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y views will probably not endear me to spa operators. But it’s important they consider the other side of the argument.

I’ve been a qualified physician since 1978

and have also received hands-on training in acupuncture, autogenic training, herbalism, homeopathy, massage therapy and spinal manipulation. During the last 20 years, my research has focused on the critical evaluation of all aspects of medicine, but I do not aim to promote any therapy – my goal is to provide objective evidence and reliable information. Alternative detox comprises a range of treatments that claim to reduce toxins from the body. Ayurveda, colonics, lymph drain- age massage, exfoliation, saunas, hot tubs, organic food, filtered water, good quality air –to the best of my knowledge there is no ‘good evidence’ that any of them eliminate toxins. By good evidence, I mean scientific studies like randomised controlled trials, as these minimise as many sources of bias as possible.


Editor in chief, Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies; professor emeritus, University of Exeter

Some may say no evidence exists because alternative detox is a field that’s under- researched, but if the claim is not biologically plausible then why test it? If the treatments don’t work, people may be wasting money or could face harmful side-effects: sauna may result in heart problems in predisposed individuals and ayurvedic remedies are often contaminated with heavy metals, for instance. Spas that are making claims that are not supported by evidence are, in my view, dishonest, arguably illegal and unethical. The onus should be on those who make the claim to demonstrate that it’s valid. Spas could conduct their own studies – this would include defining the toxin they claim is eliminated in a

treatment and measuring it in a proper trial (as described). They would need to hire a scientist to conduct the study but it’s not necessarily a lengthy or expensive process. A meaningful study could be done in two to three months. It might cost around £20,000 (US$14,700, €12,150) but if it’s of sufficient quality, back- ing could come from official funding bodies such as the Medical Research Council in the UK. Having provable results is an essential precondition to making therapeutic claims.

Ernst has written a number of books critically evaluating alternative and complementary medicine. Details:

Spas that are making claims that are not supported by evidence are, in my view, dishonest, arguably illegal and unethical


n a physical level, detox is about removing toxins from the body. On a psychophysiological level, it’s about removing imbalances

– tension or abnormalities anywhere in the body or mind – to restore proper function. The mind, body and emotions all need to be detoxed. Emotional stress, for example, stimulates the production of stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol which can cause damage the heart and blood vessels. I’m not familiar with all spas, but many I’ve seen are superficial. Yet they have the potential to tackle detox at a deeper level which could fill a major gap in healthcare today. Two of the most powerful therapies in detox which also have well-documented scientific research behind them, are meditation and ayurveda. Along with my role at The Raj, I’m profes- sor and director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at the Maharishi University of Management (MUM) in Iowa. The institute receives federal funding to scientifically investigate natural approaches to healthcare. We’ve conducted randomised, controlled blind trials which show that detoxing of the mind via the transcendental meditation technique helps to prevent and

ROBERT SCHNEIDER Medical director, The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa

treat hypertension, cardiovascular disease and other stress related disorders. I’d recommend meditation as part of a mind-body detox programme, but it should be done every day. It’s something people could learn and take home with them rather than a one-off annual thing. Panchakarma, an holistic, ayurvedic

system, is especially effective in eliminating accumulated toxins and psychophysiological imbalances. It consists of five purification therapies with special herbs, massages, heating treatments, oil applications and gastrointestinal elimination to balance the brain, nervous system and the whole body. Notably Dr Robert Herron and Dr John Fagan [scientists at MUM] found that panchakarma reduced chemicals know as fat soluable tox- ins in the blood by 50 per cent. Their findings were published in the journal of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.

38 Read Spa Business online

Any spa that wants to avoid ineffective

detox treatments should employ methods with scientific evidence or at least methods of long tradition of use and preferably ancient. If something’s persisted for millenniums that itself suggests that it’s useful and helpful. Spas often have an eclectic mix of therapies

and clients don’t know what’s best for them. Ideally, a panel of experts would advise what individual combination would be most effec- tive. This might not sound practical, but if a spa really wants to resolve people’s problems, it needs to work at a deeper level. At the very least, programmes should be put together with a panel of interdisciplinary experts.

Schneider’s work at The Raj and MUM comprises teaching, research and clinical practice in integrative preventative healthcare. Details: or

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