(Investigator 169, 2016 July)


The Gerson Therapy was originated by Dr. Max Gerson, M.D. (1881-1959), a graduate of Freiburg University, Germany, in 1909.

In 1936, Dr. Gerson and his family moved to New York. In 1938, he set up a medical practice where it was claimed he successfully treated terminally ill cancer patients until his death in 1959. Since that time, the Gerson Therapy has been promoted by his daughter Charlotte Gerson through the media and publications of the Gerson Institute in Bobita, California. The Gerson Therapy Center of Mexico was opened in Tijuana in 1977 and in February 1997, the Gerson Healing Center was opened in Sedona, Arizona.


Dr. Gerson suffered from migraines and he first experimented with milk as a cure but without success. He then realised that our closest ancestor in nature is the ape who lives on a diet of mainly fruits, nuts and green vegetables. Using this diet, Dr. Gerson is alleged to have cured his migraines and went on to recommend the same diet to some of his patients with equal success, not only curing migraines but other complaints such as lupus, tuberculosis, arteriosclerosis, arthritis and cancer.


The main features of the Gerson diet include sodium restriction, potassium supplementation, high vitamin, mineral and micronutrient intake and plenty of fluids. The nutrients take the form of upwards of eight kilos of organic foods daily pressed into glasses of fresh raw juice. Coffee enemas are also prescribed.


Reviews and investigations into Dr. Gerson's claims have  failed to produce any evidence that his methods have any value in treating cancer.

In the 1940s, the National Cancer Institute reviewed 10 cases selected by Dr. Gerson and found his report unconvincing, and the New York County Medical Society reviewed records of 86 patients with the same negative results.

In 1959, a NCI analysis of Dr. Gerson's book A Cancer Therapy: Results of Fifty Cases concluded that most of the cases failed to meet criteria for proper evaluation of a cancer case.

A more recent review of the Gerson treatment rationale concluded:
(a) the "poisons" Gerson claimed to be present in processed foods have never been identified,
(b) frequent coffee enemas have never been shown to mobilise and remove poisons from the liver and intestines of cancer patients,
(c) there is no evidence that any such poisons are related to the onset of cancer,
(d) there is no evidence that a "healing" inflammatory reaction exists that can seek out and kill cancer cells.

At least 13 patients between 1980 and 1986 were admitted to San Diego area hospitals with Campylobacter fetus sepsis attributable to the liver injections. None of the patients were cancer-free, and one died of his malignancy within a week. Five were comatose due to low serum sodium levels, presumably the result of the "no sodium" Gerson dietary regime.

In 1983, a naturopath was able to track 21 patients over a 5-year period (or until death) through annual letters or phone calls. At the 5-year mark, only one was still alive (but not cancer free). The rest had succumbed to their cancer.

Charlotte Gerson's claims that treatment at the Tijuana clinic has produced high cure rates for many cancers, was not supported by clinic personnel in 1986.

The American Medical Association has regarded the Gerson Therapy as unorthodox, and complained that Gerson had failed to acquaint the medical profession with details of his treatment. Although he published many papers and three books on his treatment, they have either been rejected or have not been peer reviewed.


Gerson Institute, The Gerson Therapy, Bonita, CA

Kastner, Mark and Burroughs, Hugh. 1993. Alternative Healing, Halcyon Publishing, La Mesa, CA.

Raso, J. 1993. Mystical Diets: Paranormal, Spiritual, and Occult Nutritional Practices. Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY.

[From: Edwards, H. 1999 Alternative, Complementary, Holistic & Spiritual Healing, Australian Skeptics Inc.]

Scores of unconventional therapies examined and assesssed on this website: