No, foot baths can't cleanse your body of parasites

By: Siri Christiansen
January 9 2024

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No, foot baths can't cleanse your body of parasites

A viral TikTok showing the results of a "parasite cleansing" foot bath.


The Verdict False

The viral TikTok video has been examined by three parasite experts that deem the "parasites" to be other materials.

Claim ID dbdba63c

The claim

A TikTok video that has amassed 7 million views in six days claims that foot baths can rid your body of parasites.

In the video, published on January 4, 2023, a young woman pours a "parasite cleansing" foot bath with Epsom salt, apple cider vinegar, and bentonite clay and soaks her feet in it. "I’m not gonna lie, that is a parasite guys…(...) another parasite.. (...) that’s another parasite guys, disgusting (...) and this is another parasite, like, I’m in disbelief," the TikToker narrates over video snippets of small, thin strings floating around in the water.

Screenshots of the viral TikTok. Source: TikTok (Edited by Logically Facts)

In a follow-up video, the TikToker responds to a comment asking if it’s possible the "parasites" came out of the drain. "100% the parasites came out of my feet," the video asserts.

It’s not the first time this DIY remedy has appeared on the platform. Several videos of "parasite foot soaks," "deworming foot baths," or "parasite foot detox" have been shared on TikTok over the past year, primarily by alternative health influencers (archived versions here, here, and here). The recent video, however, is the first on the subject to achieve this level of engagement.

In fact

There is no credible information online about foot baths being used as a treatment for parasites. According to the science-based health sites VeryWell Health and Medical News Today, both of which have been deemed pro-science and highly factual by Media Bias/Fact Check, natural remedies for parasites typically include cleansing diets or herbal supplements that have limited scientific evidence. Both sites advise anyone concerned about parasites to consult a healthcare professional.

Logically Facts sent the viral TikTok video to three medical researchers with expert knowledge in parasites, all of which said the thread-like objects in the video do not look like parasites.

"It looks like a combination of dirt and skin that have been lumped together by soap and formed long threads, and they look as if they move because of movements in the water," said Björn Olsen, professor of infection medicine at Uppsala University. 

In his profession, Olsen has himself received countless jars of "parasites" from concerned people, which upon examination have turned out to be slime, phlegm, fibers, or other materials. This has also been the experience of Silvia Botero Kleiven, head of parasite diagnostics at the Karolinska University Hospital’s laboratory.

"The objects in the video do not look like worms," Botero said. "The now quite rare Guinea worm can be found under the skin, but it doesn’t fully crawl out spontaneously and it doesn't look like what is shown in the video. I can't think of any worms that behave that way either."

"It’s a recurring phenomenon – you see something in the water and you immediately interpret it as worms or parasites or bacteria," Uppsala University’s Olsen said. "But a lot of that is unfounded. When you do have skin parasites, they don’t look like that. They’ll make themselves known mainly through skin wounds."

Anders Björkman, professor emeritus at the Department of Global Public Health and infectious disease specialist at Karolinska Institutet, agreed.

"I find it impossible that a worm can crawl out of the skin as described in the video," he told Logically Facts. "There are various parasites or larvae that can occur in skin, most commonly onchocerciasis but also larva migrans. It’s relatively rare but could be what this video seems to refer to. However, it is unlikely they could be pulled out with just a foot bath. The real treatment is special worm medication that is swallowed in tablet form."

Parasite scare

Parasite cleansing has become a major trend in TikTok’s natural health circuit, and the hashtag #parasitecleanse has 839.9m views on the platform at the time of writing. 

While an Epsom foot bath or a herbal concoction is relatively harmless, other remedies are not. 

One of the biggest names in the parasite cleansing game, Alexia Icenhower, recommends ingesting parasite cleanses that include chlorine dioxide – which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns can lead to serious safety issues and death.  In 2022, the fact-checking organization Health Feedback found a TikTok video perpetuating the long-running claim that drinking turpentine – which is dangerous and fatal even in small quantities – can effectively remove parasites from the body. 

One reason why the trend has attracted so much attention is the wide range of health issues it claims to solve, including IBS, insomnia, anxiety, brain fog, abdominal pain, and endometriosis. Alexia Icenhower, for example, claims her parasite cleanse has cured her of stage-three kidney disease, depression, allergies, poor eyesight, and autism. 

"The main problem with this type of false claim is that it favors the perception that you 'may have parasites in your body,'" Karolinska Institutet’s Björkman said. "It’s a perception that some patients exhibit and which is difficult to get rid of even after making lots of tests and examinations without findings."

The verdict

The supposed "parasites" in the TikTok video have been assessed by three medical researchers with expert knowledge in parasites, all of whom have said that parasitic worms do not look like that and that foot baths are not a viable method of removing parasites from the body. Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.

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