Detoxification Through the Foot

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A relatively new natural therapy has emerged in recent years that supposedly promotes detoxification through the foot. The treatment involves one of two methods. Either special pads are applied to the soles of the feet overnight to “absorb” toxins, or the feet are soaked in a salt water bath that introduces positive and negative ions through an electrical current. While these treatments may be relaxing, there’s no evidence that detoxification through the foot actually takes place.

Foot Detox Pads

Mayo Clinic dermatologist Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D., says that detox foot pads contain a combination of herbs, the mineral tourmaline and wood vinegar, which is a byproduct of charcoal. The idea is to sleep with the pads adhered to your feet for 30 consecutive nights, the period considered the initial cleansing phase. After that, the pads are used every few weeks as a maintenance treatment.

The reputed health benefits claimed by manufacturers of these pads include the relief of depression, enhanced weight loss and decreased blood pressure. However, as Dr. Gibson points out, there is a lack of scientific evidence to support these claims. In addition, he says that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has formally charged some manufacturers with deceptive advertising practices.

Foot Detox Baths

Foot detox baths pass an electric current through salt water to deliver positive and negative ions to “balance” the cells of the body. The person is supposed to use this device every second or third day for a period of 20 to 30 minutes. Per Stephen Barrett, M.D., manufacturers of these devices claim that toxins, including heavy minerals, are flushed out of the body through 2,000 pores of the feet. This detoxification process is supposed to be evidenced by the discolored water in the bath at the end of the treatment.

However, Dr. Barrett asserts that ion charges cannot physically resonate through the body, and the skin is simply not a gateway for toxin release. In fact, says Barrett, the only routes of elimination of toxins are through the liver and kidneys.

Claims Challenged

In 2005, the UK watchdog organization known as the Advertising Standards Authority challenged one foot detoxification bath manufacturer who published a brochure containing testimonials from customers that suggested the device could improve circulation, lower cholesterol and cure eczema, hammer toes and even brain tumors. The manufacturer subsequently removed the testimonials from its advertisements.


Barrett cites an experiment conducted by Ben Goldacre, a columnist with the British “Guardian Unlimited.” Using a car battery and two nails, Goldacre sent a current through a salt-water bath, which caused the water to turn brown. A laboratory comparison of this water with water from a detox treatment revealed that both samples merely changed color due to the release of iron from rust corrosion of the electrodes.

Bottom Line

Soaking the feet may help to relieve stress and fatigue. However, detoxification through the feet has been proven to be unlikely, if not impossible. If you suspect heavy mineral toxicity, please see your doctor.