Magnetic jewellery has certainly
taken off with a bang! Its rapid rise in popularity
reflects our current interest in complementary therapies,
coupled with our 21st century desire for
achieving optimum health.
The mysterious properties of magnets, the subject of
scientific investigation down the centuries, inspires our
present day curiosity to find out
more about their effects on the body and possible benefits.
Magnetic therapy has sparked the interest of celebrities too,
such as Sir Anthony Hopkins, Shirley MacLaine and Bill
The wearing of magnetic jewellery is considered to be the
logical, self help way of obtaining the benefits of
magnetic therapy on a daily basis, and looking good at the
Magnets have long held a fascination for us – an
invisible force with the power to attract and repel
metallic objects. We can all remember our school
experiments with iron filings and a piece of paper,
observing as the particles are drawn towards the ends of
the magnet and form patterns on the paper.
It was the Chinese in the 4th century who noticed the
direction-pointing ability of natural magnetite and by the
12th century were using it as a compass for navigation.
The use of this spread and by the 16th
century it was used by mariners everywhere.
to this, the Pole Star, or Lode Star, was the prime
navigational aid, the magnetite used to magnetise the
compass needle became known as the lodestone.
Even today, magnets play a large part in our lives in one way
or another – after all, no self-respecting refrigerator
door would be seen without at least one magnet to help
guide us through our hectic daily schedule!
Recently, there has been an upsurge of interest in the
healing aspect of magnetism. It has been credited with
beneficial effects for a whole range of ailments such as
eczema, depression, chest infections and migraine but
predominantly in the easing of pain, increased energy and
for encouraging the healing process. It may also have
The practice of magnetic therapy can be traced back to the
Ancient World of the Egyptians and was probably used in
the mummification process. Legend has it that
Cleopatra’s long lasting beauty was attributed to the
application of a magnet on her forehead!
How it works
It is not known exactly how this magnetic healing process works,
but the thinking behind its effectiveness is that the body, which
contains about 4% iron, creates an electro-magnetic field which is
influenced by magnets. When an area of the body is injured and swelling occurs,
blood flow is restricted, giving rise to pain. The magnetic energy somehow
increases blood flow to the area, thereby aiding the removal of substances
such as lactic acid, and so reducing swelling and pain.
Stimulating the blood flow is thought to also increase the amount of
oxygen delivered to the organs. Another suggested
beneficial effect is that magnets generate heat in the
body, allowing joints to become more flexible.
There has been much research into magnetic therapy over the ages but the
first person to study the phenomenon was Dr William Gilbert in the
He was fascinated by magnetism and experimented with magnetic force. It was he who
gave us the terms magnetic pole and electrical force.
Later on, in the 18th century, Dr Franz Anton Mesmer, renowned for his work in
hypnotism, and giving rise to the term mesmerism, explored the effects of magnetic
therapy. He is purported to have succeeded in curing a range of ailments.
The founder of
homoeopathy, Dr Samuel Hahnemann also experimented with the use of magnetism
and concluded that he could cure 1243 symptoms. Interestingly, the origins of chiropractic,
in the 1890s, stem back to magnetism when an American, Daniel David
Palmer, became interested
in magnetic healing.
In these more enlightened times, magnetic therapy has
encountered a fair amount of scepticism, although its
enthusiasts sing praises to its efficacy.
With so much anecdotal evidence in its favour, doctors are now
studying magnetic therapy more closely. Research at the
Peninsular School in Plymouth, reported by the BMA, found
evidence of a “beneficial effect of magnetic wrist
bracelets on osteoarthritis of the hip and knee”. In the
study, it was found that wearing magnetic bracelets
significantly reduced the amount of pain experienced, and
consequently lowered the dosage of painkillers.
Also, an electromagnet was found to be of benefit to people with
spinal cord injuries. Research performed at Imperial
College, London found that stimulation of the cerebral
cortex of the brain led to an improvement of muscle
The future of magnetic therapy
Other research seems to be showing favourable results, too. Certainly, the use of
magnetic jewellery as a low cost, self help option is
gaining momentum as it is considered to be non-toxic and
free of side-effects, although it is not recommended for
pregnant women or wearers of pacemakers.
There are many types of magnetic jewellery available, using a
variety of materials and in many styles. A feature of the
jewellery is the use of hematite, a black or dark grey
gemstone with a shiny metallic appearance. It is cold to the
touch, even on a warm day and is naturally magnetic. Its
name comes from the Greek word for blood, as the gemstone
can have a rust-red streak. In Germany it is sometimes
referred to as blutstein (bloodstone).
Necklaces and bracelets made of
natural shell and gemstones incorporating magnetic beads
are also popular and fit right in with current fashion
research is certainly needed but in years to come we may
see magnetic therapy sit alongside other complementary
treatments such as acupuncture, osteopathy and
homoeopathy, and even be fully recognised by the
mainstream medical establishment.