Do we laugh or cry? According to its promoters, magnetized water cures all ailments. Despite the fact that water cannot be magnetized, website upon website sells various devices that claim to do just that. They may be cups, filters, rubber bands or jugs with electrical plugs. There is talk of water molecules being “restructured,” magnetization making more oxygen available to cells and water “gaining living liquid energy.” All absurd, of course. But this one may take the cake: “Water is a molecule made up of atoms which all contain electrons. When we magnetize the water, all the electrons take on the same charge. Because like charges or poles repel each other, the molecules are pushed away from each other breaking up the associations into singular stasis known as molecularly mono-atomic.” You really have to have some imagination to come up with such balderdash.

It seems that 200 years of scientific advances are not enough to wipe away meaningless notions. In the late 18th century, Franz Mesmer of mesmerism fame “cured” patients of all sorts of ailments with magnetized water. Of course, without realizing it, Mesmer was just exploiting the placebo effect. At the time, magnetism was a big mystery and he may very well have believed that water could be magnetized. Still, one would think he would have noted a lack of attraction between what he called magnetized water and any metal.

In any case, King Louis XVI of France was intrigued by Mesmer’s approach, but suspicious of the power of magnetized water. So he convened a Royal Commission to test Mesmer’s claims. Headed by United States ambassador to France Benjamin Franklin, the commission set up an experiment in which four identical looking glasses were placed in front of people, one of which was filled with Mesmer’s magnetized water. People were asked to evaluate the effects of the different glasses on various symptoms. It quickly became clear that people were unable to distinguish between the waters. Some even fainted when they were drinking regular water but thought they were drinking the magnetized variety. Undoubtedly they had heard about magnetized water at Mesmer’s clinic sometimes inducing fainting as part of the healing process. The commission declared Mesmer to be a fraud but admitted that some patients were helped, evidence of the power of the mind.

It is hard to outdo magnetized water in scientific folly, but ASEA water gives it a valiant shot. The name derives from the word sea and the Latin prefix “a” meaning “from.” From the sea! A very appropriate name as it turns out. The ingredients on the label tell the story: distilled water and salt. What we have here is seawater. ASEA is promoted in ads as “Time machine in a bottle,” the message obviously being that imbibing this saline concoction turns back the clock. Of course you can’t make any such claim on the product itself because that would require some sort of evidence, so the bottle simply says “advancing life.” I suppose one could justify that by arguing that without water or salt life will surely not advance.

But if you are going to make a case for selling salt water as a rejuvenation therapy, you have to come up with something a bit more impressive than “advancing life.” So what further claim did ASEA come up with? “The world’s only Redox Signaling supplement.” Huh? The label explains. “ASEA is a proprietary blend of naturally occurring reactive molecules derived from a patented redox balance process. This unique process rearranges the constituent components into a beneficial mixture that is critical to proper balanced cellular chemistry enabling the immune system to function at its optimum level.” What reactive molecules are they talking about? The only ingredient listed is salt.

I’m still not convinced that ASEA didn’t start out as a joke by someone wondering if they could sell something as ridiculous as salt water as a health product. What I have to say to people promoting ASEA is “see ya.”