- Prince Charles has never made a secret of his love affair
with alternative medicine. Now he has infuriated the medical profession
by backing a controversial cancer treatment which involves taking daily
coffee enemas and drinking litres of fruit juice instead of using drugs.
Charles gave an enthusiastic endorsement last week to the Gerson Therapy,
which eschews chemotherapy in favour of 13 fruit juices a day, coffee enemas
and weekly injections of vitamins.
- Cancer specialists have told The Observer that there
is no scientific basis for the theory and that it can be dangerous because
patients who are seriously ill often come off their normal treatment to
try something unproven which may leave them badly dehydrated.
- Speaking to a room of 200 healthcare professionals at
a conference, Charles said: 'I know of one patient who turned to Gerson
Therapy having been told she was suffering from terminal cancer and would
not survive another course of chemotherapy. Happily, seven years later,
she is alive and well. So it is vital that, rather than dismissing such
experiences, we should further investigate the beneficial nature of these
- Charles's spokesmen last night refused to say whether
the patient he referred to is a close friend or someone he met in his role
as patron of four cancer charities. What has become clear is that a tight
network of friends and associates are advocates of the therapy. Dudley
Poplak, an interior designer who has a client list of the great and the
good, is the man who is thought to have first alerted Charles to the treatment.
Poplak redecorated Highgrove House for Charles and Diana and designed their
apartment in Kensington Palace. He gave Charles a copy of the book A Time
to Heal: My Triumph over Cancer - Beata Bishop's story of how she beat
malignant melanoma 23 years ago by following the strict dietary regime.
- Bishop would not comment yesterday on whether the prince
had read her book, but said: 'For years the orthodox medical profession
has been totally ignorant of the immense potential of nutritional therapy.
Finally they have admitted that if you eat the right food you can prevent
serious illness, but they still say that if you are ill, you can do nothing.
I am not the only one who has survived on Gerson; there are many others
like me.' Max Gerson, a German-born physician, gave his name to the rigorous
diet, which he initially used to cure his own migraines. He gained a huge
following and moved to the US after practising in Paris, but incurred the
wrath of the American medical profession for presenting five patients alive
and well to a US congressional committee, years after they had been sent
home to die.
- He believed that cancer was the symptom of a diseased,
polluted body in which tumours form when the liver, pancreas and other
organs are out of balance, and reasoned that animal and dairy products
and other chemicals must be banned. The coffee enemas are used to strip
the gut of harmful bacteria and pollutants, but specialists argue they
often lead to other problems such as dehydration.
- Today the Gerson Institute, run by Max's 82-year-old
daughter Charlotte, has an office in California but runs its main clinic
in Tijuana, Mexico, because the US forbids doctors to practise it. Treatment
costs $4,900 a week and usually lasts for around three weeks.
- Another of Charles's associates, the hereditary peer
and crossbencher Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, went to the Tijuana clinic in
1996 when his wife Sally was seriously ill with breast cancer. She spent
eight weeks at the clinic, followed by another two years of using the regime
at home. Her disease recurred and she died three years ago.
- Lord Baldwin, who has known the Prince of Wales for many
years, invited Charlotte Gerson to address the House of Lords in 1999 and
expound her theory. From his home in Oxford, Baldwin said yesterday: 'The
subject does arouse passions on both sides but there is an enormous need
for proper studies into these treatments. I watched my wife's tumours shrink
away but the treatment is a very difficult one to follow. The drugs companies
have millions to spend on research, but there's nothing to spend on research
into how nutrition might work.'
- Charles set up the Foundation for Integrated Health,
an initiative to integrate different systems of medicines and therapies,
six years ago and has managed to persuade ministers to put millions of
pounds more funding into alternative medicine in the NHS. Surveys suggest
it is growing in popularity with some 20 per cent of people using an alternative
treatment such as acupuncture between two and five times a year.
- In his speech, delivered on Thursday in London, Charles
argued that it was impossible to separate the mental and physical states
of wellbeing, and that the NHS should be developing more funding to different
approaches. 'We must commission and produce research that looks at the
efficacy of complementary medicine. For example, many patients use and
believe in Gerson Therapy, yet more evidence needs to be available as to
who might benefit or what the adverse effects might be.'
- One of the patients, Frances Carroll from Cheshire, said
at the conference she had benefited from Gerson Therapy for the past seven
years. Carroll was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago and turned
to the therapy after she did not appear to respond to conventional treatment.
She said: 'It is a means of staying alive. I think it has extended my life
expectancy. One might say I've beaten the odds.'
- But the American Cancer Society warns that the therapy
may be dangerous. On its website it states: 'Gerson Therapy can be very
harmful to the body. Coffee enemas have been associated with serious infections,
dehydration, constipation, colitis (inflammation of the colon), electrolyte
(salt and mineral) imbalances, and even death.'
- One prominent British proponent of Gerson Therapy is
the Oxford don Michael Gearin-Tosh, who wrote a book about his 'medical
mutiny' after he was diagnosed with cancer nine years ago. He converted
to the Gerson Therapy and has stuck to the rigorous regime of fruit and
- Professor Tony Goldstone, head of the North London cancer
network, said there was evidence that some patients reached a 'natural
plateau' in their disease which could last for years. He attacked the raising
of 'false hopes' which 'lead patients in the wrong direction'.
- Other cancer doctors pointed out that many units, including
Goldstone's, are now offering an array of complementary therapies alongside
conventional treatment, because it is popular with patients and because
it can be relaxing and mentally helpful for them.
- But there is still an enormous lack of evidence, as Prince
Charles pointed out, to show what works. One eminent cancer specialist
who asked not to be named said: 'If I start to see patients coming off
treatment to embrace this therapy, I'm going to be very angry. Charles
is abusing his position to put around wacky ideas which have no scientific
credence. Imagine the row there would be if Tony Blair did something like
- Yet leading cancer specialist Professor Karol Sikora
says the role of diet in treating cancer is extremely important and needs
more research. 'There is no rationale for the Gerson diet, which is quite
radical. Why would a coffee enema work? It's very popular among the higher
end of the middle classes, partly because it's expensive and because there's
an element of religious mania to it.
- 'I think that some of what the prince has done in calling
for assessment of complementary medicine is a good thing because it can
help improve the quality of life. But the idea that huge amounts of Vitamin
C can cure you of cancer is simply wrong.'
- · Additional reporting by Mark Hudson
- The Gerson regime
- What is it? A gruelling nutritional regime which would
typically consist of 13 glasses a day of fresh organic carrot apple or
broccoli juice, vegetarian food, weekly injections of liver extract and
vitamin B12, and five coffee or camomile enemas a day. Yoga is also recommended.
- How popular is it? An estimated 1,000 people are following
it worldwide, but the cost of the injections - more than £20,000
a year - means many cannot afford the treatment.
- So what is the theory? Its creator Max Gerson believed
cancer was caused by poor nutrition and long-term exposure to pesticides,
chemical fertilisers, air and water pollution, and that the right foods
and enemas boosted the body's ability to eliminate these toxins - and the
- Is there any evidence for this? There is growing evidence
that eating lots of fruit and vegetables has a protective effect against
cancer, but studies on the role of food during treatment are sparse. Scientists
say there is no evidence that huge doses of vitamin C or enemas can destroy
- From The Leaflady
- The reporter from the Observer writing this article may
be one of the many people, including medical practitioners, that lack the
knowledge that coffee enemas were, up until 1972, listed as an accepted
medical treatment in the (US) National Formulary. Many gastroenterologists
and proctologists used this treatment for their patients without ill effect
- The issue is probably one closely related to lack of
a thorough search of the literature, ignorance, and a weighted interest
in maintaining the current methods supported by the medical-pharmaceutical-industrial
- Gayle Eversole, DHom, PhD, MH, NP, ND