Test Your Gullibility, installment #4731!

I hope you don't need me to tell you whether there's any reason to buy those Kinoki, and various other, "detoxification" patches which you're supposed to stick to your feet.

Yes, they go all black and stinky if you stick 'em on your feet for a few hours; that's supposed to be evidence that they've sucked heavy metals, carcinogens, parasites, body thetans and poltergeists out of the soles of your feet, by some means unknown to science that apparently has something to do with "bamboo vinegar". Or tourmaline. Or fairies.

Fortunately for the continued survival of every human on the planet, skin is not a semi-permeable membrane. So the stuff the patches are supposed to be extracting cannot pass through the skin at all, unless you'd be sweating it out anyway. And why any of that stuff would be attracted to a vinegary pad is also left unexplained.

(Oh, and then there's the fact that the substances allegedly being extracted are probably not present in your body in quantities sufficient to turn anything black in the first place. The alternative-medicine kind of "detoxification" is, in brief, a big fat scam.)

Similar pads turn brown if you just pour some tap water on them, because they contain a powder that goes nasty when it gets wet. They're like those "ionic foot bath" things (which have even more hilarious advertisements!), that go just as brown and yucky even if you don't bother to put your feet in them.

All of this means I wouldn't even bother to mention the darn foot patches, were it not for a post I just read on the excellent Hanzi Smatter.

As anybody familiar with that blog will know, there's only one way to get mentioned there.

And yes, it turns out that the kanji the Kinoki company have chosen to put above their company name doesn't really mean much.

"Wood tree sap", if anything.

In no language do those kanji sound like "ki-no-ki", and they are also not the name of some ancient Japanese herbal concoction.

The "wood tree sap" interpretation makes some sense, since the modern "detox" pads are apparently just the descendants of humble de-odorising pads which also contain "bamboo vinegar". Bamboo vinegar is not actually tree sap; it's an acidic liquid which is a byproduct of bamboo charcoal production. Like normal vinegar, it's got acetic acid in it (so I'd hazard a guess that any significant amount of it on your feet wouldn't actually smell that great), but it's the product of pyrolysis of bamboo, not fermentation.

(If you dry-distil wood in the same way, you get "wood vinegar", a very similar substance which was once a commercial source of acetic acid. To my knowledge, no carpetbagger has gotten around to saying wood vinegar is good for what ails you as well - but I'm sure it's only a matter of time. Pyrolisis of wood will also yield methanol; chug enough of that and all of your problems will be over!)

Bamboo vinegar works - or, at least, can in theory work - as a deodorant because it's about as acidic as normal vinegar, and most bacteria can't cope with that low a pH. Hence the effectiveness of vinegar pickling. But bamboo vinegar is not the "juice" or "sap" of the bamboo in any normal sense, any more than coal tar is the "sap" of coal. And nobody's demonstrated that it has any particular medical utility.

That doesn't stop the foot-pad people from implying there's some sort of mystic Eastern wisdom involved in their magical detox stickers, though.

7 Responses to “Test Your Gullibility, installment #4731!”

  1. Alan Says:

    Is the magic ingredient (ie wishful thinking) the same as that in the fuel additives? Can you squeeze a few drops of black sweat from the pad, and put them in your fuel tank?

    It puts a new spin on the concept of biofuel.

  2. corinoco Says:

    The 'brown and yucky' comments remind me of my job that got me through my university years - cleaning a dentist's surgery. I'm an architect, go figure. Oh, yeah, access to nitrous :-) Anywaaay....

    Cleaning the floors initially involved a Leading Commercial Product that claimed to "strip dirt off floors!". It definitely stripped the polish off the vinyl, but I was always suspicious of the amount of dirt that seemed to end up in the bucket. It was as if I was cleaning a builders site shed, not a dentist surgery. I did a test - clean bucket, hot water (as directed), cleaning product, then I just left it for about 30 mins. Magically, as the water cooled, it turned grey, murky, then the usual brownish-black with gritty scrudge precipitating out of it. I figured that what you were paying for was magic powder that went brown, rather than cleaned your floors. Hot water cleaned better without the cleaning product in it!

    I boggle at the sheer cost of developing and marketing a product that does nothing. I suppose it's common enough, though, maybe it's just some industrial by-product from making sports shoes and selling it as cleaning stuff is cheaper than dumping it.

    By an odd coincidence, the best floor cleaner I found was acetic acid - white vinegar, which cleaned darn near anything (yes, including blood) off the vinyl, and didn't remove the polish! Don't use vinegar on tiles though, it will eat the grout out.

  3. Jax184 Says:

    That reminds me of something I did when I was working for a local computer shop. The owner of the place was thrifty, to use a kind word, so we often had to make do with whatever we had laying around. One day I went into the bath/storage room, gathered up all of the nearly empty bottles of weak off brand cleaners and mixed anything that didn't look especially explosive together. The result was a bottle of "soup" which successfully removed printer ink from a cement floor, among other things.

    Well it seems that a shoddy salesman came into the store with some wondergunk that promised to clean, sanitise, whiten, degrime and restore any surface. He sprayed some on one of our used monitors and rattled off a few more verbs as he scrubbed away. It did an okay job. Then the store owner went into the back and grabbed my "soup." One spray, a quick swipe with a rag and it left a clean streak that outdid the miracle in a bottle. The salesman didn't have much to say after that.

    I have no idea what went into that "soup," but I wouldn't be surprised if a few more sprays of it would have melted the monitor's case.

  4. Daniel Rutter Says:

    As long as you don't manage to mix ammonia and bleach, mad scientist tricks with household cleaners are unlikely to cause any problems.

  5. Alex Whiteside Says:

    I was always suspcious of the same thing with Clearasil rub (the alcoholish stuff, not a cream), but alas I never tested it. You always get a black spot of grime on the pad afterwards, and from experience the grease on my skin doesn't make anything else go black.

  6. Stark Says:

    In the realm of interesting floor cleaners (talk about wandering off topic) I have to put liquid nitrogen out there as an excellent one. I used to work in a lab where we had lots and lots of liquid nitrogen (running 12 gas chromatographs uses a bit of nitrogen you see) and, being the lazy bunch of folks we were, we didn't like to sweep up at the end of the day. One of the fellows dropped a 2 liter Dewar of liquid nitrogen one morning (lucky for him he was wearing pants that day - shorts were common fare around there) and we noticed that the nitrogen picked up much of the broken glass and fair amount of dirt as it headed downhill for the floor sump. So... we ran a test. We sprayed a 10 or 12 liters of nitrogen around the floor of the lab and what we ended up with was nice cool feet and pile of frozen dirt at the floor drain. We also found 2 dead mice but that was just a side effect. This became our regular cleaning regimen and worked pretty well... though you did have to be sure to warn anybody wearing sandles to pick their feet up off the floor and it was, eventually, somewhat hard on the plastic wheels of the chairs.

  7. Stark Says:

    Oh, and yes, the lab had excellent ventilation so we never had any issues with the excessive amounts of nitrogen we released. The ethyl mercaptan bottle that broke in the direct-to-atmosphere hood (no filtering) was a different story though... fire department evacuated the whole block on that one. Oops.

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