What Is Electrodermal Screening?

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Electrodermal screening (EDS) is a diagnostic method used in alternative medicine. By measuring the skin's electrical resistance, electrodermal screening is said to detect energy imbalances along meridians (invisible lines of energy flow in traditional Chinese medicine).

According to proponents, electrodermal screening may help to detect and treat illnesses such as allergies, organ weakness, food intolerances, nutritional deficiencies, and more.

However, the research on EDS is limited and inconclusive and the procedure is not considered affective.

History

EDS was developed in Europe in the 1950s based on the theory that there is a connection between the skin’s electrical characteristic and the health of internal organs and measuring electrical signals on the skin can be used to diagnose health conditions. 

EDS combines the philosophical roots of classical Chinese acupuncture along with the principle of galvanometric skin differentials.

The technology was developed by German physician Reinhard Voll as a way to bring the practice of acupuncture into the future by providing objective measures to select acupuncture points. 

Today, EDS goes by many names including Bioelectric Functions Diagnosis (BFD), Bio Resonance Therapy (BRT), Bioenergy Regulatory Technique (BER), Biocybernetic Medicine (BM), Computerized Electrodermal Screening (CEDS), electrodiagnosis, and point testing.

EDS, sometimes called EAV or Electroacupuncture according to Voll, is typically performed by alternative health practitioners and chiropractors. In some cases, EDS is used by people selling nutritional supplements or essential oils to guide customer purchasing decision.

There is no widely recognized standards for training or certification for practicing EDS. In the United States, EDS devices are sold as biofeedback tools and providers may not make health claims or diagnose disease based on scan results.

Dozens of EDS devices are available, including AcuGraph, Bio-Tron, Biomeridian, BioScan, Diacom, Meridian Energy Analysis Device (MEAD), Oberon, Orion System, SpectraVision, and ZYTO.

How It Works

During the screening, a person typically holds a probe in one hand, while a second probe touches another part of the body. A tiny electrical current (which cannot be detected by the person being tested) is sent through the circuit and a reading is made on a galvanometer between 0 and 100. 

Readings are taken at different places on the skin, corresponding with acupuncture points, to determine if there is an imbalance in a person's energy which may signal illness. 

In addition, a potential allergenic substance may be placed in a holder on the circuit—a higher reading on the galvanometer suggests a greater sensitivity to the substance, according to proponents.

Some EDS machinery uses a hand cradle instead of multiple probes, such as a ZYTO scan. Modern EDS tools can also be connected to a computer that uses a special program to read results.

Testing can take as little as 3 minutes and can performed in an office or in your home. To prepare for a scan, it is recommended that you do not use any lotion on your skin prior to the appointment. You should also drink plenty of water before the test to ensure adequate hydration.

Research

There is currently a lack of scientific evidence to support the use of electrodermal therapy for any health purpose. 

The most promising study of EDS was published in the South African Medical Journal in 2004. Researchers used organ electrodermal diagnostics to assess 200 hospital patients with previously confirmed illnesses of the esophagus, stomach, gallbladder, pancreas, colon, kidneys, urinary bladder, or prostate. The tool successfully detected illness in 88 percent of scans.

A 2017 study in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies suggests EDS can be useful in determining the health of asthma patients. The study measured Peak Expiratory Flow Rate (PEFR) along with scans using the Acugraph 4 machine in 50 subjects with asthma and 50 healthy control subjects and found meridian conductances were lower for the asthma group with significance differences noted at the lung and right bladder meridians. 

EDS has also been studied for the detection of mental health issues, including depression.

According to a 2018 systematic review of 77 studies, monitoring electrodermal activity may help to differentiate the phases of mood disorders and determine whether depressed patients are at increased risk of suicide.

The research, published in BMC Psychiatry, also found electrodermal activity may be affected by antidepressant treatment.

An Ineffective Tool

For the few promising studies available on EDS, there is even more research that debunks its use.

Research published in the British Medical Journal in 2001 compared electrodermal testing to skin probe testing, a conventional method for detecting allergies. The study included 30 participants, 15 with confirmed allergies to dust mites or cat dander and 15 without known allergies. Investigators were unable to correctly identify individuals with predetermined allergies using EDS.

A 2017 study published in the journal Missouri Medicine assessed the effectiveness of Zyto scans. The research involved one subject, who was tested 10 times a day over 43 days, and found the results varied widely.

The study authors concluded the Zyto scan's "assessments and recommendations were preposterous and potentially dangerous" and advocate for the banning the sale and clinical use of EDS devices.


A Word From Verywell

Given the lack of scientific support for electrodermal screening, it cannot currently be recommended for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. If you're interested in trying it, make sure to consult your physician first. 

Self-treating and avoiding or delaying a conventional medical diagnosis and standard care can have serious consequences.

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