(Investigator 172, 2017 January)


In 1840, John Hoxsey observed that one of his horses that had developed cancer had cured itself by selecting and eating certain herbs growing around the farm.

He gathered and brewed the same herbs and used them to treat and cure other cancerous animals. The "secret" formula was passed down through the family and in the 1920s, John Hoxsey's great-grandson, Harry Hoxsey (1901-1973), a self-taught healer and naturopath, founded the Hoxsey Cancer Clinic in Dallas, Texas.

There was considerable opposition from the established medical profession and Hoxsey was arrested and convicted several times for practicing medicine without a licence. He moved from state to state opening a succession of clinics staffed by physicians and osteopaths and, in 1936 and 1955 operated two prosperous clinics in Dallas, Texas, and in Portage, Pennsylvania respectively.

His medication was dispensed in tablet form by mail-order. After proving in three Federal Courts that the medicines were worthless, the American Food and Drug Administration successfully ended the sale of Hoxsey treatments.

Harry Hoxsey developed prostate cancer in 1967, and after unsuccessfully treating himself with his own tonic eventually underwent conventional surgery. He died in 1973.


That preparations from selected herbs contain compounds able to effectively cure cancers.


Physical examination, blood and urine tests, x-rays and, in some cases, tomography scans (CT-scans). Available medical records are requested as clinic physicians do not routinely confirm the presence of cancer by means of biopsies. If cancer is diagnosed, patients are given three to six months supply of Hoxsey tonic and, in some cases, escharotic medicines. Fees are expensive.


The formulas used for Hoxsey preparations were not a family "secret", and in one form or another were commonly used by the medical profession in the treatment of external cancer before the development of more scientific x-ray and radium treatment. The powder contained arsenic sulphide, yellow precipitate and talc; the red paste has antimony trisulphide, zinc chloride and bloodroot; the liquid is tri-chloro-acetic acid. All these are escharotics (powerful caustics).

The primary ingredient in the tonics is potassium iodide which was studied extensively and tried for treating tumour-like inflammations of tertiary syphilis and cancer before the days of penicillin. It was abandoned because of lack of effect and the toxic reactions.

The licorice and pepsin in the tonics served only as flavourings and cascara, buckthorn bark and stillingia root are laxatives with no systemic effects. In greater amounts, buckthorn bark is considered to be a poison.

Other ingredients such as red clover, berberries, and pokeroot have all at some time been examined for their possible therapeutic effects and have either not been found to be useful or have toxic side-effects.

Hoxsey medicines for cancer have been extensively tested and found to be both useless (the internal treatment) and archaic (the external treatments). The American Cancer Society did not recommend their use by cancer patients.

The escharotic compounds used in Hoxsey preparations, although used many years ago to destroy external cancers, are unable to distinguish between normal and abnormal tissues. As a consequence, they can destroy large amounts of healthy tissue along with the cancer.

Worthy of note is the fact that Hoxey's father died of cancer in 1919, and his mother of the same disease two years later.

It's also worth speculating on just how many of the 75,000 persons who died of cancer in 1957 could have been saved had they consulted a competent physician instead of a quack.
After a four year running battle with the U.S. Government, Hoxey's Cancer Clinic closed its doors in December 1958. The worthless treatment is now only obtainable at the Bio-Medical Centre, an alternative medicine clinic in Tijuana, Mexico.


American Cancer Society. 1968. Unproven methods of cancer treatment. Californian Dept. of Public Health Foods and Drugs. Title 17 (Reg. 63, No 17, Oct. 5.) p.187-188.

American Medical Association, Bureau of Investigation
. 1954. Cough medicine for cancer? JAMA 155:667-668.

American Medical Association, 1926. The Hoxide cancer 'cure.' JAMA 86:55-57.

American Society of Clinical Oncology Subcommittee on Unorthodox Therapies: Ineffective cancer therapy. 1983. A guide for the layperson. Jn. of Clinical Oncology, 1:154-163.

Ausubel, K. 1988. The troubling case of Harry Hoxsey, New Age Journal, July / August. p. 41ff.

Janssen, W.E. 1979. Cancer quackery: The past in the present. Semin Oncol 6:526-536.

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

Lowell, James A. 1987. Hoxsey Treatment Still Available, Nutrition Forum, Vol. 4, No.12. December 1987.

Tyler, Y.E. 1985. Hazards of herbal medicine, in Stalker D, Glymour C. Examining Holistic Medicine. p. 323-339. Prometheus Books.

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

Alternative, Complementary and Spiritual Healing explained and assessed on this website: