There are many forms of alternative medicine, most of them cheaper than ionithermie, since it is primarily available on ocean cruise liners. Wherever one receives the treatment, it is touted as a means of removing cellulite, toning skin, and slimming waistlines.
In these sessions, customers are wrapped in a mix of herbs and seaweed before having a dry brush applied to their skin. Next they shower, then lay on a pad covered with algae-infused clay. The skin to be treated is then covered with this clay, which acts as conductor when a current is applied to it.
Jeff Wagg of Skeptoid queried an ionithermie practitioner about the cellulite claims. She wrote that through galvanism, which is the contracting of muscles being stimulated by an electrical current, clay will be forced into the body. There, the clay makes a beeline for cellulite and commences to zapping it. In truth, the dermis keeps most foreign substances out of the body. Any clay will almost certainly stay on the outside. Further, misusing a genuine scientific word, in this case galvanism, is a typical ploy in alt-med circles.
As for slimming, if you wrap any part of your body tight enough that it sweats for a prolonged period, that particular part will shrink, but revert to its normal size the next day.
Wagg found another practitioner who wrote that ionithermie will “detoxify the body at the cellular level. Over one million treatments are performed annually worldwide and it is offered on more than 100 cruise liners around the world.”
That last sentence is the ad populum fallacy. Perhaps that many customers are receiving the treatment, but what are they getting out of it? And the only detoxing taking place is what the liver and kidneys are doing and this applies whether or not one is enveloped in fine-grain earthy material while floating toward Bora Bora.
The practitioner further proclaimed that, “Just one session and your favorite dress fits perfectly again,” and that the product is “100 percent chemical-free and enriched by the healing powers of natural amber and silver that can make your skin look delicious!”
Thinking it is chemical-free reveals scientific ignorance and the references to amber and silver represent the naturalist fallacy. Anything you put into your body or on your skin is going to contain chemicals, regardless of how natural, organic, silky, or sweet-smelling it is. Often times, the claims of being natural are false since mankind has improved the product in the field or in a laboratory. More importantly, nature merely means occurring in nature and this distinction has no bearing on safety. On a positive note for the practitioners, the “delicious-looking skin” imagery may help them with the cannibal demographic.