Ionic detoxification footbaths are being widely promoted on the Internet and elsewhere as a means of removing toxins from the body and balancing cellular energy. They make use of an electrically powered device that is said to produce positive and negative ions. Supposedly, the ions stimulate cells in the body. As a result, promoters claim that toxins are excreted from the body via pores in your feet. During the foot bath, the water changes color, going from clear to reddish brown to black - this is billed as "proof" that toxins are being removed.
Promoters claim that ionic detox footbaths can relieve all manner of physical complaints - from arthritis and joint pain to headaches, fatigue, skin problems, poor digestion, and liver and kidney disorders.
This is all complete nonsense. The Guardian Unlimited, an online British newspaper, sent a doctor to have an ionic detox footbath. He took water samples before and after and sent them to a lab for analysis. Neither sample contained any toxins. And when a Guardian Unlimited reporter suspected that the discolored water might be due to rust, he tried an experiment: he rigged up a bowl of salt water with two metal nails attached to a car battery (to simulate the metal electrodes used in the ionic detox footbaths). That water turned brown with some sludge on top = the same type seen on the footbaths. The change in color was due to iron from the nails. Analysis of the "after" sample of water from the detox footbath showed that the change in water color was a result of its iron content.
A footbath, ionic or not, can't detox your body or rebalance cellular energy. If you buy one of the devices (which cost in the neighborhood of $1,200) the only rebalancing you're likely to notice will be in your bank account.
Andrew Weil, M.D.