Silly Claims for “Spine-Align” (A Dietary Supplement)

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
August 14, 2020

In the early 1990s, Vita-Herbs, of St. Louis, Missouri, marketed “Spine Align,” which the label described as a “biologically active concentrate of freeze-dried raw whole spinal column.” Literature for the product claimed that  contained “organ-specific cellular components ” that could “help repair, regenerate, correct, and normalize the specific cellular complexes they were derived from.”

The product was also claimed to “activate the body’s own Innate.” (This referred to “Innate Intelligence,” the metaphysical term used by fundamentalist chiropractors to describe the body’s self-healing capacity.)

Vita-Herbs, Inc., was registered in Missouri as a for-profit corporation in 1966, by Ralph W. Rector and Harold Black. An article I found in a spiritualist magazine described Rector this way:

By trade, Rev. Rector is a pharmacist, specializing in homeopathy. He’s been a student of naprapathy, chiropractic and naturopathy. Rev. Rector is president of Physical Institute, Inc., a St.Louis based firm which dispenses homeopathy prescriptions and provides psychic healing treatments to those who seek attention. Mr. Rector’s shopis located at 7600 Broadway and is open three days a week. At 70, he’s not in the business to get rich, at least, not at $8 a visit. His prescriptions are merely suggested and offered along the same lines which you buy vitamins or patent medicines across the counter. . . .

Rev. Rector’s specialty is strengthening muscles. His bone adjustments are made by strengthening the respective muscles which then pull displaced bones into place. He believes in convincing his patients, a bit unusual for a practioner. Before he recharges your energy level, he often insists on testing the muscle strength. This is one of the things your chiropractor would do at the first visit. After a treatment, the process ¡s repeated. When you can feel vertebra out of place, Rector will ask you to note the sensitivity and the bulge if any, before and after. In that way, he believes, you receive a psychological lift too.

Occasionally, patients speak of feeling something shift in the back or other area treated. That’s all though, until the pain starts. And start it does within a few hours. The best comparison his patients give sounds like the aftermath of a severe series of adjustments by a chiropractor. The aches and sorenesses are there, but within a day or two all fades.

It’s uncanny the way Rector works. He’s not abrupt, and tries to answer every question. His magic isn’t restricted to touch, magnetic passes or space, so it seems. On occasion, he treats while out of the patient’s room. Put to the test he has purposefully thrown aligned bones out of place, then walked out of the room and willed them back. He doesn’t say, “try me.” He just likes to prove that his theories on magnetic energy can be duplicated again and again, whether he’s present or not! [1]

Records filed with the Missouri Secretary of State indicate that Black took over Vita-Herbs in the 1970s and that the corporation was dissolved in 2014.

Spine-Align was distributed by Spinal Support Systems, which was registered as a fictitious name in 1990. The product was said to be made from Whole New Zealand Bovine tissue specifically processed to preserve biologically active substances, naturally occurring nucleoprotein, enzymes, organ-specific nucleic acids & cellular components that occur naturally.” Literature I collected during the early 1990s suggested that Spine Align would “support” and “strengthen” chiropractic spinal adjustments by normalizing the parts of the body that corresponded to the parts of the cows from which the product was derived. These claims were nonsensical because:

  • There is no logical reason to believe that extracts of tissues from animals would target corresponding tissues in humans.
  • Even if “biological activity” was preserved by freeze-drying—which is unlikely—any proteins, enzymes, or nucleic acids capable of biological activity would be broken down by the user’s digestive process.
  • Rather stimulating any repair processes, they would merely add trivial amounts of nutrients to the body’s total supply.
  1. Painless chiropractics. The National Spiritualist Summit, Aug 1979, p. 18.
  2. Spine Align Brochures, Vita-Herbs, Inc., 1990