Caution: Some complementary agents or therapies may be useful for cancer patients; however, some may be harmful in certain situations. MD Anderson Cancer Center cautions patients to consult with their oncologists before attempting to use any agents or therapies referenced on these pages. Inclusion of an agent, therapy or resource on this CIMER Web site does not imply endorsement by MD Anderson Cancer Center.
- Review is based upon articles published as of 7/31/2006
- Information on the scientific basis of Hoxsey therapy is provided in the Detailed Scientific Review
In the early 1900s, Harry Hoxsey developed herbal formulas that he believed were effective for the treatment of cancer. One was to be used externally, the other internally. The external mixture is said to be selectively destructive of cancerous tissue and consists of a red and a yellow paste. The red paste contains antimony trisulfide, zinc chloride and bloodroot; the yellow powder contains arsenic sulfide, sulfur and talc. The internal mixture is a liquid containing licorice, red clover, burdock root, stillingia root, barberry, cascara, prickly ash bark, buckthorn bark and potassium iodide. This internal mixture is considered to be cathartic/cleansing and/or immune boosting. Hoxsey felt that his therapy normalized and balanced the body's chemistry makeup, allowing it to essentially create a self-healing environment in which the immune system is strengthened and tumors are caused to die. The Hoxsey tonic and treatment is available at the Bio-Medical Center Clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, and adaptations of the formula are used by some naturopathic physicians in the U. S.
No peer-reviewed scientific studies have been published that allow one to reach any conclusions about the effectiveness of the Hoxsey tonic and treatment.
The dose of the therapy varies depending on the specific needs of each patient and whether the cancer is internal or on the skin.
How it is taken
The preparation is used either directly on the skin or drunk as a tonic. The Bio-Medical Center encourages patients to avoid pork, vinegar, tomatoes, carbonated drinks and alcohol, and to use immune stimulants, yeast tablets, vitamin C, calcium, laxatives and antiseptic washes, as well as adopt a positive mental outlook while taking the Hoxsey treatment.
Some of the ingredients in the Hoxsey formula can cause side effects. For example, buckthorn bark can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if taken in large quantities. Cascara can cause diarrhea. Barberry root administered to rabbits (dose unspecified) caused swelling of the kidney and cardiotoxicity. Potassium iodide could cause adverse reactions in sensitive patients.
Ingredients within the external pastes (zinc chloride, antimony trisulfide, arsenic trisulfide and/or bloodroot) can be painful and lead to severe scarring.
Diarrhea can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Treatment of skin cancers with externally applied pastes has an unknown risk of recurrence or metastasis.
To avoid potential interactions, be sure to let your health care provider know if you use this or any other type of complementary therapy.
Authors and Editors
Nancy C. Russell, Dr.P.H., senior health education specialist, Integrative Medicine Program Education Component
Reviewers and editors
Mary Ann Richardson, Dr.P.H., director, former University of Texas Center for Alternative Medicine
Tina Sanders, M.S., research assistant, former University of Texas Center for Alternative Medicine
Stephen P. Tomasovic, Ph.D., senior vice president for academic affairs