FULL CLAIM: “Wilhelm Reich invented a way to cure cancer” using an “orgone accumulator, which concentrate orgone energy”
Cancer is a leading cause of mortality worldwide, with 20 million new cases and 10 million new deaths in 2020 across the globe. As such, cancer draws significant research efforts and spending to improve diagnostics and therapies.
Owing to the large public interest in cancer treatments, unsupported promises of miraculous cures recurrently spread on social media. Health Feedback previously debunked several of them.
One example of such a claim is that a medical doctor named Wilhelm Reich invented a cure for cancer using a device called an “orgone accumulator”.Wilhelm Reich and his followers indeed formulated the hypothesis of the existence of a form of energy called “orgone” and investigated whether it could serve as a cure to many diseases including cancer. However, this hypothesis hasn’t been supported by any solid scientific evidence. Neither the medical potential of orgone nor even the very existence of orgone have been proven so far.
Wilhelm Reich began his career as a psychoanalyst and fellow of the renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud; Reich started to develop his orgone theory sometime in the 1930s. According to Reich, orgone is a vital energy, surrounding, connecting and penetrating things and forms of life. Reich reported observations that orgone could kill cancer cells in laboratory experiments.
Reich then built so-called orgone accumulators: human-sized boxes made of wood and metal supposed to concentrate the atmospheric orgone. Human subjects would then sit inside the box and be exposed to high doses of orgone which, allegedly, would be beneficial in treating several health conditions. Because orgone is supposed to be a universal life principle, it was later claimed to have positive effects on many other things such as fruit growth or seed sprouting.
However, no robust scientific data proves that orgone exists or that it can treat cancer. It is important to remember that, in science, statements must be backed by logic and empirical evidence. In particular, a bold claim—a totally new form of energy that appears to connect and influence everything and can cure multiform diseases like cancer–requires solid and airtight evidence in order to be acknowledged as a scientific fact.
A query on PubMed—the main biomedical bibliographic database run by the U.S. National Library of Medicine—for scientific articles whose titles or abstracts contained the words “orgone” and “cancer” returned no relevant results. Similarly, a search on the clinical trial repository ClinicalTrial.gov for human clinical trials where the disease is “cancer” and that contained the word “orgone” in their descriptions returned no hit.
Most experimental results regarding the benefits of orgone are published in the Journal of Orgonomy, published by the College of Orgonomy which was funded at the request of Reich to preserve his legacy and whose purpose is “to set and maintain standards for all work in orgonomy, to promote and encourage scientific work in the field of orgonomy”. Therefore, this casts doubt on the objectivity of these results due to potential bias.Other researchers have also been unable to reproduce the results, raising questions about whether the reported effects actually exist.
Even in this journal, few records have been found of experimental work investigating whether orgone could cure cancer. One publication reported experiments carried out on mice. The sample size was extremely small, with around four to eight mice per experimental group. Besides, these experiments provided conflicting results. The group supposedly exposed to orgone exhibited decreased tumor growth in one experiment, but increased tumor growth in another. This, and the fact that these aren’t results from human clinical trials, preclude anyone from making conclusions about whether orgone, assuming it even exists, would have any effect on cancer.