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Henry McGrath Dip.Ac Dip.TCM ND MTh

Bristol based – Worldwide web consultations
Acupuncture – Chinese Herbal Medicine – Naturopathy

Gerson Institute Module One Study Trip May 2015

25th March 2016

(Article published in CAM Magazine 2015)



Around 40 delegates, from over 20 countries, gathered in San Diego, California, to take the week long Module One of the Gerson Therapy training.  Module Two will take around two years, and involves working with a number of patients, under the guidance of the Gerson therapists, until participants demonstrate good case management skills.

I was impressed by the quality and diversity of the attendees, one third of whom were conventional doctors. One oncologist spoke of his disillusion with the orthodox treatments he was giving: close to tears, he said “I just can’t do this anymore”.  He had carefully surveyed the alternatives, and had been impressed with the evidence for the Gerson therapy.  Many of the doctors were using a range of non – conventional approaches to cancer, and getting good results.


What is the Gerson Institute?

Max Gerson was born in Germany in 1881.  By the 1920s he had become a senior doctor in Bavaria, treating tuberculosis.  He developed a dietary treatment for the disease, and the results were so good he became very well known, and the mainstream German Healthcare system began developing treatments for a range of diseases based on diet.  Gerson used these ideas with his cancer patients, and often got good results.  Unfortunately these developments were cut short by the ascent of Hitler to power in the early 1930s, when Gerson left for the USA.

Gerson continued to refine his ideas, and his results grew ever better.  In the 1940s he was invited to present the results of 50 cases to the United States Congressional Committee on Cancer, and his ideas narrowly missed being chosen as an officially endorsed US Government treatment for cancer. After intensive lobbying by the pharmaceutical lobby, the Government decided to follow chemotherapy as the main treatment for cancer. [1]

Max Gerson’s daughter, Charlotte, founded the Gerson Institute in 1977 in San Diego, California.  The Institute runs training programmes for health professionals to learn the Gerson Therapy protocols. I have been very fortunate to be able to come here to take Module One of the training.


What is the Gerson Therapy?

The therapy is rooted in naturopathic principles, such as:

·       Treat the person, not the disease

·       Find and address the underlying cause, not just the symptoms.  In the case of cancer, this involves liver toxicity

·       The body is capable of healing itself, if the cause of illness is removed, in this case toxins.

One of the key elements is diet. Protein, fat and salt intake are restricted.  Emphasis is placed on fresh fruit and vegetables, which must be organic if at all possible.  Between 10 and 13 cups of freshly juiced vegetables are consumed every day.  This floods the body with nutrients, and promotes the expulsion of toxins from the body tissue.  The diet is rich in potassium, and low in sodium, and rebalancing these two elements helps to detoxify and alkalise the body tissue.

In addition, four or five coffee enemas are taken per day.  The coffee is absorbed through the walls of the colon into the blood, and flows directly into the liver.  Certain compounds in the coffee (cafestol and kahweol) stimulate a 700% increase in the production of certain liver enzymes (from the glutathione S – transferase family), which are able to break down toxins [2].  These toxins are then released through the bile duct into the colon, and expelled.  Patients have reported smelling chemicals which they have been exposed to in the past, such as paint, hair dye or cosmetics.  Sometimes worms or parasites are seen.

Certain key supplements are administered, the dosage of which can be changed to slow down or speed up the detoxification process as required. These balance the hormone system (particularly the thyroid), and support liver and immune function.  They also help the blood to become alkaline, which makes it much harder for the cancer to thrive.


The evidence base

I was impressed by the depth of knowledge of the first speaker, Gar Hildebrand, who has been consulted by the US Government on cancer matters.  He was very abreast of the latest research on cancer, both conventional and alternative, which justified the Gerson therapy. He discussed evidence that iodine  (a key mineral used in Gerson Therapy) regulates the hormone system to help fight cancer.  He discussed research showing that undigested proteins can undermine the working of the immune system, and that protein restriction can slow the development of cancer.  He presented research on the numerous anti – cancer compounds found in certain vegetable which are a key part of the Gerson Therapy.

Hildebrand did some research in which he compared the survival rates from melanoma (skin cancer) between Gerson patients and those receiving the standard treatment.  He found that the Gerson patients survived longer: for Stage Three patients, 70% of the Gerson group lived at least five years, as opposed to 41% of non – Gerson patients[3].

It soon became clear that Max Gerson was very far ahead of his time, as each plank of his therapy was justified by the current biochemical research.  Everything he did was based on evidence, and his careful recording of everything he did.  When going on holiday Gerson used to take two suitcases: one full of journals, and one full of books, and maybe the odd pair of socks!

The Gerson Institute continues to develop Max Gerson’s protocols using the best evidence available.  Far from sticking rigidly to his therapy, they do what Gerson himself did: seek to refine and improve the therapy based on the evidence, from both the clinic and the medical literature.  For example, they now incorporate the herb Milk Thistle, and are carefully researching the role of various vitamins and herbs.  Gerson Therapists carefully monitor blood tests every month, and adjust the therapy according to the readings. If the blood work shows problems with the liver enzymes, the white blood cell count (immune system), or the red blood cell count, appropriate adjustments are made. In other words, the therapy is adjusted according to the specific needs of the individual, in line with naturopathic principles.


Case Histories

One of the most moving parts of the training was meeting cancer survivors and hearing their stories.  Kevil Murray told us that in 2006 he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which had spread to his lymph system and abdomen.  He had surgery to remove the testicular tumour, but refused chemotherapy for the other lumps, and was given six months to live.  He closely followed the Gerson Therapy, and is still alive nine years later.  He was full of health, having cycled 33 miles to meet us.

Another survivor, David Dundas, was diagnosed in 2008 with a malignant tumour in his right tonsil, which had spread to the lymph system.  The tumour in the tonsil was removed, but as the disease had spread, the doctors wanted to administer radiotherapy.  As his cousin’s cancer had been cured by Max Gerson himself, David chose to follow the Gerson therapy rather than receive radiation.  After about one year of the therapy, the largest lymphatic tumour had reduced in size (from 3.5cm x 2.7cm to 2.4cm x 19cm), to a point where it could be operated on, so he had it removed. Biopsies showed that none of the other areas of possible tumours were cancerous.  David was still very well when he met us.

In addition to meeting some cancer survivors, the Gerson Therapists presented some of their own cases.  It is important to realise that the therapy is not a miracle cure, and of course not everyone survives.  However, if the disease is caught early enough, many cancers can be held in check or even reversed.  It was also clear that the skill of the therapists is paramount: they all said that the more expertise they developed, over the course of many years, the better their result were.

I look forward to Module Two of my studies with the Gerson Institute, and deepening my own clinical skills.  My own naturopathic training with CNM provided an excellent basis for these studies, as it has provided a solid grounding in naturopathy, including many of the principles and practices of the Gerson Therapy.


About the Gerson Institute

The Institute continues their work in San Diego, providing education and training in the Gerson Therapy, for both health practitioners and patients.  They can be found at


About the Author

Henry McGrath studied natural medicine for twelve years, gaining diplomas in Shiatsu, Naturopathy, Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture.  He has also undertaken placements in Herbal Medicine Oncology Clinics in several Chinese hospitals. He has been running his clinic in Bristol since 1998, and worked at Penny Brohn Cancer Care for several years.  He is the author of a number of books, including ‘Traditional Chinese Medicine Approaches to Cancer: Harmony in the Face of the Tiger’.

Henry is keenly aware of the importance of nutrition in building health.    He helped set up the Acupuncture Diploma Course at CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine), based on a unique naturopathic approach which teaches students about additional therapies, such as the importance of detoxification and eating the right food,  so they can educate their clients in developing healthier lifestyles, and increase their effectiveness as practitioners.  Henry is further deepening his approach to cancer by training as a Gerson Therapist, and his article is an account of Module One of his studies, at the Gerson Institute in San Diego, California, in May 2015.


Henry was the Acupuncture Course Director and Academic Director for CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine). He can be contacted at

CNM trains students for careers in a range of natural therapies, as well as offering Postgraduate and Short Courses.

[1] Gerson, M (1958) A Cancer Therapy: Results of Fifty Cases and the Cure of Advanced Cancer
[2] Gerson, C (2013) Healing the Gerson Way
[3] Hildebrand, G et al: