Vega testing is a form
of modified electroacupuncture. It is an unorthodox technique which its
proponents claim can diagnose allergic and other diseases.
Testing with the Vega machine is one of the bioenergetic
regulatory techniques that has its origins in acupuncture and homoeopathy.
Its basis is the concept of "energetic pathology", which postulates
that the first sign of abnormality in the body is an electrical charge.
Further, if abnormal electrical charges continue for long enough, then eventually
structural changes will ensue. 1
The Vega machine purports to measure one aspect of these bioenergetic
phenomena by recording the change in skin conductivity after the application
of a small voltage. Localisation of the source of an abnormal response is
accomplished by placing homoeopathic extracts in this electrical loop. 2
Development of Vega testing
The technique that antedates Vega testing is
electroacupuncture according to Voll (known as EAV). In the 1950s, a German
doctor, Reinholdt Voll, promoted the concept that electrical changes at
specific acupuncture points were related to pathology in the organs to which
the measured point belonged. 1 Voll developed
a complex diagnostic system based on the acupuncture meridian system.
Further, he placed extracts of medicines into series in the circuit and
claimed that useful medicines could thus be detected. His technique
necessitated the measurement at many acupuncture points.
Another German doctor, Helmut Schimmel, used only one skin point as an
indicator. He suggested that the site or organ of abnormality could be
detected by placing homoeopathic extracts of mammalian organs into the
circuit. 1 The apparatus which he
developed in the early 1970s used this principle and was the Vega test
Vega testing apparatus and technique
The apparatus consists of a box which contains a
galvanometer (Wheatstone bridge circuit). This compares the resistance
between the skin in contact with a hand electrode and the skin tested with a
measuring stylus. The other contents of the box are an electrical source to
provide a direct voltage of 0.87 volt through the patient, and a metal
honeycomb in which ampoules can be placed in series with the circuit. A dial
with 100 scale divisions shows 100 when the connected resistance is 0, and
shows 0 when the connected resistance is infinity.
Initially, a piezoelectric spark generator (producing 400 volts/second),
is applied to the patient. This "stresses" the patient and is
claimed to unmask weaknesses in the body. 3,4 The
patient grasps the hand electrode, and a control measurement is made by
applying the stylus (probe) to the patient's finger or toe. The machine is
adjusted until a reading of 80 to 100 scale units is produced. A chosen
extract is now placed in the circuit and the measurement repeated. A drop of
15 scale units or more is considered a positive result.
It should be emphasised that the various extracts are in homoeopathic
doses. Dilutions of 10-4 or greater are usual. In addition, these
extracts are in sealed ampoules which are inserted into the metal honeycomb.
The ampoules are not opened. The current flows around these ampoules.
Diagnostic claims of Vega testing
Many claims are made of the diagnostic capabilities of
Vega testing. 2-4 The main points are as
- The site of the
abnormality is determined by the organ extract which elicits a positive
response. Extracts from all organs, including such diverse ones as the
coronary arteries and the common bile duct, are supplied. There are even
extracts of left and right mammary gland, and of left and right
is a technique for obtaining information about general
"stresses". Examples of extracts that are used and what they
detect include: chlorophyll or linseed oil (chronic stress), saturated
sugar water (acute stress), Candida (multiple food allergies),
and allergy "injectopas" [sic] (autoimmune diseases). There
are many other examples.
stress" is claimed to arise from subtle environmental influences
such as mines, caves, running water, electrical appliances and gravity
fields. Extracts of agate, calcium or silica are used to detect these
disturbances. There is even a report of a false-negative geopathic
stress test result due to the influence of the full moon. 3,4
- The "biological
age" of a person is determined by different dilutions of
"potentised mesenchyme (embryonic connective tissue)" [sic].
- Stresses and
disorders which are undetectable can be measured by adding an
"amplification" extract. The recommended extract for this
purpose is "epiphysis" (pineal gland organ preparation).
conditions are diagnosed by means of "psorinum" extract. Test
ampoules containing homoeopathic extracts of carcinoma, sarcoma and
leukaemic white blood cells, among others, are used to identify these
tumours in the body. An extract of the poison ivy plant (Toxicodendron
radicans) is used to diagnose the presence of cysts in the patient.
- Many other specific
claims are made. Allergies to any substances can be detected by placing
extracts of these substances in the circuit. There appear to be no
restrictions on the type of material that can be tested. The detection
of food intolerance is claimed to be "quick and reliable" and
"about 80% accurate".3,4 Vega
testing is promoted for the diagnosis of such "disorders" as Candida
allergy, chronic sinusitis, streptococcal toxicity and chronic
tonsillitis, Salmonella toxicity and myalgic encephalomyelitis. 3,4
There is no evidence to support the theoretical basis or
the practical claims of the Vega test method. This is admitted by the
inventor of the Vega machine, Dr H Schimmel, who writes "the effective
base of the Vega test method is still unknown . . .2
Various techniques have been used to rationalise the use of these
bioregulatory techniques, including the Vega machine. These are as follows.
- Convoluted pseudoscientific
jargon. A good example is the following sentence taken from the handbook
which accompanies the Vega machine: "Only after applying a suitable
stress, which forces the organism to regulate in response to this
stress, can the energetic compensatory processes be made manifest for a
short time, and in most cases, show a clear correspondence with the
morphological findings. 2
- Allusion to accepted
physical principles. Krop et al. make the statement that "the key
to scientific understanding of these techniques lies in the area of
particle physics, particularly the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and
the Einstein-Rodolsky-Rosen effect".5 However,
neither they nor others attempt to bridge the gap between traditional
physics and bioregulatory diagnosis.
- Begging the
question. Kenyon, in his book, 21st century medicine, writes
"the observation that structural change in the body ensues
following pre-existing long-standing electrical change is repeatedly
confirmed by bioregulatory techniques".1
Kenyon assumed that bioregulatory techniques are a scientifically
valid method of measurement.
citations. A recent review of Vega testing by Gould cites three references
as "some evidence supporting the relationship between evoked
electrical conductivity and particular acupuncture points which are of
diagnostic value to the patient's particular disease process".3,4 In fact, the first of these references is
a letter to the editor in the Journal of General Practice, which
has no direct supportive data. 6 The
second reference purports to provide evidence that the evoked electrical
conductivity on lung acupuncture points can diagnose lung cancer. 7 This paper describes as many false positive
results as true positive results and subsequently counted twice in some
instances, thus expanding the series. The major confounding factor --
that of moist skin in sick, worried subjects, and dry skin in relaxed,
healthy subjects -- is not eliminated. The third paper describes the
change in skin resistance after vagotomy in rabbits and presents no
statistical analysis of the findings. 8
- Claims of clinical
success. This is the "fall-back" position of proponents of the
Vega test method. 3,4 There are no
controlled trials to support claims such as "... what are more important
than the scant scientific data, are the clinical results obtained".3,4
Assessment and recommendations
Vega testing is a technique of diagnosis without
scientific basis. It purports to be useful in assessing a large range of
conditions from allergy to cancer. At the best, it is a prop which can help
some patients overcome ill-defined symptoms. At the worst, it can lead to
inappropriate or delayed treatment. 9 Proponents
of the system use a smoke screen of illusion which includes convoluted
scientific jargon and unsubstantiated claims of efficacy.
The Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Committee in New Zealand has
recently censured a medical practitioner who used a Vega machine. 10
The Australian College of Allergy concludes:
- Vega testing (Vega
test method) is without established scientific basis in the diagnosis of
- The use of Vega
testing may lead to inappropriate treatment and expense to the patient
*The authors constitute the Scientific
and Therapeutic Subcommittee of The Australian College of Allergy.
Westmead Hospital, Westmead, NSW 2145.
Constance H Katelaris, MB BS, PhD, FRACP, Visiting Medical Officer
Alfred Hospital, Commercial Road,
Prahran, VIC 3181.
John M Weiner, MB BS, FRACP, FRCPA, Assistant Physician
Royal Adelaide Hospital, North Terrace,
Adelaide, SA 5000.
Robert J Heddle, MB BS, PhD, FRACP, FRCPA, Senior Visiting Specialist
State Health Laboratories, Nedlands, WA
Martin S Stuckey, MB BS, FRACP, FRCPA, Immunologist/Pathologist
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown,
Kwok W Yan, MD, FRACP, Visiting Medical Officer
JN. 21st century medicine: a layman=s guide to the medicine of the
future. Wellingborough, Northants: Thorsons, 1986.
J, Noll H, Nolte HG, et al. Short manual of the Vegatest-method.
Schiltach: BER, 1986.
G. Vegatest method - part 1. N Z J Acupuncture 1987; Apr 6-14.
G. Vegatest method - part 2. N Z J Acupuncture 1987; Aug 17-24.
J, Swiertzek J, Wood A. Comparison of ecological testing with the Vega
test method in identifying sensitivities to chemicals, foods and inhalants.
Am J Acupuncture 1985; 13 253-259.
J. EAV diagnosis. J Gen Pract 1986: 3; 2.
SG, Egglestone DW, Martinoff JT, Kroening RJ. Evoked electrical
conductivity on the lung acupuncture points in healthy individuals and
confirmed lung cancer patients. Am J Acupuncture 1985; 13:
T, Hayes MF. Acupuncture, electric phenomenon of the skin, and
postvagotomy gastrointestinal atony. Am J Surg 1973; 125:
TJ. Unorthodox allergy procedures. Arch Dis Child 1987; 62:
Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Committee: professional misconduct
findings against Dr D W Steeper [Medico-legal]. N Z Med J 1990;