Sitting down with hydrotherapist and iridologist, India Holloway, is a bit like meeting with a psychic. A wisened, powerful woman with long grey hair and a no nonsense attitude, Holloway will look into your eyes, your heart, and even your poop to give you a complete rundown of your mental and physical health.
I met up with her in her Los Angeles office. It was dark, perhaps to keep out the late afternoon sun. Stacks of books and texts overflowed from the shelves and antiquated posters of human body parts were scattered throughout. She took a seat, invited me to sit, and then after a moment, looked at me.
Actually, she didn’t look at me — she looked into me. I had the vague sense she was trying to catch a signal or something from me. Finally, she smiled and said we should begin.
India Holloway began her career as a colon hydrotherapist, but soon her practice evolved to offer iridology. If you’ve never heard of it, iridology is the practice of examining the iris for pockmarks and other distortions in order to learn about the health of your body and mind. It’s a bit like palm reading, only for the eye. And while an ophthalmologist looks through the pupil, into the back, iridology (She had to remind me more than once that its pronounced, EYE-ri-dology) stays on the surface.
The session began with my chin pressed into a little plastic knob to hold my head still so she could photograph my irises (irisi?). She told me to close my eyes, and we waited for a few moments for them to dilate. As soon as I flicked them open, the camera flashed, and my eyes popped up on the computer monitor, right into special iridology software.
Blown up on the big screen, I was struck by how intricate and detailed they were. My eyes had always been a hazy green color, but now that they were the size of a basketball, I could see much that I hadn’t seen before. They weren’t only green, but also fleeced with flecks of gold. Surrounding the pupil was a series of loops and lines that reminded me of a spirograph.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” she said quietly. “They’re like planets.”
With the help of the software, she went to work, using her cursor to trace a line around the spirograph, separating the (dull) inner part of my eye from the (vivid) outer part. She then divided the outer part into further wedges, 12 pizza slices corresponding to the twelve numbers on a clock. Each wedge, she explained, represented a different part of the body.
Generally speaking, the eye is a stand-in for the body itself, with the upper part of the iris representing the head and the brain and lower part of the iris representing the colon, reproductive organs, and legs. Finally, the inner part of the eye, the smooth ring running around the pupil, represented digestion.
Once my eye had been sufficiently subdivided, she began the reading/analysis/diagnostic. She started with my left eye, the feminine side, and took a look at the inner circle. “See how the border between the inner and the outer part of the eye is vague and cloudy?” she asked, looping the cursor around my pupil in a wild circle. “It means you have bad digestion.”
She was right. I did have bad digestion. It was only the beginning of a list of ailments and predictions she would have for my body.
As she went on to explain, iridology started with a young boy and an owl with a broken wing. The child came upon the injured owl in his field somewhere and noticed there was a huge mark on its eye. The kid took the bird home and nursed the bird’s wing back to health. Over the weeks, as the owl healed, the boy noticed the bird’s eye started to clear. By the time the owl was totally healed, the mark was gone.
This boy would grow up to become Hungarian physician Ignatz Peczely, the father of iridology. Since that fateful day in the field, he never stopped mapping the eye. Every time one of his patients presented with an injury or health condition, he would note how it affected the iris. Meanwhile, in Sweden, another doctor was up to the same thing. Once the two doctors finally compared their respective eye maps, they were surprised to discover the two charts were nearly identical.
Like I said, the whole felt like a palm reading. We talked about my digestion and my heart, my shoulders and my mouth. Nothing she told me about my health was particularly new information, but that she could discover so much about my body just by looking into me was amazing.
Drawing the cursor toward the top of my eye, she even dabbled into my mental health. At one point, she perceived things about me that I’d insofar only ever shared with a therapist. Again, none of this was news to me, but how could she know?
In fact, it was her accuracy that lead me to Holloway in the first place. A friend of mine had been sick for years. Doctor’s appointment after doctor’s appointment couldn’t pin down the cause. Finally, as a last ditch effort, she went to Holloway, who took one look at her eye and was able to recommend a treatment of vitamin injections. Within weeks, she was her old self again. “She saved my life,” my friend told me. “You have to give her a call.”
As we came up to the end of the session, she pointed at a tall column of eye fiber that stretched from my pupil up to the 12 o’clock position. “See that?” she asked with a smile. “It says you’re a great communicator. Good luck on your article.”