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Magnetic Therapy - as old as the world


Knowledge of the power of magnets lies behind a very old therapeutic treatment that has been well documented down through the ages. Its history is rooted in the pre-Christian cultures of the Chinese, the Egyptians, the Greeks and others. Over the last hundred years, investigations into magnetism have also repeatedly produced new findings and technological applications. Research into this primal power that ”holds the world together in its core“ is currently being stepped up.

Magnetite was mined and used in the preparation of food, converted into ointments or rubbed into the hair. Our knowledge can be traced back to hematite mines in Africa (magnetic iron ore).

From 2780 BC
”The Yellow Emperor‘s Classic of Internal Medicine“, the oldest work on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), explained more than 2000 years ago how imbalances in the human body could be corrected using remedies like acupuncture and moxibustion (the warming of acupuncture points) and through the application of magnetic stones on acupuncture points and meridians.

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Cleopatra wears Magnetic Bracelets

Egyptian hieroglyphs and documents in cuneiform show that magnet therapy was an indispensable method in the treatment of diseases. Pictorial representations – in temples and elsewhere – confirm its use. Even the legendary Cleopatra is said to have worn a magnetic amulet to preserve her youth and beauty.

From 2000 BC
Chinese medicine is based on the premise that health is dependent on the circulation of energy along described pathways called meridians. Chi (the Chinese term for vital energy), comes from two opposing influences, Yin and Yang. Diseases come about when Yin and Yang are not in balance and the natural flow of chi (energy) in the meridians is blocked. Other ancient civilizations like the Hebrews, the Hindus, the Mayans and the Aztecs also used magnets for therapeutic purposes.

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The Middle Ages
Approx. 1098 – 1179 AD

In the Middle Ages, doctors in Europe reported that magnets could cure not only arthritis and gout but also melancholia, baldness and several types of poisoning. They were used to remove foreign bodies like iron knife blades and arrowheads from the body. Magnets were attributed with wondrous powers and were even reputed to be an aphrodisiac. Hildegard von Bingen wrote not only religious and philosophical but also medical treatises during the 1150s. Her writings on plants and diseases are of biological and medical interest. One of her books, Causae et Curae (Causes and Cures), deals with the development and treatment of different diseases. The second of her works on the natural sciences is entitled ”Book on the Inner Nature of Different Creatures and Plants“ (translating the title from the Latin). Because of this, Hildegard is nowadays often called the first German woman doctor. Magnetism was an integral part of her method of healing.

1493 -1541

The most important precursor of the Modern Age in terms of the medical use of magnets is the Swiss natural healer and doctor Paracelsus.

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The Modern Age 1734 -1815
Therapeutic magnetism received new impulses from physician Franz Anton Mesmer. After many experiments and treatments with a mineral magnet, he one day came to the following conclusion on the basis of a  personal experience: ”Properties are found in the human body that are analogous to those of the magnet! Opposite poles can likewise be distinguished therein, which can  be communicated, changed, destroyed and reinforced.“ From this point onwards, his methods included the laying on of hands and the transfer of animal magnetism.

1799 - 1804
On his numerous expeditions through South America, Cuba and Mexico, scientist Alexander von Humboldt discovered that the earth‘s magnetic field varies according to the latitude.

Friedrich Wilhelm III established a Chair of Magnetic Healing at the University of Berlin, to which he appointed Karl Christian Wolfart, his personal physician an admirer and pupil of Mesmer. At the start of the 19th century Professor Wolfart also ran a magnetic healing clinic in Berlin.

The twelve-volume ”Archiv für tierischen Magnetismus“ published by professors Kieser, Eschenmayer and Nasse, Staatsbibliothek München, reported that Mesmer‘s method of healing was used by a very great number of doctors.

1749 - 1832

”Magnetism is a force of overall effectiveness. Its effect extends to everything.
To every case, man, animal and plant …,“ wrote poet and polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

In a forensic opinion, the famous Geheimrat von Nußbaum stated, ”An animal magnetism definitely exists and is of such great power that the touching with hands or the magnetizing of water has a great effect …“

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Linus Carl Pauling received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his discovery of the magnetic properties of haemoglobin. This discovery was particularly important because not only is iron the oxygen carrier in haemoglobin (red blood cell pigment), it also plays a major role in the intracellular metabolism. Iron is an important energy carrier because it is easily magnetized.

Manned space flight demonstrates the extent to which mankind is dependent on magnetic radiation. When the first astronauts returned to earth, they were found to have health problems ranging from disturbed sleep to depression. The main cause was energy exhaustion, attributed to the absence of the earth‘s magnetic field in space

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Experiments in California showed that the magnetic flux of a magnet activates metabolic processes and promotes the formation of amino acids. In the case of the enzyme trypsin, the activity could be influenced or increased by placing it between the poles of a magnetic field or between the palms of a healer‘s hands.

Japanese doctor Yoshia Oay conducted a double-blind study on 80 patients complaining of problems of the lumbar spine. More than 90 % of the subjects, who wore a magnetic belt for a certain amount of time, evaluated its effect as positive.

human body

2003 - 2006
Dr. h. c. Petra Döring conducted a survey of over 5000 wearers of magnetic jewellery, with clear guidelines and structured questionnaires (more than one complaint could be mentioned!) It examined the eff effectiveness of the jewellery for complaints ranging from headaches to insomnia. Result: 92 % of respondents felt an improvement in at least one complaint.

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Mainstream medicine likes to dismiss the effect of magnetic jewellery as a placebo effect. However, a British study of 194 osteoarthritis patients showed that magnetic bracelets, for instance, can reduce osteoarthritis pain of the hip or knee. The results of the investigation were published first in the British Medical Journal and later throughout the world.

Over a million people throughout the world are dying of malaria. Henry Lai, a biologist at the University of Washington, claims to have found a totally pain and side-effect-free way of stopping plasmodium, the pathogen of malaria, in its tracks: with magnetism. The melodiously named parasite contains a quantity of haemoglobin, the remains of its meal of human blood. Haemoglobin is an iron-carrying molecule. In a weak, oscillating magnetic field, the remains of the haemoglobin will start vibrating. They oscillate more and more, colliding violently with the parasite's delicate cell membrane, destroying the cell organelles and tearing the malaria pathogen to pieces.

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Magnetism continues to fascinate researchers. Physicists from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the University of Cologne have discovered a new type of magnetic structure in manganese silicon. A team headed by physicist Sebastian Mühlbauer and Professor Christian Pfleiderer (both TUM) was able to visualize the lattice of magnetic vortex filaments whose existence had long been suspected, using neutrons from the TUM‘s Heinz Maier-Leibnitz (FRM II) research neutron source. Their spectacular discovery, which answers a decades-old question about the building blocks of the universe and could also initiate new developments in magnetic data processing, was published in Science on 13 February 2009.

Recent researches

Another excellent study, conducted at the National Institutes of Health's Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, got around the "blind" problem by testing two different strengths of magnets on people diagnosed with chronic sciatica (low back pain radiating down their leg). The size, construction, weight, and arrangement of the magnets along the spine were all strictly controlled, and the treatment period lasted for five weeks. Leg pain was significantly reduced by the stronger magnets.

In a Harvard Medical School study of 29 patients with painful osteoarthritis of the knee, treatments were given in a clinic setting for four hours, eliminating the possibility of ruining the placebo effect. The pain scores decreased by 79 points in the treatment group, versus only 10 points in the placebo group.

Patients suffering from the painful symptoms of diabetic neuropathy enjoyed significantly less burning, numbness, tingling, and exercise-induced foot pain when treated with magnet therapy. These benefits occurred gradually, over about four months' time.

A review study found that among 42 scientific reports, 37 showed that magnets brought significant pain relief, especially when magnets were placed on trigger points rather than directly on where it hurt.

A study on laboratory rats, with standardized wounds on their backs, showed that the wounds that were treated with magnets healed completely in 15 days, compared to 20 days for the rats with fake magnets.


Researchers using a different type of magnet therapy, called ion cyclotron resonance (ICR), found that it significantly helps bones heal, even in fractures that otherwise refuse to knit. In fact, the FDA has approved two devices using ICR. One device is approved for use in treating those stubborn fractures, and the other is for accelerating spinal fusion after back surgery.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), where magnets are applied to both sides of the head or torso, has been shown to stimulate the firing of neurons in the brain and spinal cord. TMS was put to the test in a well-designed Harvard Medical School study of stroke patients who lost normal motor functioning on one side of the body. Those patients in the treatment group had significantly improved motor performance of the affected side, compared to the placebo group.

A similar study was done with patients afflicted with Parkinson's disease, and the treatment group had significant improvements in several Parkinson's-related symptoms compared to the placebo group.

A special electromagnetic chair was invented several years ago, for magnet therapy of middle-aged women who had urinary incontinence. One study found more than 60 percent improvement in measurements of key pelvic floor muscles after treatment, but there was no significant difference in the incontinence itself. The problem with the chair is that it's an expensive and non-portable piece of equipment that stays in the clinic. Therefore, patients get treated only intermittently, when they come to the clinic. In another study, treatment was done with portable magnets so the therapy was applied continuously, day and night, for two months. Compared to the control group, the treatment group's incontinence improved significantly.

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