Humans have been participating in rituals since the beginning of time. Some (most) of them have been proven not to have any health or other benefits, but we did them anyway, going on faith that they would accomplish what we needed them to. Not all weird rituals have gone the way of bloodletting, though, and some are even thriving today. Take a look at four of the weirdest rituals and therapies that really haven’t been proven to have any health benefits.

Eating The Placenta

A biohazard or a snack? bethbernier (pixabay)

The placenta is the first organ that forms after a woman conceives. It connects her to the growing fetus and delivers nutrients, oxygen, and hormones to it while taking away the waste it makes. The only organ in the body that is made, then discarded, the placenta is pretty much useless after a woman gives birth.

Those who support eating the placenta claim it raises a mother’s energy post-birth, and it can improve the quality of her breast milk. They also say it can help with hormone regulation and ward off postpartum depression and insomnia. Women sometimes dehydrate the placenta and have it crushed into powder and sealed into capsules. Some mothers with stronger stomachs cook the placenta like any other meat and add it to stews, chilies, or patties. There is no evidence of anyone eating it raw (think Daenerys Targaryen with the horse heart), but never say never.

The truth is, though, there is very little research to back up these claims. It’s true the placenta has fats and proteins, but those things can be found in a healthy diet. Advocates of placenta-eating like to point out that many animals eat their placentas — but animals do a lot of things us humans don’t. Due to the lack of clinical trials, researchers often take anecdotal evidence to indicate a placebo effect, where women feel benefits of a “treatment” just because they were expecting to.

Drinking Your Own Urine

To some, urine should be saved instead of going in here. sharyn morrow (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Urotherapy, or drinking one’s own urine, dates back to multiple ancient cultures. In the past, urine was believed to be capable of disinfecting cuts and acting as a treatment for many ailments, including acne, cancer, indigestion, and migraines.

Again, there is no medical evidence to support any of these claims, but urine still has its advocates, who say the liquid can cure everything from the common cold to AIDS. Some claim the medical industry is simply keeping urotherapy a secret because there is little financial profit in it.

Urine is hardly a miracle drink, though, since it can be teeming with bacteria after it exits the body, and experts don’t even recommend drinking it while in a life or death situation. The sodium content of urine is so high it may in fact accelerate dehydration rather than save you.


Detoxing may feel great, but is it actually de-toxifying you? Mikorad (pixabay)

Sorry, detox people, but there is very little evidence that popular detoxification diets actually eliminate toxins from the body. Typically, a detox diet involves a strict intake of raw fruits and veggies, along with fruit juices and water. Some diets call for additional herbs or supplements to be taken along with the fresh food.

Many people say they feel more energized and refreshed after “detoxing,” which makes sense if the person is eliminating highly processed foods, fats, and sugars. Simply avoiding high-calorie, low nutrition foods, however, can result in the same benefits without the detox diet. The idea that a detoxification can actually get rid of toxins is still up in the air.

Rebirthing Therapy

Pillows and blankets hardly equal a rebirth, and they can be dangerous. amanda tipton (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Rebirthing therapy is a form of breath work therapy used to treat attachment disorder in children, a disorder in which a young child is having a hard time forming relationships with their parents. The therapy is supposed to simulate the womb and the birth process, utilizing blankets and pillows to cover the child. The patient is supposed to push their way out and be “reborn” into a new bond with their parents.

The therapy has never been proven to yield any benefits, and little to no clinical research has been done on any such therapy. Even worse than being useless, though, is that rebirthing therapy can actually be harmful. The tragic case of 10-year-old Candace Newmaker exhibited the dangers of the therapy after the girl was suffocated beneath the weight of blankets, pillows, and several adults sitting on top of them. This resulted in rebirthing therapy being banned in the state of Colorado, and the U.S. House urging every state to ban the practice.

Psychic surgery

Psychic Surgery
Surgery to get rid of evil spirits? carjens (pixabay)

Psychic surgery is one form of spiritual healing that has gained popularity all over the world, including the U.S. The “surgery” isn’t really a surgery at all — it’s only the pretense of a practitioner cutting an incision into a patient with their bare hands. They then lead the patient to believe they have removed tissue and spontaneously healed the wound.

Sometimes the surgery does involve a real incision, though, and a practitioner will often hold up foreign objects (glass and metal, for example) and explain to the patient that an evil spirit was responsible for the material’s presence in the body.

Widely regarded as medical fraud by the likes of the Federal Trade Commission and various cancer agencies, psychic therapy (surprise) has no clinical research to back up its usefulness.