Research on Therapeutic Waters

Last Updated: June 2011


Since 2004, we have been testing and investigating various therapeutic waters at the Materials Research Laboratory at Penn State.  Spearheaded by the late Emertius Professor Rustum Roy, our team has utilized various materials research characterization tools to attempt to ascertain if there are any particular measurable parameters that make one water more or less therapeutic than another.


Our tools included:

UV-Vis and NearIR spectrometers

Raman spectrometers

Surface Tension instruments

pH meters and/or alkalinity by titration

conductivity meter

chemical analyses

DC magnetometer

Differential Scanning Calorimeter for freezing point determination

Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) to examine colloids or minute particulates

Zeta potential instrument (if sufficient level of particulates)

…and other tools as deemed relevant/appropriate.


The kinds of waters we examined included ultradilute nanoparticle metal solutions (for example, 10 parts per million silver nanoparticles in ultrapure water), clay/colloid suspensions in water, homeopathic remedies, various bottled waters on the market, various bottled waters treated with proprietary electromagnetic or “subtle energy” devices, tap water treated by proprietary filter technologies, and various “healing waters” from around the world, including those “blessed” by healers.


This document will briefly address our findings, including

·      the role of testimonials,

·      common mistakes made in testing water, and

·      the role of healers. 

·      “What constitutes a therapeutic water?” is the final question addressed, based upon our current research.



Most waters come to our attention because of the testimonials raving over seemingly miraculous healings that have occurred because of individuals ingesting this particular water.  These are literally a dime a dozen.  It is very difficult to judge whether or not ingesting a particular water is the reason for therapeutic benefit for the following reasons:


1. Many people are walking around in a partially dehydrated state and are ignorant of the signs/symptoms of this dehydration: they literally are not ingesting enough high-quality liquid.  Therefore, ingesting ANY water is likely to be of some benefit to the body in this state.  [Read, for example, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water ( ). ]


2. Many people today ingest soda and/or coffee, and if these contain caffeine, caffeine will act as a diuretic, dehydrating the body.  The acids in the sodas also have highly detrimental effect.  If these individuals begin to drink water instead of their usual poison liquids, it won’t matter WHAT water it is…ANY water will confer a therapeutic effect on the body in this state.


3. There may be an expectation response (or “placebo effect”) due to the belief of the individual that this water will help him/her.


We have also heard/read or were presented with additional non-human testimony to “prove” these are not placebo response by demonstrating, for example, that animals prefer to drink this particular water over their usual tap water or that plants watered with this therapeutic water grow more vigorously or have better health/yields; seeds germinate faster and have more overall biomass, etc.


Most of the experiments of this alternative nature are insufficient to conclude anything.  They are interesting, but often lack adequate controls or sufficient quantities to be of real meaning.  For example, a single plant’s health compared with that of the control plant is no proof of anything since there can be a lot of individual variation in the growth and health of a plant.  Plants and animals both also feed off of human beliefs/hopes/expectations*.  Proper experiments would probably have to be done as a double-blind effort in which the persons involved would be unbiased towards the plants or animals involved, and would not even know who was getting the therapeutic water vs. the control water.  It is actually much trickier than it looks.


Human experiments must be done in similarly double-blind fashion with appropriate controls.  Medical studies are conducted using protocols that ensure a balance of age, gender and medical condition, with sufficiently high numbers of individuals to ensure decent statistical analysis of the results.  To account for the placebo response, you will likely need 4 groups:

Group 1 = people who are told they are receiving Therapy Water and how it is believed to be beneficial

Group 2 = people who receive Therapy Water but are told nothing about it

Group 3 = people who receive Control Water and are told it is believed to be beneficial for their condition

Group 4 = people who receive Control Water but are told nothing about it


The Control and Therapy waters must be thoroughly characterized by materials science tools to identify how they are the same and how they are different.  For example, water with a high mineral content may benefit individuals who may be depleted in minerals, but not others.  This must be taken into consideration when analyzing the results.


What physiological parameters will be measured in the group?  This must be carefully thought out.  If, for example, the test groups all suffer from hypertension, then blood pressure and certain blood parameters might be used to gauge the therapeutic value of the water.  A survey or journal of the diet of all of the individuals may be necessary to make sense of the results.  An alcoholic binger is going to experience different effects/results than a non-drinker.  Getting a sense of what these individuals drank on a daily basis and how much they drank normally compared to how much water they would drink during the water experiment is also vitally important.  The experiment might entail having every person ingest the same amount of the water daily OR a body-weight-scaled amount for each person could be used.


Common Mistakes Made in Testing Water

Two examples are given here:  Live blood cell testing, and surface tension measurements


Live Blood Cell Testing

A common test used to “prove” that a water is therapeutic is live blood cell testing.  The finger is pricked and the blood sample is observed using a dark field microscope.  The blood cells are usually found to be clumped together and there is often other “junk” visible in the field of view.  The person is then given the therapy water to drink.  10 minutes later, a fresh blood sample shows the red blood cells are happily unstuck and floating, and the surrounding field of view is more clear… much less “junk.”


Welcome to the cleaning function of the Renal System of the body!  This simple test convinces many people that they should drink Therapy Water X (whatever that may be).  No control test was done.  No one took another individual with clumped blood and gave them an equal amount of regular water or other good bottled water for comparison to see what would happen.  In general, because most people are walking around in a dehydrated state, ANY water will de-clump their blood cells and help cleanse their blood.  Toxic water, of course, places different burdens on the body, but would have to be REALLY toxic to show up in the blood.


I have never seen ANY water vendor show images of live blood cell results from waters other than their own therapeutic water.  I have read some that admit that other waters will also de-clump the blood cells, but “not as much or as quickly as ours!”  No data is provided.  Those seeking valid “proof” will find it elusive.


Surface Tension

It is believed that if one can effectively lower the surface tension of water, it will be easier for it to pass through the cell membrane.  Water typically has a surface tension of 72 dynes/cm.  Alcohol, which passes much more easily into the cells, has a surface tension of about 22 dynes/cm.  Surface tension is a temperature-dependent parameter.  The warmer water is, the lower its surface tension.  The cooler the water, the higher its surface tension.  So I suppose that if surface tension is the most important factor in hydrating the body with water, one might drink a lot more hot water or herbal tea, for starters.


We tested a filtered water that claimed to have a surface tension of some absurdly low value, like 35 dynes/cm.  We could find no change in the surface tension of the water when we tested it from this filter.  We inquired about how, exactly, the measurement was previously made, and we were told that this low value was obtained while the filter was used in “recirculation mode” – that is a pump was used to recirculate the same water (from a reservoir or tub) through the filter for 15 minutes.  They did not take into consideration that greases from the submersible pump that was used would contaminate the water while in this circulation mode.  By replicating their procedure, indeed we found a much lower surface tension for the water… and a film of oil or grease on the surface of the water that was responsible for this much lower value.


Good laboratory protocols are essential in conducting tests as these.  In another test of whether crystals would lower the surface tension of water, our lab technician first cleaned the crystals with dish detergent and, sure enough, the crystals lowered the surface tension of the water into which they were placed!  For those unfamiliar with detergent chemistry: the way detergents work is by lowering surface tension of water!  When the protocol was switched to using acetone to remove surface oils, methanol to remove the film residue left by the acetone, and a purified water priming of the crystal to ensure all chemical residue was gone, there was no change in the surface tension of the water when the crystals were submerged in it (for any length of time).


You begin to see how tricky this business is of testing water!


The Role of Healers

We did not set out to test healers.  A colleague of ours learned of a well-known Qigong Master and asked us to test him in our laboratory in May 2005.  We sought to see if his “qi” (pronounced “chee”) had any physically measurable effect on materials.  In short, we found nothing electromagnetic, nor did we observe any effect on water as observed while he sent his qi into water samples on a Raman spectrometer that we had recently purchased.


Because we tested this Qigong Master, another colleague knew of a woman who was a clairvoyant, psychic and healer whose abilities he had seen and could vouch for.  We tested her just on the Raman spectrometer in June 2005 and discovered strong far-infrared emissions from her hands.  A normal person’s hand would NOT emit this radiation.  We discovered, in fact, that she did not change water at all, but, rather, far infrared emissions came directly off of her hands and registered though our 785 nm Raman spectrometer’s detector as a highly reproducible peak, when graphed.  This ability was reproducibly demonstrated again to us in 2007 and 2009, when she was in town and conceded to be tested.  She had excellent control over emitting this energy and no one else in the laboratory could generate anything like it from their hands.


Since that time, we have made it a general protocol policy to test everyone who comes to the lab to conduct experiments on this instrument because we want to be sure that the results registered in the instrument are truly from the sample and not from the person who brought the sample to be tested!  Consequently, we tested the hands of an orthopedic surgeon who had developed a kind of healing device that he sought to market and for which he sought our help in obtaining FDA approval.  This man emanated very similar far-infrared energy, but he had no control over it… it appeared to constantly emanate from him.  Furthermore, when we went to demonstrate to him how unique this was by putting our hands under the Raman probe (with the laser turned off, by the way), we were shocked to discover the same energy emanating from each of us!  This effect lasted while he was present.  The next day when he was gone, there were no such emissions from our hands.


We therefore concluded that this orthopedic surgeon had an innate healing ability (since far infrared emissions are known to have therapeutic value), and, because he had no control over this energy and emitted it continuously, others in his presence could/would entrain on that signal and convey his energy similarly.  As a result he can successfully train others to use the healing device he sells, and, while in his presence, they are quite successful and build up some confidence in their own abilities to do the same.


No one else who has come to our lab, however spiritually trained, gifted or well-practiced in a healing art, has demonstrated such emissions.  It must be kept in mind, however, that when testing the unconventional, such as the role of crystals in changing the properties of water, results may vary depending on who does the testing and/or who is involved/present.  Human biofield research demonstrates an electromagnetic component to some of what extraordinary individuals can do, such as the far-infrared emissions we observed in our lab.  One might expect that this energy, whether controlled or uncontrolled by the individual, could elicit some unique result that others, not gifted with such emissions, could not obtain.


Consider for example the late Marcel Vogel ( ) whose patents and discoveries at IBM lead to many of the computer technologies we have enjoyed.  He discovered an affinity for crystals and found he could elicit unusual responses from them.  He conducted many experiments to “prove” how crystals could generate a measurable voltage when he thought/breathed near them, and he could change the properties of water when the water was spiraled around his “thought charged” crystals.


We had the opportunity to try to replicate some of Marcel’s work, having obtained one such crystal and borrowed another, plus the spiraling device.  All of our attempts so far have not shown any changes to water from the crystals.  Whatever occurred seemed to be more dependent on him than as a natural phenomenon of crystals in and of themselves.  This is another example of how certain people can influence the outcome of experiments, and this must be considered when conducting experiments with water, plants, animals, minerals (including crystals) and people!



What Constitutes a Therapeutic Water?

Good question.  We had hoped to be able to answer that question with our research, and, at present, it is clearly a complicated and convoluted topic.  Clearly most people would benefit from drinking water – almost any water, even if it is just tap water – rather than drinking sodas, coffees and/or alcohol.  Most people would benefit from drinking MORE water than they presently are doing.


There is a great deal of biological evidence on the therapeutic effects of ultradilute silver colloids, a natural antibiotic.  Our work primarily focused on the so-called “super nano-silver” manufactured by American Biotech Labs, and we are aware that there are many other silver colloids on the market, some excellent and some not so great.  Look for the scientific data.  One does not use these as a drinking water, but, with only 10 ppm of silver in them, they demonstrate incredible antibiotic efficacy and are very helpful for all kinds of health conditions.


Alkaline water?  Read Dr. Susan Lark’s book The Chemistry of Success in which she addresses the acid/alkaline balance of the body.  If you are already a high-alkaline producer, you probably would not benefit from alkaline water.  Chances are, since most of us are high-acid types due to our acid-forming diets, we are likely to benefit from more alkaline water.  There is no “one water is therapeutic for all” in this regard.


If you are mineral depleted, take a mineral supplement and be careful of drinking too much distilled water (which has no minerals in it).  You might benefit from drinking a more mineral rich water.  Everyone is different.


Hexagonal vs. Pentagonal vs. Double-Helix vs. lord-only-knows-what-geometry water?  The verdict is still out.  We have not tested these at our laboratory and, at present, cannot unless substantial funding to do so is provided.


Various energized waters?  If there is something to these, our instrumentation has not been able to detect anything.  We may not be using the right instrumentation/tests.  If you try it and feel it helps you, great.


Blessed waters?  Waters from the Ganges River, Lourdes, and so forth have been tested.   All have very different mineral contents.  There are no “control” water samples for comparison, so no conclusions can be drawn.  However we have tested other waters “blessed” by various healers and detected no differences between the blessed and unblessed waters.  Perhaps the blessing confers something that is much more subtle to the water… something the body picks up but conventional instrumentation cannot.


Homeopathic remedies?  These are so dilute that there is likely not a single molecule of the original additive substance left in it, and it is said that the more dilute, the more potent.  Based upon research presented at the annual Vermont Water Conference, there does seem to be electromagnetic underpinnings to homeopathy, a kind of energetic resonance that occurs in ultradilute solutions of water.  More recent work (2011, to be published soon in the Materials Research and Innovations Journal) involved using impedance spectroscopy to differentiate between a homeopathic remedy and its identically succussed (shaken and diluted) control (which had nothing added to it but was otherwise treated identically).  This work is extremely encouraging, as it sheds new light onto how/why homeopathic remedies may be working.  These findings via electromagnetic signals is consistent with Prof. Michael Shallis’ findings in testing electrically sensitive people using homeopathic remedies as detailed in his book The Electric Connection.


Our own lab’s testing of homeopathic remedies was flawed work that requires complete retesting due to a dye in the corks used to cap each of the homeopathic samples that were sent to us; this dye thus contaminated the samples, turning them various shades of yellow.  An attempt was made to salvage the data obtained by looking for overall consistencies, though the spectroscopic results were highly varied.  The result was a paper published that was skewered by critics, and rightly so.  It was a good opportunity that was unfortunately botched.  At least better research efforts are now forthcoming.


Intention-imbued (“Messages from”) water?  Dr. Masaru Emoto’s research with photographing water after it has been frozen and forms crystals suggests that thoughts affect water in a very real way.  “Love” written on a bottle of water will generate beautiful signals (vibrations?) in the water such that when that water is frozen, the crystals will be delicate, intricate, symmetric and beautiful.  Negative, hateful labels on a bottle of water supposedly disrupt the crystalline form of the water, so that it has difficulty forming or is very plain or distorted somehow.  We have not attempted to replicate this work.  It is very interesting.  We have not been able to find any other physical parameter that we can measure that shows any difference between these kinds of waters.  So far, Emoto has the premiere laboratory facility for this kind of work.  My only question would be:  who are the people doing the work in his lab, and do any of them have any special abilities and/or measurable electromagnetic emissions?  I do not know enough details about his lab protocols or the individuals involved to judge his work or findings.  It is certainly compelling and doesn’t hurt to write “Love” on your water bottles….


Keeping in mind that every body is unique and different, and conventional allopathic medicine tries one medication after another on patients to find one that “works” for that patient, perhaps finding a therapeutic water that works for you is not much different.




Our Core Team:  Emeritus Prof. Rustum Roy (d. Aug. 2010); Dr. M. Rick Hoover (involved 2004-2006); Dr. Manju Lata Rao (involved 2006-2009); Dr. Tania Slawecki (2004 – present); Prof. Dinesh Agrawal (2010 – present)


Addendum:  We have been very sympathetic to and interested in proving there is something unique and measurable about therapeutic waters.  There are a number of “debunking” websites on the internet that are, sadly, full of unhelpful language (e.g., “this is bunk!”) and anger.  We have no interest in debunking anything.  As scientists we recognized that there are many things about our physical reality that are not fully understood, and there remain some things yet to be discovered.  We remain open-minded but must follow proper scientific protocols in order to make sense of the data we collect and to able to come to any conclusions.   When we find others have made mistakes in how they have measured some property of water, it is a lesson for us all: isn’t that the point of our human existence - to learn from our mistakes?  In this spirit, we continue on in our efforts as best we can. –TS


* References: See, for example, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals, by Rupert Sheldrake, and Christopher Bird’s The Secret Life of Plants.