Tin Foil Treatments

December 1, 2021

Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience, Alternative Medicine

I was sent a funny article (opens new window) the other day about the benefits of aluminium foil on a website called Tips and Tricks. The website appears to be a prolific source of clickbait - articles with catchy titles that are designed to suck you in and get you to click the link to read more, so that the company can take you away from social media sites and onto their website to show you adverts and make money.

The article had some health tips that involved using tin foil to help with colds, joint pain and fatigue. Now, sadly, I wasn’t suffering from any of these ailments last night, but my wife walked the Tongariro Crossing on the weekend and since then she’s had a sore knee and has been feeling tired. So I managed to convince her to help me out, and test these medical life hacks.

For her fatigue, the site says to:

"put a few sheets of aluminum foil in the freezer for two to four hours. Then put the sheets on your face... We haven’t tried this ourselves yet, but we hear from many people that it really works! So, definitely worth trying."

So, I folded a large piece of foil a few times and placed it in the freezer yesterday in preparation.

For the knee pain, the site said:

"Wrapping your joints in a sheet of aluminum foil can also help against pain. You can use a bandage to keep the foil in its place properly. Wrap the foil around the painful joint before you go to bed and keep it in place during the night."

The third tip was about wrapping your feet in foil if you have a cold, but sadly my wife doesn’t have a cold. I am, however, committed to trying this myself the next time I have the sniffles - apparently it can take a couple of days for the treatment to make a "difference", which is not really saying much - especially as our bodies usually only take a few days to fight off a cold.

When my (long-suffering) wife went to bed she wrapped her knee in foil and placed the cold foil on her head. After she’d gone to bed, I continued browsing the Tips and Tricks website, and found an article (opens new window) about how to help with Restless Leg Syndrome. Wouldn’t you know it, my wife also suffers from RLS! So, following the site’s advice, I very quietly snuck into the bathroom, unwrapped a bar of soap, tiptoed into the bedroom and slipped it quietly under her side of the mattress.

In the morning, my wife said that her knee was not really much different - apparently it’s hard to sleep with foil wrapped around your knee, so she removed it at some point. But she had a horrible headache - so the foil on the head hadn’t really worked.

As for the restless leg - from what I could tell, and from what she could remember, she didn’t have any issues at all last night. Success!... However, when I double-checked the instructions, I noticed that it said to put a bar of lavender soap between the sheets at the foot of the bed. I’d put a bar of aloe vera soap under the mattress in the middle of the bed. So maybe I’ve found a new cure? Or maybe my wife’s RLS is worse some days than others, and a single night’s secret test is not a good way to test claims!

I found a lot of other silly health "advice" on the website, such as:

  • "If you pee (opens new window) in the shower often, you’ll immediately feel as if you need to pee every time you hear running water… On top of that, peeing in the shower on a daily basis can lead to nerve damage. There’s a chance that this will result in a lowered continence."
  • Pickle juice (opens new window) is cheaper and healthier than a sugary drink, and can help with weight loss, hangovers and muscle spasms.
  • When you poop (opens new window), it should be as long as your forearm and you should only ever need to wipe once.

In fact, if you follow the positive advice on this site, your diet will consist of the daily consumption of pickles, pears, garlic, bananas, beer, coffee, kiwi fruit, lemon, ginger and vinegar.

Although those examples are pretty silly, some of the other health pages are concerning - such as one which "helps" people to self-diagnose stomach cancer (opens new window) via symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, low appetite and nausea. And another for lymph node cancer (opens new window), with symptoms including itching, fever and fatigue. And there are many, many other pages listing these kinds of symptoms for ovarian cancer, endometriosis, menopause, Parkinsons, COVID, appendicitis, pregnancy and more. These pages all list such generic symptoms that the articles are likely to cause unwarranted worry for some people. I think doctors are overloaded enough at the moment without having to deal with people self-diagnosing from using Dr Google.