17 Aug Are electroceuticals the end of health & wellness as we know it?
The world of health and wellness is evolving and growing fast – but as Consultant Tinne Van Rompaey explores, there’s a drastic new look on the horizon that could be about to disrupt the entire industry.
In the late 19th century, medical electricity was believed to cure practically everything – from electroconvulsive shock therapy treating depression to Dr. Sanden’s electric belt curing your organs. One hundred years of futuristic machines and surrealistic sales talks later, leading scientists and neurologists dismissed electrical therapies as nonsense and even barbaric. But today, electroceutical solutions are back: research advances over the past decade have led, for example, to the development of Deep Brain Stimulation to ease symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
The key difference is that this time around, electroceuticals are making the leap from medical practice to consumer homes. In the last year or so, we have seen the launch of neurostimulation devices for everyday consumer health – we’re not talking cyborg-like implants just yet, but think simple pain relief devices for day-to-day use, such as Theranica’s electrical stimulation patch against migraine, or the Livia device, marketed as the “off switch” for menstrual cramp. And unlike the 19th century electric belt, today’s electroceuticals are small, affordable and target mainstream problems, competing directly with over-the-counter medicine.
In an era of Artificial Intelligence, consumers are very much open to machines optimising their everyday health. If we trust driverless cars to free up our precious time in transport, we will also gladly accept technology to help us feel fit and optimally profit from the time gains and enjoy the ride too. Uber is already investing in sensory stimulation to prevent car sickness, a technology that adapts exactly to the turns and motion of the car, tricking our brain and replacing the need for difficult to time motion sickness medication. Once we realise brain manipulation is doing the job more efficiently than drugs can, we might also consider swapping our cups of caffeine for a DIY brain stimulator kit that improves cognitive performance.
Crucially, electroceuticals tap into the growing demand for natural, drug-free solutions. The surge of interest in alternative approaches has in a sense been paving the way for its renaissance. With the likes of acupuncture, we have been adopting a naturally ‘mechanical’ view of our body as a system of biological pumps and valves, with pressure points to relieve or stimulate. Natural body-regulating and pressure point stimulating health devices are growing previously small and unseen markets, for example Sea Band, a wrist band that prevents motion sickness through acupressure producing endorphins and taking away anxiety, without any chemical intervention. But while electroceuticals play in a natural, “drug-free” space, they can also throw science into the mix. Why would you use artificial eye drops or rely on less effective natural remedies if you can use a TrueTear neurostimulator, which is scientifically proven to stimulate the nerves in your nose to produce your very own, natural tears?
Products such as TrueTear are pulling the right levers, claiming to offer scientific accuracy yet chemical-free health, and may well disrupt the health and wellbeing market in a few years from now. What target audience – the natural seeker or the efficiency solver – will it attract? What role will traditional drugs play as the market reshapes? And the potential impact of electroceuticals reaches beyond the consumer health category: maybe, one day, neurostimulators will end up in our toiletry bags and beauty cases, in the form of a wearable patch to control sweating and odours (yes, free from any parabens and sulfates!), or an electrotherapy facial kit that keeps your skin young by stimulating natural collagen production. The question is, are your brands ready for the electric revolution?