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Magnetic Therapy

Magnet therapy has recently been building a following in the United States after a long history rooted in the ancient cultures of China, India, and Egypt. Some theorize that magnets interact with the iron in blood cells, improving the blood's oxygen-carrying ability. Others say the magnets stimulate nerve endings and interact with electrical processes in the body.

In general, people use magnets to relieve pain, accelerate healing, and boost their mental and physical energy. For example, to relieve a toothache, magnet devotees will use the north magnetic pole of a magnet against the cheek for 15 to 20 minutes (the north pole attracts; the south repels). Putting the north pole on the forehead between your eyebrows for 10 minutes at bedtime is said to lead to better sleep after a few days of treatment.

There are a number of small magnetic devices sold in this country for the purpose of relieving pain. Magnet insoles, magnet mattresses, magnet car-seat covers, and small magnet jewelry to place on various parts of your body are readily available in health food stores and specialty shops. Many people swear by these devices, though there is no scientific evidence of the benefits.

Some people say that while contact with a south magnetic pole is relaxing, contact with a north magnetic pole can be stimulating and might possibly stir up latent tumors or other disease processes.

Yet, there have been several reports about the benefits of other kinds of magnetic therapy in the temporary relief of depression. Scientists at Boston's Beth Israel-Deaconess Hospital have experimented with "transcranial magnetic stimulation," in which bursts of magnetic waves are passed through the brain. According to Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, a professor of neurology at the Harvard University Medical School and a leading researcher on magnetic stimulation, when the magnetic waves pass through the left frontal part of the brain, nerve cells there are activated as well as connections to other areas deep within the brain, in turn creating antidepressant effects.


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