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.