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Origin, benefits, efficacy, and methodology

The idea of iridology is almost 2,000 years old and can also be found in the Bible.1 Iridology involves the diagnosis of medical disorders by noting the irregularities in the pigmentation of the iris in the human eye. This discipline assumes that all the organs of the body are represented by the iris through complex neural connections and that a disturbance in the functioning of an organ is usually represented as a change in the pigmentation of the iris.2

What is iridology? Where did it originate?
According to the 27th edition of Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, iridology is “the study of the iris, its color, markings and changes, etc., and its association with underlying disease.” The word “iris” is derived from Greek language and means “rainbow.” It may also be translated to mean “halo.” Since iris surrounds the pupil of the eye and gives it its distinctive color, it may be thought of like a halo encircling it. It may also be thought of like a rainbow due to its color or many colors.1

  • The premise of iridology is that invaluable information about a person’s state of health and well-being can be provided by studying this rainbow.
  • Humans have a left and a right iris, and have a set of irides. Information from the irides can be gained quickly, painlessly, and inexpensively.
  • A practitioner who is skilled at the art may obtain information from the irides using a simple hand-held light source and magnifying lens.
  • In case of serious, practicing iridologists and for people conducting research on iridology, more expensive and complicated equipment is used.1

How is iridology beneficial?
Consulting an iridologist helps one determine the following things:

  • Constitutional strong points and weaknesses
  • Emotional problems
  • Aggregation of toxins
  • Areas of injury, degeneration, inflammation
  • Nutritional deficiencies

Rather than telling you what diseases or disorders you may be suffering from, iridology tells you the risks of developing certain diseases based on your iris.

Studies or research on the efficacy of iridology

  • Simon et. al studied patients with kidney disease to determine if iridology works. The study concluded that “none of the 6 observers in this study derived data of clinical importance or significance.”
  • Knipschild studied patients with inflamed gallbladder disease. He concluded “iridology is not a useful diagnostic tool.”
  • Buchanan and co-workers took color photographs of the irides of four different groups of patients suffering from ulcerative colitis, asthma, psoriasis, and coronary heart disease. The study concluded “diagnosis of these diseases cannot be aided by an iridological-style analysis.”
  • In a study conducted by Cockburn on patients with pleurisy, gastroenteritis, and upper respiratory infection, iridology was found to “not appear to have any validity in the context of conventional medicine.”
  • Kibler and Sterzing took 4000 photographs of over 1000 patients and healthy volunteers and concluded that “iridology as a diagnostic tool that collapses like a house of cards.”2

How is iridology performed?
A skilled iridologist must be able to exercise mental powers that cannot be accessed through cold and scientific methods. The iridologist must have a broad mind. His or her attention must be focused on the person as well as the complaints.

While diseases can be treated scientifically, people need to be dealt with artfully.1

  • The right half of the body is said to be represented by the right iris, whereas the left half of the body is represented by the left iris.
  • Iridologists use maps of the iris wherein each iris is divided into 60 sectors, similar to the face of a clock.
  • Each sector is associated with an inner organ or body function. For instance, heart diseases can be identified in the left iris in the area between the 2 o’clock and the 3 o’ clock position.
  • Iridologists may study the iris in situ, or they may reproduce high-quality color photographs of both irides.2

How can you get started with iridology?
In United States, more than 1000 licensed naturopathic physicians are currently practicing iridology.

  • They describe iridology as “the most valuable diagnostic tool of the naturopath.”
  • Therapists may use iridology to prescribe dietary supplements or herbs.
  • Many U.S. iridologist organizations exist, such as National Iridology Research Association, Bastyr Naturopathic College in Seattle, Walsh, and the International Association of Iridologists.2
  • In United States, iridology is not covered by health insurance.
  • In some European countries, iridology is covered by insurance programs.
  • In Germany, 80% of the Heilpraktiker or ‘non’ medically qualified health practitioners practice iridology.2

Any precautions, interactions, contraindications
Iridology may simply be a waste of time and money. What is more concerning is the possibility of false-positive diagnoses i.e. diagnosing and treating conditions that do not exist at all. Also, false-negative diagnoses, wherein a patient who is not feeling well goes to an iridologist and is pronounced completely okay, could be dangerous. In such cases, the patient could die because an undetected acute disease was not cited and treated in its early stages.2


  1. Jensen B. Visions of Health: Understanding Iridiology. Penguin; 1992. 176 p.
  2. Ernst E. Iridology: not useful and potentially harmful. Arch Ophthalmol. 2000 Jan;118(1):120-1. PubMed PMID: 10636425.
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