Stay Away from Neural Therapy

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
July 3, 2018

Neural therapy is not based on the concepts of anatomy and physiology that are generally recognized by the scientific community. It involves the injection of procaine (a local anesthetic) or other substances into various body tissues. It is based on the notion that trauma can produce long-standing disturbances in the electrochemical function of tissues. Proponents claim that a neural therapy injection often can relieve chronic pain and many types of long-standing illnesses. Its development is attributed to two German physicians, Ferdinand Huneke and his brother Walter. Proponents date neurotherapy’s “discovery” to 1925, when Ferdinand injected a supposed rheumatism remedy intravenously into their sister, who suffered from migraine headaches. As the story goes, her headaches disappeared during the injection and never returned [1,2]. The brothers concluded that the effective ingredient was procaine. Later they decided that the injections worked—often instantly—by removing interferences that block or short-circuit the flow of “information” through the autonomic system. In addition to procaine, current practitioners may inject vitamins, minerals, homeopathic medications, and/or herbal extracts. The injections are placed into scars, nerves, ganglions (nerve clusters), and/or “acupuncture meridians” claimed to be responsible for the “blockages.” [2,3]

To determine where to inject, many practitioners utilize “autonomic response testing (ART),” in which they test muscle strength by pushing down on the patient’s arm or trying to pull apart the patient’s fingers (O-ring test) while exposing the patient to stimuli such as a slide or a vial containing a test substance. Some also use “electrodermal testing” (also called meridian testing) with a device that supposedly locates”energy blockages” and suggests corrective measures.

The leading promoter of neural therapy and ART in the United States has been Dietrich Klinghardt, M.D., Ph.D. For many years, Klinghardt operated the American Academy
of Neural Therapy, through which he offered seminars and workshops. He also used the name Institute of Neurobiology, which was registered as a for-profit corporation in 2000 and inactivated in 2002. In 2005, the academy’s Web site (no longer functioning) listed about 70 practitioners in its referral directory. Most are dentists, naturopaths, or acupuncturists, but a few medical doctors are involved. Dentists who use neural therapy usually characterize their practice as “holistic” or “biological” dentistry.

State Regulation

In Nevada, neural therapy is included in the scope of practice of medical doctors who are licensed by the State Board of Homeopathic Medical Examiners, which was set up to enable doctors to practice without scientific constraints [4]. The board’s Administrative Code defines neural therapy as:

Dry needling, the use of an electronic testing and treatment device and the injection of vitamins, minerals, homeopathic medications, herbal extracts, enzymes, orthomolecular substances or other medicinal or pharmaceutical preparations into the: (1) Acupuncture, acupressure or trigger points; (2) Ganglia; or (3) Subcutaneous tissue, intracutaneous tissue, intra-articular tissue or periosteal tissue, of a patient to control pain or produce other beneficial clinical effects [5]

Arizona’s homeopathic licensing law does not mention neural therapy, but since it authorizes “therapeutic injections into muscular trigger points, tendons, ligaments and scars,” [6] the licensing board might consider neural therapy within its scope.

As far as I know, in all other licensing jurisdictions, when boards have considered complaints that involved neural therapy, they have concluded that it represents substandard care.

Klinghardt Disciplined

Court documents indicate that In 1991, the American Academy of Neural Therapy presented a 2-day seminar titled “A New Approach to the Treatment of Chronic Low Back and Neck Pain” at a hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A brochure advertising the seminar stated that a portion of the seminar would be a demonstration of injection techniques, that treatments would be demonstrated on Dr. Klinghardt’s current patients, and that attendees were welcome to bring one of their difficult cases to be treated. The instructors for the seminar included Klinghardt, who had a New Mexico medical license, and Milne J. Ongley, M.D., who did not. During the first day of the seminar, Ongley demonstrated injection techniques on various volunteers. During the second day, state authorities filed a criminal complaint against Ongley for practicing medicine without a license. The testimony at his trial indicated that he performed 25 to 50 injections per person into the knees, neck, lower back, and pelvic area of four volunteers. The State contended that the volunteers received the “Ongley solution,” which included dextrose, glycerin, phenol, water, and lidocaine (an anesthetic). Ongley contended that the subjects were injected with saline (salt water). [7] After Ongley was convicted, the New Mexico Board of Medical Examiners charged Klinghardt with “aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of medicine” and placed him on probation for three years [8].

Other State Disciplinary Actions

At least three dentists have been charges with unprofessional conduct that included neural therapy.

  • In 2005, the Dental Board of California charged Rily Young, D.D.S. and her husband James Shen, D.D.S. with gross negligence, excessive prescribing, practicing outside the scope of their dental licenses, and obtaining a fee by misrepresentation. The charges centered around the management of a 47-year-old woman who had been experiencing chronic pain in her head, neck, spine, lower back and leg; dizziness; fatigue; eye pain and blurred vision with accompanying headaches; and disturbed sleep patterns. The accusation documents state that Shen and Young diagnosed “neuralgia inducing cavitational osteonecrosis (NICO)” and other nonexistent problems and improperly removed many of the patients teeth and portions of the her jawbone. Young also was charged with inappropriately injecting procaine into scars on the patient’s abdomen [9]. The charges were extremely serious, but Young did not get disciplined because she died before the proceedings ended.
  • In 2006, a dental board investigator presented himself to Shen as a patient, complaining of tooth pain. The disciplinary documents indicate that Shen tested the investigator by pulling on his arm while his mouth was open and again when his mouth was shut. Based on this test, Shen repeatedly proposed to inject procaine into a scar in the investigator’s mouth. Shen also diagnosed nonexistent mercury toxicity for which he proposed removing all of the investigator’s amalgam fillings. The board also reviewed Shen’s records for other patients and found instances where he had injected scars. In 2007, rather than contesting the charges, Shen surrendered his dental license [10].
  • In 2007, the Maryland Board of Dentistry concluded that Michael A. Baylin, D.D.S. had rendered substandard care to five patients. The board found that he had (a) failed to adequately document certain things he had done, (b) failed to obtain informed consent, (c)performed of unnecessary root canal therapy, and (d) used autonomic response testing, meridian testing, and neural therapy, which are not within the standard of care of dental practice. The board reprimanded him, placed him on probation for one year, required him to take certain continuing education courses, and ordered him to stop representing himself as a specialist in “physiologic dentistry.” [11] Baylin now represents himself as practicing “biologic” and “integrative” dentistry.
Civil Suits

Alireza Panahpour, D.D.S., who practices “holistic” dentistry in California and the State of Washington, has been sued for fraud and/or malpractice at least ten times [12]. In seven of these cases, the complaints charged that neural therapy injections were involved. Three of the female plaintiffs charged that Panahpour had had performed ART testing and administered injections into their breasts.

My Advice

In my opinion, neural therapy is such a departure from rational health care that I would recommend avoiding any practitioner who offers it.

  1. Dosch P. Facts about Neural Therapy according to Huneke (Regulating Therapy): Brief Summary for Patients. Haug Publishers, 1985.
  2. Kaslow JE. Neural therapy., accessed March 12, 2015.
  3. Molamo MLB and others. Anatomo-functional correlation between head zones and acupuncture channels and Points: A comparative analysis from the perspective of neural therapy. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Article ID 836392, Nov 25, 2014.
  4. “Homeopathic medicine” and “homeopathy” defined. Nevada Revised Statutes, Section 630A.0409(2). Adopted 2013.
  5. Nevada Administrative Code, Section 630.014(1)(b), effective Dec 17, 2008.
  6. Definitions. Arizona Revised Statutes Chapter 29, Article 1: 32-2901, effective Jan 1, 2015.
  7. Kaufman BE. Decision. State of New Mexico v. Milne J. Ongley. New Mexico Court of Appeals, Jun 2, 1994.
  8. Findings of fact, conclusions of law, and decision and order of the board. In the matter of Dietrich Klinghardt, M.D. New Mexico Board of Medical Examiners Case No. 93-03. Feb 19, 1993.
  9. Barrett S. “Biological Dentists” charged with unprofessional conduct in California, DDS Casewatch, March 13, 2015.
  10. Barrett S. James Shen D.D.S. surrenders dental license. Casewatch, June 29, 2007.
  11. Final order. In the matter of Michael A. Baylin, D.D.S. Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners Case Numbers 99-179, 2000-107, 200-146, 1001-210 and 2002-342, Oct 3, 2007.
  12. Barrett S. Stay away from “holistic” and “biological” dentists. Quackwatch, March 8, 2015.

This article was revised on July 3, 2018.