muscles, muscle cramps, nervousness, abdomen gases, parasites, candida, peptic ulcer, uterine fibroids, brittle nails and hair loss”.

What puzzled me was that, though gallstones can be a significant problem, there’s not a chance they could cause the litany of complaints listed by this patient.

She said she was faithfully using a product called Oxy-Mag Gallbladder Flush to rid herself of the constantly recurring stones.  Apparently the gallstones kept recurring despite using the product over and over again.

She was sure the product worked, because everytime she drank the powder which she dissolved in olive oil and lemon juice, gallstones appeared profusely in her stool.  

Despite the photo she sent, showing multiple greenish yellow stones, I was suspicious. Gallstones simply don’t recur over and over again in this manner. So I asked her a few questions. How many times did she use the flush? “Maybe a hundred times”, she said.  How many stones were expelled with each flush? “Twenty or more each time”. How severe was the pain from the stones” “No pain at all”, she responded. Did the stones sink or float? They floated.

I finally had to explain to her: “What you think are gallstones are a product of the oxy powder ingredients reacting with the olive oil. Though olive oil and lemon juice can occasionally flush real gallstones, these are always small and sparse. Yours are far too large and far too numerous to be real. Real gallstones sink, they don’t float.  Real gallstones hurt (very severely) when passed. Real gallstones disintegrate at room temperature and must be refrigerated to maintain their shape.” As I learned from  subsequent investigation, people have used this product and have been able to produce ‘gallstones’ outside the body.

This fake product produces green globules of fat and material that are expelled in the stool and resemble large gallstones. They are not gallstones at all. Just like ear candling and foot patches, repeated use results in so much foreign matter that the patient believes they are riddled with toxin, detritus, or disease when they are not.  The danger is that these products may delay diagnosis and treatment of the real cause of these symptoms.

If you’re concerned about gallstones, please consult with an experienced Chinese herbologist who can prescribe herbs that may actually help you.

If you find your practitioner using these therapies, you might raise the question of their legitimacy.



Copyright Joel Harvey Schreck 2018



Previous article 6 Syndrome Diagnosis (Jing Fang)

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields