Iridology (also known as iridodiagnosis) is an alternative medicine technique whose proponents believe that patterns, colors, and other characteristics of the iris can be examined to determine information about a patient's systemic health. Practitioners match their observations to iris charts which divide the iris into zones which they correspond to specific parts of the human body. Iridologists see the eyes as "windows" into the body's state of health.
Iridologists use the corresponding charts to highlight certain systems and organs in the body as healthy and others as overactive, inflamed, or distressed. Iridologists believe this information may be used to demonstrate a patient's susceptibility towards certain illnesses, to reflect past medical problems, or to predict health problems which may be developing.
As it is not a method of treatment, its practitioners often study other branches of alternative medicine, such as naturopathy.
The word "iris" is Greek and means "rainbow" or "halo." The iris is the colorful portion of the eye that surrounds the pupil. The idea of iridology, if not its practice, is more than 2,000 years old. The idea is found discreetly in the Bible in the sixth chapter of the book of St. Matthew, verse twenty-two.
Iridology was "rediscovered" by two European men in the 19th century. Together, these two share the title of "father of iridology." These men were Hungarian Ignatz von Peczely and Swedish clergyman Nils Liljequist.
Legend has it that in 1837, Von Peczely captured an owl in the family garden. In an effort to escape, the owl fractured its leg (or perhaps Von Peczely accidentally broke the owl's leg). Either way, Ignatz soon noticed a streak or line begin to develop in the owl's eye after it had been injured. According to the traditional story, this line became a black spot at the 6:00 (six o'clock) position of the owl's iris. The iris mark was in a position that the iris chart (both Von Peczely and Liljequist made separate but strikingly similar iris charts that matched eye markings with specific body parts) said corresponded to the leg. Peculiarly, although the charts for the left and right irides are similar, they are not identical.
When Von Peczely examined a man with a similar marking in his iris, Von Peczely suddenly recollected his encounter with the owl. Fascinated by his findings, he began research and investigation into what is now called modern iridology. Thus, a man's strange encounter with an owl directly led to the onset of the formation of the science of iridology.