Abstract and key points
- Gerson therapy uses a special diet, supplements and coffee enemas with the aim of detoxifying and stimulating the body’s metabolism.
- No substantial evidence exists in the scientific literature to support the claims that the Gerson therapy is an effective alternative therapy for cancer.
- Some evidence exists to suggest that elements of the therapy (coffee enemas in particular) are potentially dangerous if used excessively.
- The specific safety problems, advice to stop conventional cancer therapies and the lack of substantial evidence for efficacy outweigh any benefits associated with the Gerson therapy.
The Gerson therapy uses a special diet, supplements and also coffee enemas to detoxify and stimulate the body’s metabolism. Proponents of the Gerson therapy have made claims that it is an effective treatment for cancer and other illnesses, through balancing the levels of potassium and sodium in the body, removal of toxins and regeneration of liver function and also improving overall nutritional status.
Based on one methodologically flawed retrospective study and several case reports, there is no clear evidence that Gerson therapy is an effective treatment for people with cancer. A small best case series review concluded that both physical and psychological benefits, appeared to be offered by this regime, but these findings have not been replicated in any acceptable trials.
Some evidence exists to suggest that elements of the therapy (coffee enemas in particular) are potentially dangerous if used excessively. In addition to this the excessive demands of time, money and other resources on the patient undergoing the therapy may be extreme.
CitationHelen Cooke, Helen Seers, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Gerson therapy [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Dietary-approaches/Gerson-therapy. February 8, 2017.
Assessed as up to date in February 2017 by Barbara Wider
Assessed as up to date in April 2016 by Barbara Wider.
Assessed as up to date in January 2015 by Barbara Wider.
Assessed as up to date in August 2013 by Barbara Wider.
Most recent update and revision in September 2012 by Helen Cooke.
Fully revised and updated in August 2011 by Helen Cooke.
Fully revised and updated in November 2009 by Helen Cooke.
Summary first published in July 2005, authored by Helen Seers and Helen Cooke.
- Gerson Institute Homepage [online]. 2017. [accessed 8 February 2017] Available from: http://gerson.org/gerpress/
- Gerson, C & Walker, M. The Gerson Therapy. 60 years of proven success! Kensington Publishing, USA; 2001.
- Green S. A critique of the rationale for cancer treatment with coffee enemas and diet. JAMA. 1992; 268: 3224-3227.
- Revill, J. Now Charles backs coffee cure for cancer, Observer, June 27 2004.
- Personal communication with H. Strauss, representative of the Gerson Institute, 16th August 2004.
- Moss RW, Moss RW. Patient perspectives: Tijuana cancer clinics in the post-NAFTA era. Integrative Cancer Therapies. [Historical Article]. 2005 Mar;4(1):65-86
- Lowell, J. The Gerson Clinic. Nutrition Forum. 1986; 3(2):9-12.
- Hildenbrand, GL, Hildenbrand, LC, Bradford, K, & Cavin, SW. Five-year survival rates of melanoma patients treated by diet therapy after the manner of Gerson: a retrospective review. Altern Ther Health Med. 1995; 1:29-37.
- Ernst, E. The Desktop Guide to Complementary and Alternative Medicine: An Evidence-Based Approach, Mosby, London; 2001.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, National Cancer Institute Statement, "Unproven Methods: The Gerson Therapy," February 5, 1987.
- Gerson, M. A Cancer Therapy. Results of Fifty Cases, 6th Ed. Bonita, CA: Gerson Institute, 1999.
- Avery, RJ, Office of Cancer Communications, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, letter to G. Dego, University of London, August 24, 1982.
- Austin, S, Dale, EB, & DeKadt, S. Long-term follow-up of cancer patients using Contreras, Hoxsey and Gerson therapies. Journal of Naturopathic Medicine. 1994; 5(1):74-76
- Reed A, James, N, & Sikora, K. Mexico: juices, coffee enemas, and cancer. Lancet, 1990; 336 (8716):677-678.
- Molassiotis A, Peat P. Surviving against all odds: analysis of 6 case studies of patients with cancer who followed the Gerson therapy. Integrative Cancer Therapies. [Case Reports]. 2007 Mar;6(1):80-8.
- National Cancer Institute. NCI best case series criteria for optimal case studies [website]. http://www.cancer.gov/cam/bestcase_intro.html [accessed 2012 August 31].
- Cassileth B. Gerson regimen. Oncology (Williston Part) 2010; 24(20): 201.
- Eisele, JW, & Reay, DT. Deaths related to coffee enemas, JAMA. 1980; 244: 1608-9.
- Anonymous. Questionable methods of cancer management: 'nutritional' therapies. CA Cancer J Clin. 1993; 43(5):309-19.
- Tobian, L. Dietary sodium chloride and potassium have effects on the pathophysiology of hypertension in humans and animals. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1997; 65: S606- S611.
- Gerson Institute, "Raw Liver Juice Has Been Discontinued," Memo, October 3 1989.
- Ginsberg, MM, Thompson, MA, Peter CR, et al., "Campylobacter Sepsis Associated With 'Nutritional Therapy'--California," M.M.W.R. 1981; 30(24): 294-295.
- National Cancer Institute. Gerson Therapy (PDQ https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/gerson-pdq#section/all [accessed 2016 October 12]
The present documentation has been compiled by the CAM-CANCER Project with all due care and expert knowledge. However, the CAM-CANCER Project provides no assurance, guarantee or promise with regard to the correctness, accuracy, up-to-date status or completeness of the information it contains. This information is designed for health professionals. Readers are strongly advised to discuss the information with their physician. Accordingly, the CAM-CANCER Project shall not be liable for damage or loss caused because anyone relies on the information.