Way back in 1840, Illinois horse breeder John Hoxsey put his favorite stallion out to pasture rather than shoot him after the animal was diagnosed with advanced cancer of the leg.
But the horse’s number wasn’t up yet.
Every day he would graze for hours at a particular spot – and in due course the tumor dried up and fell out.
Hoxsey gathered up the plants and herbs the horse ate and used them to create a tonic to be taken internally, together with a salve and powder to be applied to the skin. He used his formula to heal horses and the occasional human.
The secret formulas were passed on to his veterinarian son, Dr. John Hoxsey, who also treated animals and later went on to focus on treating people with the potions. Many of the patients were poor, but he never turned someone away for lack of funds.
Just before Hoxsey junior passed away, the formulas were passed to his youngest son Harry, almost 18, on condition that he promise to treat all in need regardless of their financial circumstances.
Continued below. . .
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Denied the opportunity to attend medical school
Young Harry intended to go to medical school so he could legally treat patients, but his plans were scuppered when he was put under pressure to treat three terminally ill patients.
All three recovered, and it wasn’t long before he was besieged with sick people. He was even asked by a doctor to see patients at his Chicago sanitarium. Harry Hoxsey was able to do this so long as he worked under the doctor’s supervision.
Dr. Bruce Miller, one of the physicians at the private clinic, was tremendously impressed with Hoxsey’s treatment, but told him that doctors in his hometown of Taylorville, Illinois, where he also practiced, were “out to get him.”
They had already complained to the State Medical Board that Harry Hoxsey was practicing medicine without a license. No medical school would ever accept him. So in 1924 Hoxsey and Dr. Miller opened a new clinic in Taylorville.
Shortly after the opening they were introduced to Malcolm Harris, a very prominent doctor within the American Medical Association (AMA). As a test, Harris asked them to use the formulas on a terminally ill patient who had an open cancerous sore on his shoulder.
The Hoxsey remedies reportedly healed the man in just four weeks.
All-out war with the AMA
After the demonstration, Harris agreed that it was convincing evidence and the best hope of eradicating the disease.
He proposed large-scale trials and asked Hoxsey to sign a contract. This required him to turn over the formulas and relinquish all claims to them. He would not be paid, but after ten years would receive 10% of the net profits.
The AMA’s war with the healer had begun.
Within a month, Hoxsey and Miller were set up by a businessman with a big clinic in Chicago. This arrangement was quickly dissolved when Hoxsey discovered that fees of $500 to $1000 were being charged and charity cases were turned away.
Business friends helped him set up a new clinic in Taylorville in 1925 under the medical direction of a Dr. Washburn. The maximum fee was $300 and no one was refused treatment. Positive publicity brought patients from throughout the United States and Canada.
Then the AMA struck.
The therapy is vilified
In January 1926, a lengthy editorial appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) denouncing the therapy and calling everyone involved a quack.
In July, the Illinois Medical Board charged Hoxsey with practicing medicine without a license, but the Grand Jury — some of whom had been helped by the treatment — found in his favor. The therapy was clearly effective in their eyes.
A further attack followed when his own brothers and sisters sued him for the value of the formulas after they were threatened with the loss of their homes, cars and jobs if they refused. Since no doctor would risk being caught up in the lawsuit, the clinic closed.
Even without a supervising doctor, Hoxsey continued to treat patients. He simply pleaded guilty to all charges of practicing medicine without a license, paid the fines, and carried on regardless.
After the case involving his family was found in his favor in 1929, friends raised the money to open a new clinic in Girard, close to his home town.
The AMA Journal quickly penned another attack, calling him a notorious quack. Harry replied, writing: “I’d rather be notorious and save people’s lives than famous and bury them.”
In a venture with the owner of a radio station and clinic in Muscatine, Iowa, Hoxsey saw a large number of patients and his results were publicized over the airwaves. This ended after five months when Hoxsey discovered that people were being charged $750 – $1200 and those who couldn’t pay were denied treatment.
“Dead” patient makes a personal appearance
One of his most famous cases occurred in Muscatine. A man with the worst case of cancer Harry had seen — basal cell carcinoma on the head – sought his help. Even Hoxsey thought there was little chance of success.
The AMA again attacked. They wrote that the patient died as a direct result of the treatment.
This was quickly scotched when the patient made a live personal appearance together with a hundred other patients at a giant outdoor rally. He lived for another 20 years.
Attempts were made to open clinics in Michigan and West Virginia, but the AMA’s long reach put paid to their plans.
But in 1933 he teamed up with an osteopath, Dr. Ira Drew in Philadelphia. Osteopathy was outside the AMA’s jurisdiction. He stayed for two years before moving to Dallas.
Dr. Drew later wrote, “Cancers of the face, arms, legs, breasts and nearly all parts of the body were presented. The results were astonishing. Many of these patients are alive and well today, more than 20 years later.”
The period from 1935 to 1945 involved threats from the Texas Board of Medical Examiners, phony warrants, false arrests and over a hundred separate charges of practicing medicine without a license. The AMA also prevented hospitals or laboratories from cooperating with him.
In spite of continuous efforts to thwart him, by 1936 Hoxsey operated clinics in 17 states.
Harry always hoped for official approval of his therapy, so after World War II he approached the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the Oklahoma Medical Society, the American Cancer Society and the Surgeon General of the United States, but there was no interest in testing his therapy.
Trial hearings vindicate Hoxsey
The JAMA went on the attack again in 1947 with an article entitled “Hoxsey, Cancer Charlatan.” A few years later Dr. Morris Fishbein, the publication’s editor, put together an article from previous reports which was published in a Sunday supplement.
Harry Hoxsey sued.
At the subsequent trial, 57 cured patients took the witness stand. Their testimony was supported with full biopsy reports, x-rays and hospital records. High-ranking pathologists, called to testify, reluctantly confirmed a correct cancer diagnosis in these patients.
For the defense, a large number of doctors simply declared that the remedies were worthless, although none had tested them.
Dr. Fishbein himself was forced to admit that he had failed his anatomy course, never completed his internship, and had never practiced medicine or treated a single patient.
Fishbein’s lawyer even said, “We’ll admit you can cure external cancer.”
All 34 issues before the court were decided in Hoxsey’s favor.
The presiding judge said, “I am of the firm opinion and belief that Hoxsey has cured these people of cancer.”
Not impressed with the judgment, the NCI again turned down his request for a serious investigation into the treatment, and the US Public Health Service stopped him from sending medicine to doctors outside of Texas.
In the 1950s the Hoxsey Cancer Clinic became the world’s largest independent cancer care facility, with over 10,000 patients and a staff of over 30, including nurses and physicians. The standard fee was $400 for lifetime treatment and no charge for the poor, who made up a quarter of the patients.
In 1953, a Federal Report to the Senate (The Fitzgerald Report) stated that there was a conspiracy by medical associations to prevent a fair assessment of the Hoxsey therapy and to “hinder, suppress and restrict” the clinic in its treatment of cancer.
In 1954, ten physicians from across the US came to Dallas to carry out an independent investigation.
They concluded unanimously that the clinic “is successfully treating pathologically proven cases of cancer, both internal and external…” They also stated that the Hoxsey therapy was “superior” to conventional methods of treatment.
Clinics close down
Presumably as a result of great pressure from the medical lobbies, the Texas Legislature passed legislation in 1957 that no doctor could legally work for a non-doctor.
This finally forced the Hoxsey Cancer Clinic to close its doors in Dallas.
By 1963 the clinic was re-opened in Tijuana, Mexico by Hoxsey’s head nurse Mildred Nelson. She had been with him since 1946. An endless stream of patients continued to arrive without advertising, even though it was renamed The Bio-Medical Center. Word of mouth ensured that people knew it was really the Hoxsey Clinic.
Hoxsey died in 1974, and Mildred ran the clinic until her death in 1999. She reported a success rate of 80% so long as patients’ immune systems hadn’t been wrecked by chemotherapy.
The clinic continues to operate today, although it includes a wider range of natural treatments.
What’s in the formula?
Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana) and potassium iodide served as a base for the roots of burdock, berberis, stillingia and poke, and the bark of buckthorn and prickly ash. These would be varied according to individual requirements.
The research that Hoxsey was so keen to see carried out was denied by all medical authorities, but two scientists confirmed the herbal formula’s potential.
In 1987, Dr. James Duke, former chief botanist at the US Dept. of Agriculture, reported that all the ingredients in the formula had anti-cancer activity.
All the herbs are also listed in Plants Used Against Cancer, a book by Dr. Jonathan L Hartwell. He spent his entire career at the NCI studying botanical sources for cancer treatment.
While he was active and the therapy was widely available, Hoxsey’s approach also had the endorsement of physicians, senators and judges as well as a large number of patients.
Converts who first thought he was a quack included Mildred Nelson herself. She only went to work for Hoxsey after her terminally ill mother — given 90 days to live – went into complete remission. The woman lived another 50 years.
Another convert was Al Templeton, the assistant district attorney of Dallas, who arrested Hoxsey nearly a hundred times. He switched sides to represent Hoxsey after his dying brother was cured. A short time later, a colleague of Templeton’s in the DA’s office also resigned, telling the press he was convinced the treatment worked.
Esquire magazine sent a journalist to write an article on ‘the quack’. After a six-week investigation he signed on to become Hoxsey’s public relations man.
Harry Hoxsey’s story is a very familiar one to those of us who work in the alternative cancer field. I feel obliged to say that most of what we know about him and his treatment originates from his fans and advocates. I haven’t checked out the court records or old newspapers that might provide independent corroboration of the story.
From what I’ve seen of the way the conventional medical system operates, I can easily believe the story of the Hoxsey remedy. And any number of guides to herbal medicines confirm that the formula’s individual ingredients have medicinal power.