Influencers Are Claiming a $4,000 Hunk of Plastic Can Treat Infertility, Skinned Knees, and Autism
“I have literally never experienced anything that has had such a profound effect on multiple levels,” gushes the wellness influencer in the caption to her Instagram story. She’s a mom of four, pretty in the way most wellness influencers are, with long, well-conditioned tresses and skin that appears to glow from the inside. In the post, she’s holding up a small, thin, square-shaped device, with a teal-and-green swirl and a button in the center; it looks almost retrofuturist, like something you’d see on The Jetsons.
“I know it sounds crazy but it’s true,” she writes. “My eyes have been open to a whole new level of healing.” She then goes on to describe the myriad ways that the device has helped her health, from alleviating her PMS symptoms to reducing anxiety to healing her daughter’s sprained ankle.
The gadget that the influencer is plugging is the Healy: a small, blue-and-white plastic disk whose makers claim emits individual microcurrent frequencies uniquely tailored to your individual health needs. It purports to use individualized microcurrent frequencies, or IMF, to enhance wellness or, as a representative told Rolling Stone, support “wellbeing through harmonization of the bioenergetic field.”
The device comes in various “editions,” which range from $500 to more than $4,000 for the “professional” version. It pairs with a smartphone and clips onto clothes, and comes with various adhesive electrodes that deliver customizable electromagnetic currents to the user’s body. The frequencies vary depending on the program group the user buys, ranging from health to beauty to sleep to skin care to chakras.
In addition to the Healy itself, the company sells a wide range of other products, from a watch ($230.50) that measures your “bioenergetic state” to the MagHealy, a $2,229 spherical disc that emits a specialized magnetic field intended to “harmonize your being, your immediate environment, and drinking water.” There’s even a module designed solely to optimize your pet’s “bioenergetic field,” available via subscription for $24.95 per month.
The website for Healy World, as the corporate entity is known, specifies that its devices have only been cleared by the FDA for “local relief of acute, chronic, and arthritis pain and muscle soreness due to overexertion”; in the European Union, they are also cleared to help manage depression and anxiety. The FDA confirmed to Rolling Stone that it was cleared as a class II, or “moderate risk” device, due to its similarity to other medical apparatuses that use transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to help with pain relief. A disclaimer on the Healy World website states that Healy products are “not intended to ‘cure, treat, mitigate, diagnose or prevent any disease or medical condition.’”
That is not, however, how the product is being presented by creators on Instagram, where there are nearly 121,000 posts under the #Healy hashtag, or on TikTok, where there are millions of videos. Rolling Stone found dozens of examples of creators claiming that the device can, among other things, cure styes, treat UTIs, help alleviate allergies, or reduce constipation (specifically, it can make you shit yourself while you’re walking your dogs: “It cleaned me out, I was not expecting that,” one influencer said on a recent Instagram Live. “It’s a very powerful program.”).
Several medical experts who spoke with Rolling Stone say they find these claims concerning, as such marketing could potentially “lead people to not use proven, efficacious, and safe treatment options. It can delay diagnosis,” says David Stukus, MD, a professor of clinical pediatrics and fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI). “And I think that’s the problem.” A representative for Healy World insists that distributors are warned not to make any “unsubstantiated health claims” and are instructed accordingly in training, adding that “members who provide false or misleading information will be informed immediately and instructed to correct their content.” But with the company rapidly expanding since the pandemic, outrageous claims about the Healy are proliferating widely on social media — with potentially dangerous consequences.
“It can delay diagnosis,” says one doctor of the Healy. “And I think that’s the problem.”
THE HEALY ISN’T EXACTLY new — it’s a smaller, commercial version of a device called the TimeWaver, which was launched by Marcus Schmieke in 2007. Schmieke is the German founder of the Existential Consciousness Research Institute, an organization that purports to use “art, science, and spirituality for understanding, supporting and accelerating a global transformation of consciousness,” according to its website. Schmieke claims to be a former monk who has authored more than 20 books in 10 languages about “the interaction between matter and consciousness,” as his bio on the Healy website puts it (ECRI did not respond to requests for comment.)
Initially, Healy was available solely to buy online, Martin Wittmann, head of product development for Healy World, tells Rolling Stone. In 2019, however, Healy launched Healy World, a community of thousands of “practitioners, health consultants and other professionals who use the Healy technology in their practices,” according to the website, because the device is “something you need to experience,” Wittmann says. “You need someone to show you how to use that. That’s basically where the direct selling approach comes in.” He estimates that the company has more than 300,000 distributors and consumers, 10 percent of whom are actively selling Healy devices and about 80 percent of whom are one-time buyers.
Though Healy alludes to its “multi-compensation model” on its website — what is also known as multi-level marketing, or MLM — the company does not explicitly publicly advertise its payment structure. A company document detailing Healy World’s compensation plan, however, outlines how movement through the company is contingent on recruiting new members, with people ascending from “Builder” to “Manager” to “Team Leader” based on their “downline volume” (DV), among other metrics. (While acknowledging that MLMs are “not without challenges and risks,” a representative for Healy World characterizes it as “a legitimate business model that has been used successfully by many companies, including Healy.”)
Many influencers who hawk Healy on social media frame it as an empowering, entrepreneurial opportunity for their followers, specifically women, the demographic that most multi-level marketing companies tend to target. “I chose Healy because it’s high ticket, high impact, and it has the ability to help women create additional or primary streams of revenue that make them wildly financially resourced, and wildly financially resourced women change the world,” Leah Steele, an influencer with 68,000 followers who refers to herself as a “life alchemist” in her bio, says in one video. (Steele did not respond to requests for comment.)
Healy World, which has 250 employees worldwide, according to the interview with Wittmann, ostensibly has fairly stringent restrictions in terms of what claims sellers are legally allowed to make about the device. Wittmann says the company employs nine agents who are “working around the clock” to trawl social media ensuring that sellers are compliant, meaning that they are not making any claims for the Healy’s efficacy outside what is allowed by the FDA (he did not detail precisely how many Healy sellers have been subject to the compliance process, though he says Healy has “lost a lot of very, very good sellers, because they just didn’t comply. They just didn’t care. And that’s not our philosophy, because [misleading] someone is exactly the opposite of the company core.”)
In practice, however, people on social media are promoting Healy as a means of treating even serious illnesses, in ways that doctors who spoke with Rolling Stone said could potentially cause harm. One woman posted on Instagram that she used her Healy to treat an anaphylactic reaction, “no EpiPen or hospital stay necessary.” Another mother frequently posts about using it to treat her profoundly disabled daughter, who has a rare brain disease, during her physical therapy sessions. Yet another father on YouTube has said that he uses Healy to help treat his daughter’s autism. (Wittmann stressed to Rolling Stone that the Healy is not cleared for use for children, referring to any claims that the Healy can heal children’s disease as “a clear case for compliance.”)
On the Healy website, numerous photos of men in white coats using microscopes, close-up renderings of DNA, as well as vague citations of the work of other doctors, give the impression that Healy may have approval from the scientific establishment. Yet there is no reliable evidence that using electromagnetic frequencies on the body works at treating or diagnosing disease, and such claims are generally believed to be nothing more than pseudoscience.
One woman posted that she used her Healy to treat an anaphylactic reaction, “no EpiPen necessary.”
“We’re always interested in how the body works and how we can use what we know about that to help people,” says Nirutha Raghunatha, director of pediatric integrative medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering. “But in decades of study, [with] the earliest studies going out to the 1980s or 1990s, they have not found any solid ground [with electromagnetic therapy].”
Healy is quick to note that they don’t claim their product can help treat disease, and that it “should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment,” as a representative told Rolling Stone. Because the Healy is cleared for use in the United States for pain relief and muscle soreness, however, those involved with the company are allowed to claim it can be used for such purposes, even if research in that area is also relatively scant. When asked about peer-reviewed research supporting microcurrent therapy for pain relief, a Healy public relations representative referred Rolling Stone to three studies, the most recent of which is a 2011 study looking at chronic lower back pain from the Sao Paulo Journal of Medicine. Those studies do not look at the Healy specifically, but assess whether microcurrent therapy can be effective for pain relief in general, with the Sao Paulo study finding that 84 percent of study participants who received TENS therapy stopped using medication after treatment.
Regarding the Healy itself, Wittmann says the company has done many internal studies and pointed to an internally conducted, company-sponsored two-year post-market clinical follow-up study (PMCF) involving 249 participants that found “clinically significant” effects when treating chronic back pain and skeletal pain, among other conditions.
The idea behind Healy is that by restoring the body’s frequency via a small current of electricity, the device can restore and repair “imbalances” in the body on a cellular level. Such concepts, according to the Healy website, are based on the work of scientist Robert O. Becker, an orthopedic surgeon who wrote the 1985 book The Body Electric hypothesizing that electric fields can stimulate growth and play a role in cell regeneration. (Becker, who died in 2008, would speculate later in his career that harmful electromagnetic radiation plays a role in causing diseases like SIDS and AIDS.)
While it is true that the body does emit electrical currents, there is little peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support the fact that “imbalances” in frequency cause disease, as some influencers have claimed, or that a device like Healy can restore this imbalance. Such concepts go all the way back to the 1970s in the form of the “biorhythms” fad (the idea that physical health fluctuates according to 23-day cycles) or even to the work of Eighteenth century Italian scientist Luigi Galvani, who attached electrodes to dead frogs to show how electrical currents could stimulate reflexes.
“There’s this long history of thinking about electricity as a form of energy and life force that can be used into a way of thinking how we feel, and regulating or managing that,” explains Joanna Radin, associate professor of the history of science and medicine at Yale University and a historian of biomedical futures. “It’s real. It’s picking up things that are there,” she says. “The question is, we don’t understand why, or what [this electricity] does.”
The language used on the Healy website can have the effect of making the Healy seem more like it is based in sound science, even if that is not the case, says Dr. Stukus of the AAAAI. “If you look at the website for Healy, there’s a lot of common terms used in pseudoscientific ways. There is no real evidence to support them but it sounds like science,” he says, citing “broad claims” made about Healy programs enhancing sleep or skin care. While Stukus says it is not unheard of for people to use microcurrent therapy to treat, say, tissue injuries or muscle injuries, Healy is “extrapolat[ing]” from such research to make wider claims.
Stukus believes that any research conducted by the company supporting Healy’s efficacy is likely the result of “placebo effect.” “Imagine you spend $4,000 on this device. You have [what’s called] sunk-cost fallacy,” he says. “You’ve spent all this money. And you desperately want this to work.”
When asked if Healy’s benefits could be the product of placebo effect, Wittmann says to some extent, this is the case for every therapy — even if there is years of peer-reviewed, double-blinded research supporting it. “If you don’t want to get better, you will not get better,” he says. “It’s a very simple truth. If you don’t believe in whatever therapy, if you want to stay unhealthy, you will stay unhealthy, no one can help you.”
JO BAILEY, A LICENSED therapist based outside of Brisbane, Australia, has some concerns about how influencers are marketing these products in their social-media feeds. A former Healy World member who left the company two years ago, Bailey says she initially found out about Healy from a seller promoting the device in a Facebook group she ran for caregivers of people with dementia (Bailey’s mother had dementia and died a few years ago). When the group member started promoting Healy as a potential cure, Bailey deleted his posts, warning him that he was violating the group’s guidelines.
“I’m very open minded. And I do believe in bio resonance, I do believe we are electromagnetic beings, so using different types of frequency devices to restore balance or to heal isn’t a foreign concept to me,” she tells Rolling Stone. ‘But when you talk about dementia, there is no cure for dementia, and people are very desperate and very vulnerable and will do anything to help a loved one, as would I have done with my mother.”
Curious about using the device for her own personal benefit, Bailey purchased a top-of-the-line Healy for about $4,000 in 2019, briefly becoming involved as a salesperson, though she says she ultimately sold very few of the devices. She says she left in 2021, however, after she saw others involved with the company making various claims about the device that she did not feel comfortable with, as well as promises that people could become wealthy as a result of their involvement with the group.
“Many people in the company were claiming far beyond what I believe these kinds of devices can do,” she says. “Whilst they can support and help with balance and harmony and energy, work, they certainly don’t cure cancer, they don’t cure dementia. And [some users] profited off these sorts of claims and the vulnerabilities of people.” (When asked about Bailey’s experience, a spokesperson for Healy World said, “It is not appropriate for sellers to make false or exaggerated claims about the capabilities of any product, including the Healy World device. The company’s website and marketing materials make it clear for what the products are intended.”)
Like many wellness “cures” and devices, Healy spiked in popularity in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, during a highly anxious period when many were looking for answers. It also didn’t hurt the company’s popularity that many wellness influencers and yoga instructors had lost their income due to lockdowns, leading them to look for other revenue streams, says Derek Beres, which covers the rise of pseudoscience within the wellness community and has documented the popularity of the Healy at length. “After moments of trauma, when you come out of it, people search in a way they haven’t before. And they are more susceptible to being open to things that are promoted to change your lives in some capacity.”
One influencer, Chloe Angeline, aka Self-Healing Mama, who has 46,000 followers, posts frequently about her Healy device in the highlights on her Instagram. In one post from January, she alludes to the purported benefits of the Healy in the context of popular conspiracy theories about the danger of 5G cell phone towers: “There are frequencies that harm and frequencies that heal,” she posted on her stories. “With all these [cell phone] towers going up, I want to protect my family the best way I can.” In another post, she includes an affiliate link for any of her followers who buy a Healy device, offering a training workshop for those looking to sell the Healy at a 25 to 40 percent commission. (Angeline did not reply to Rolling Stone‘s requests for comment.)
Like many wellness “cures” and devices, Healy spiked in popularity in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Angeline’s messaging for prospective Healy buyers is similar to that offered to stay-at-home moms who sign up for other affiliate multi-level marketing companies, such as LulaRoe or DoTerra: achieve financial independence and autonomy without having to leave your home. The added element of homeopathic healing is particularly appealing to the alternative medicine set. “Working one hour a day online to build a stream of income so I can spend the rest of my summer planting wildflowers, raising chickens, learning how to make my own herbal remedies, and napping under the spruce trees with my children,” she wrote in a caption for a black-and-white photo of a flaxen-haired mother and child picking flowers.
Recently, other, more high-profile influencers have gotten on board with Healy World. In March, wellness entrepreneur and life coach Regan Hillyer, who has more than a million followers, appeared in a Zoom webinar for Healy, crediting “frequency medicine,” or using electrical frequencies to heal the body, with helping her build her eight-figure business. She said in the webinar she uses her Healy every morning for 40 seconds to scan her root chakras. “I knew that if I could tune into this and help get the power of frequency tangibly into the hands of everyday people, where it could change their lives in every single way, I was like, OK, this is absolutely amazing,” she said. (Hillyer did not respond to a request for comment.)
With more influencers touting Healy and its benefits online, as well as the brand itself growing rapidly — Wittmann says that since 2019, the company has expanded from four employees to about 250 — its popularity raises questions about whether vulnerable people are at risk. Radin sees the very existence of devices like the Healy as evidence of people’s frustration with the medical establishment and a shared need to try to explain the inexplicable. “[Healy] seems like it’s organized people around shared syndromic pain that can’t be touched or addressed around normal biomedical encounters,” she says. “There’s a whole dimension of experience and suffering that our biomedical models can’t deal with. There is real pain.”
Radin doesn’t discount that there could indeed be people who truly benefit from using the Healy, though whether that’s via placebo effect, she can’t say. She views the marketing of the device, however, as deeply problematic, referring to claims made on social media by sellers as “exploiting people’s pain.”
“It’s not the science that’s bad,” Radin says. “It’s the business model that’s bunk.”