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Cancer: Max Gerson, M.D. and Edward Bach, M.D. 

Cancer, Bach, Gerson  


What is important is the weight of evidence that impelled me to take the steps I did.
My personal actions may not have justified the evidence,
but I think the evidence justified my actions."
(Roger J. Williams, PhD, Nutrition Against Disease, p 91.)

 Max Gerson, MD, started his professional life as a regular physician and ended it a heretic. So did Edward Bach, MD. The first gave coffee enemas to cancer patients and the latter healed all manner of diseases with flowers. Both were fully trained scientists who turned their back on conventional medicine and never recanted.

 So how did that happen?

 The renegade doctor does not fit the public perception of quack very well. We want our quacks flaming, as Homer Simpson wanted all his gay acquaintances to be. Only a real nut of a quack, an utterly uneducated, criminally flamboyant fraud, is repellent enough to cement patients to the religion of the drug doctors.

 Dr. Max Gerson is therefore a problem from the start, best left ignored. You will look long and hard for any reference to him in any medical history or textbook.   And yet, this man developed the single most successful treatment for cancer in existence over 60 years ago.

 Gerson was a surgeon in the German army during the first world war. He and other doctors worked MASH-like 20 hour days operating on what was left of their countrymen evacuated from the front lines. The British naval blockade of Germany had resulted in a dire shortage of morphine, and there was not enough of the pain reliever for patients in recovery. The doctors, who drank coffee to stay awake day and night to operate, found that coffee also relieved pain in the wounded.  We know this to be true, as caffeine is one of the active ingredients to this day in many an extra-strength pain-reliever. Some soldiers had so much of their faces, throats and stomachs shot away that they were fed by rectum, not an uncommon practice in the old days.  Desperate nurses were instructed to put coffee in the enema water of these individuals. It worked; any port in a storm.

 This is the first straightforward reason why Dr. Gerson gave coffee enemas to cancer patients: pain relief.  He later claimed another: rectally administered caffeinated coffee seemed to stimulate the liver to flush waste from the system.  He would be neither the first nor the last to believe that "accumulated toxins" were a cause of cancer.  It is a persistent and recurrent quacky notion... which is also probably quite accurate.

 The cancer-preventive aspects of high fiber diets support this. A study showed that Hispanic women have far lower rates of breast cancer than black or white women. When all factors were considered, only one difference could be found: Hispanic women eat considerably more beans than black or white women do. The fiber is almost certainly the secret. Other research has pointed to the flip-side conclusion: low-fiber diets are carcinogenic. In a low fiber diet, any consumed carcinogens have a longer transit time through the body's digestive tract. More time in contact with the lining of the GI tract means more opportunity for carcinogenesis.  

 Lots of fiber may also help the body excrete excess endogenous chemicals, such as estrogen, thereby lowering the rate of hormone-dependent cancers.  Additionally, soluble fiber removes excess bile acids (by-products of fat digestion) that are also linked with cancer. David Reuben's Save Your Life Diet (yes, he too was an M.D.) discusses fiber's anti-cancer roles in detail. That book came out in the 1970's; this is not new information.  Aside from Metamucil, fiber is too cheap and cannot be patented.  What pharmaceutical company can make the big bucks off beans?  There is more money in chemo than Beano.

 So Gerson the quack is trying to "detoxify" the body, focusing on the liver. Is this a reasonable focus?  Well, weighing in at about four pounds, the liver is the largest gland in the body. It is well and clearly identified as the body's site of detoxification of alcohol and other drugs. It could very well detoxify a cancer patient, and Gerson was aware of supporting research. So, yes, the liver is at least as much a key as any other organ, and arguably much more so.

 To build up the body's ability to fight cancer, Dr. Gerson then employed the most damned therapy in the twentieth century: vitamins. On top of that, he was among the pioneers recommending extensive vegetable juicing. There you go: this all would be right at home on a shopping channel at 2 am.  That, or on Jerry Springer or Rikki Lake.

 Oddly enough, it was because he had chronic, severe migraines that Max Gerson got into vitamins and juicing   He found no help in the drugs of the day.  Remember, he was a doctor, and he well knew what was available. Plus, he had colleagues to help with the search. Nothing worked.  So Gerson tried the logic of that great non-person, Sherlock Holmes: if all reasonable explanations fail, the answer must be some unreasonable one.  Immersed in the unreason that only pain can generate, Gerson tried different foods, doing an early version of what was probably much like allergy testing.  He found that juiced vegetables, not medicines, were the cure for his headaches. He was a surprised as you would be, perhaps even more so because he was a drug doctor who had been taught nothing of natural healing, except perhaps contempt for it.

 Nothing succeeds like success. Word got around and people started to seek out this doctor who cured migraines when the other doctors failed to.  Gerson began to note that many of his migraine patients were also getting cures of assorted conditions that they hadn't even initially told him about.  He reasoned that juicing was a "metabolic therapy," non-specific and broad spectrum in nature. If that concept annoys you, think of the diverse sicknesses that are expected to respond to a given antibiotic. 

 Adding vitamin supplements to the regimen, he now had a therapy so effective that he was experiencing success on a large scale. One of his patients was the great missionary physician Albert Schweitzer, M.D.. Schweitzer himself said, of Gerson, that "he was a medical genius who walked among us."  High praise indeed from a Nobel prize winner.

 Was Dr. Schweitzer simply duped, and taken in by master fraud Gerson?

 Up until now, Gerson was not even thinking of treating cancer.  When ultimately asked to try to, he refused, indicating that he had no intention of  becoming known as another cancer quack. Pressure from suffering patients eventually changed his mind. He hesitatingly began using the metabolic therapy, cleansing and restoring the cancer patient's body, and was delivering a cure rate of over 50% of terminal cancer patients.  This extraordinary success rate was in part the basis for a 1946 Congressional hearing on cancer therapies. Gerson had relocated to the United States and now took 50 of his carefully documented case histories before an investigative committee. Radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy were all approved for the "war on cancer." Vitamins, juices and Gerson were excluded, by four votes.

 Well, what do you expect?  His mistake, and it was a big mistake, was to recommend coffee enemas for cancer patients. The fact that dying patients were recovering was secondary.  It all sounded too quacky. The juices and the vitamins just added insult to injury. In the greatest traditions of the US Congress, they got it wrong and threw the baby out with the bathwater. Gerson was out in the cold, and would remain a quack for the rest of his life. The war on cancer would be fought with one hand tied behind its back.

 Dr. Gerson's case histories and therapy are fully documented in his book, A Cancer Therapy: Results of 50 Cases. It is an extraordinary, detailed, practical work.  Any good bookstore can order one for you.  If you are interested in quackery, you can start here.

 And then there is Edward Bach, M.D., who by comparison makes Gerson look like the president of the AMA. Dr. Bach was a vaccinologist with a practice on Harley Street in London, equivalent to having a Fifth Avenue professional address in New York City. He left medicine irretrievably far behind when he ran off to the country to study, and heal with, flower blossoms of all things. He floated them in spring water (but never in "dead" tap or distilled water) in glass containers, placed in the sun. The energy from the flowers was thus collected, then diluted hundreds of times to make it stronger, and dropped onto patients' tongues and wrists. Somewhere, anywhere, in here you can find enough nuttiness to begin snickering.  

 The eccentric Dr. Bach believed that disease was, at its root, a matter of diseased temperament.  He researched a dozen common flowers known as The Twelve Healers (also the title of his first book). Over two dozen more were to follow, bringing the total to 38. Impatiens seemed to cure impatience, Mustard ended black depression "like a dark cloud has overshadowed life, blotting out all enjoyment."  A combination of remedies, known as Rescue Remedy, was a first aid preparation for shock and trauma to the mind. Clematis relieved suicidal tendencies and Holly dissipated hatred.  Honeysuckle dissipated excess nostalgia, and there were several remedies for fear, classified as to whether fear was from known or unknown causes, worldly or unfounded, or otherwise.

 Dr. Bach is especially easy to dismiss.  First, he was British, so to Americans he was not a real scientist, like, say, Charles Darwin, Issac Newton or Allen Turing.  (Whoops: they were all British as well, but no matter.) Secondly, flowers, especially common blossoms like impatiens and holly that served as their very names would suggest, offer no satisfaction to the scientific-spectacle-seeking patient.

 Thirdly, the idea that dilution increases potency is a homeopathic one, utterly in opposition to orthodox medical thought. The works of historian Harris Coulter, especially the three volume masterwork Divided Legacy, will provide readers with very ample, very rational support for homeopathy and there is no need to try to justify it here. Homeopathy, itself regarded as quackery by many, is practiced by a large minority of licensed medical doctors worldwide. It is at least close enough to reason that over-the-counter homeopathic remedies are sold in Wal-Marts and the federal government both codifies and approves the manufacture of such remedies in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States.  Double-blind, tightly controlled studies of homeopathic remedies have indeed verified their statistical significance to a very high degree, and their record of safety is unassailable even by the Food and Drug Administration.

 Back to Bach: his flower remedies seemed to work. Medical doctors would follow him, leaving a broad trail of case notes, published articles, and textbooks in their wake.  It is a bold move to dismiss all these physicians as quacks without at least trying the remedies first. I have seen first hand how they help the people who come to see me. Placebo effect? You think? How about injections of sterile water? They have a high cure rate.  What of placebo surgery, where you have the scar, but nothing was changed internally, and the patient doesn't know it? Again, they are among the most successful of all operations. In a back issue of the Consultant (a physician's journal), I happened to read an article called "Placebo Revisited: A Most Useful Therapy."  Placebos work the best, said the author (an MD), on the most educated people. Figure that one out.

 OK, let's. The vast majority of medical procedures have never been adequately placebo tested. Here's a blatant example: radiation therapy for cancer. Picture this: a sick, scared patient is told with confidence that, of course, radiation treatments are the way to go to kill a tumor or stop it from spreading. The patient is subjected to long waits in waiting rooms with other believers; high bills for the procedure; awesomely large equipment with dials, lights, technicians and mysteries; and finally being placed basically naked under or into this machine.

 Now let's be scientific. I want another room, just as white and just as bright; with a fake machine that is just as impressive; with confederates disguised as fellow cancer sufferers chatting about the wonders of the impending treatment with the patient; lots of lights and dials that make the bridge of the starship Enterprise look like a rusty waterheater; and lots of dignified technicians, tech-speaking doctors, and sky-high bills to match.  All identical to the radiation room, and all completely fake. Now that is a placebo.

 So what do you think will be the success rate of the bogus "treatments" as opposed to scads of rads? How much is radiation and how much is expectation?  I think the results will be so similar that this control will never be done.

 So who are the quacks?  

Copyright C 2004, 2003 and prior years Andrew W. Saul.

Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )

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Andrew W. Saul


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