Skip to main content

Hoxsey Cancer Therapy - A Cure or Worthless Quackery?

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Robert writes articles about emerging medical discoveries with a focus on the health benefits of natural remedies and ingredients.

This article discusses the Hoxsey Cancer Therapy, and the controversy surrounding it. It is part of a series of articles dealing with alternative cancer treatments.

Buckthorn, one of the ingredients in the Hoxsey Formula Buckthorn, one of the ingredients in the Hoxsey Formula

Buckthorn, one of the ingredients in the Hoxsey Formula Buckthorn, one of the ingredients in the Hoxsey Formula

Important Disclaimer

This article about the Hoxsey Cancer Therapy and discusses the history of the treatment as well as some of the research for and against its effectiveness.

This article for general health information only. This article is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. You should not rely on information provided on this article for your own health problems. Any questions regarding your own health should be addressed to your own physician or other healthcare provider. Nothing in this article is meant to diagnose or treat any disease. The author of this article does not recommend that you use the Hoxsey Therapy, or any of ingredients.

What Does the Hoxsey Cancer Therapy Consist Of?

The Hoxsey Therapy or Hoxsey Method was a system of treating cancer developed by Harry Hoxsey. Hoxsey was not a doctor, his background was as a coal miner and insurance salesman, but he claimed to have discovered a cure for cancer after observing a horse who had cured itself of cancer by eating certain wild herbs. Hoxseyclaimed that he had duplicated the combination of plants that had healed the horse and he promoted his product in a number of clinics throughout the United States.

Hoxsey quickly ran afoul of the legal and medical establishment, and was prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license. Despite these legal troubles, Hoxsey's clinic in Texas grew to be one of the largest cancer treatment centers in the country, treating thousands of patients with his mixture of herbs.

The treatment itself is often referred to interchangeably as the Hoxsey method, Hoxsey treatment, Hoxsey herbs, Hoxsey herbal therapy, Hoxsey formula. It consisted of a two pronged approach: a caustic salve to be applied to external tumours and a tincture of herbs to be taken orally.

The Hoxsey Therapy uses a mixture of the following herbs and plants: Chaparral, red clover blossom, licorice root, buckthorn bark, burdock root, stillingia root, poke root, barberry root, prickly ash bark, wild indigo root, sea kelp, oregon grape root and cascara sagrada bark, together with potassium iodide. Hoxsey also recommended staying away from certain foods such as white flour during treatment. The exact proportion of these ingredients is not necessarily well understood.

Did This Quack Find a Cure for Cancer

Hoxsey Underwent Many legal Battles Over His Treatment

Hoxsey Underwent Many legal Battles Over His Treatment

The Controversy

Depending on who you believe, the Hoxsey Therapy is either a magic bullet cure for cancer or junk that threatens to divert gullible patients away from proper medical treatment. The debate and the legal battles have been raging for a long time now, but many people continue to pin their hopes of beating cancer on the Hoxsey formula.

The medical establishment is nearly unanimous in saying that the Hoxsey Method is worthless. Ironically, because of the public's mistrust of big pharmaceutical companies and the fairly commonplace belief that any cure for cancer that would not make the drug companies big money is going to be suppressed, the medical establishment's rejection of this supposed cure has fueled its popularity. In 1949 Hoxsey reacted against a series of critical articles by suing the Journal of the American Medical Association, on of the most respected medical journals in the world, for libel and slander. He won, but the judge only awarded him nominal damages of $2 after noting that Hoxsey's marketing success depended on being persecuted by the medical establishment and so he had suffered no actual damages.

A Newspaper Article About Hoxsey's Libel victory

A Newspaper Article About Hoxsey's Libel victory

In 1960 the Federal Drug Administration declared the treatment to be worthless and banned its use in the United States. Hoxsey was forced to shut down his clinics, though one remains active in Mexico.

Despite the medical establishment's verdict many people still continue to this day to seek out the Hoxsey treatment. In the 1960s the FDA took out ads warning patients against its use. The text read as follows:

Sufferers from cancer, their families, physicians, and all concerned with the care of cancer patients are hereby advised and warned that the Hoxsey treatment for internal cancer has been found worthless by two federal courts.


The Federal Drug Administration conducted a thorough investigation of the Hoxsey treatment and the cases which were claimed to be cured. Not a single verified cure of internal cancer has been found.

Those afflicted with cancer are warned not to be misled by the false promise that the Hoxsey treatment will cure or alleviate their condition. Cancer can be cured only through surgery or radiation . Death from cancer is inevitable when cancer patients fail to obtain proper medical treatment because of the lure of a painless cure "without the use of surgery, x-rays or radium" as claimed by Hoxsey.

Harry Hoxsey

Harry Hoxsey

Scroll to Continue

Does the Hoxsey Therapy Cure Cancer?

The FDA's statement is very powerful and conclusive, yet it contains an obvious error. It states that cancer can only be cured by surgery or radiation. That was written in the Sixties; now we know that conventional chemotherapy cures many cancers. So what you have here is an example of a certain hubris on the part of the agency: it knows that only the methods accepted by it can cure cancer, so everything else doesn't. Too bad they left out chemotherapy.

Now, whatever you may think of the FDA's logic it does not mean that the Hoxsey therapy works. But I think it does illustrate that there are often more things, at the time unknown, which do cure cancer.

As for the Hoxsey therapy, there have not been any peer reviewed studies. So there is no medical evidence that it works. The prestigious MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas states on its website that "No peer-reviewed scientific studies have been published that allow one to reach any conclusions about the effectiveness of the Hoxsey tonic and treatment." It also warns that the combination of herbs may cause electrolyte imbalances. Red clover is known to mimic the female hormone estrogen and therefore it might actually make estrogen receptive cancers worse.

As a result you should assume that this therapy does not work. Taking the Hoxsey Therapy will likely do more harm than good.

Contemporary Headlines About the Hoxsey Controversy

Contemporary Headlines About the Hoxsey Controversy

The very prestigious Sloan Kettering cancer center states on its website that there have been no studies into the treatment only retrospective studies of people who had taken the Hoxsey formula. The studies found a high mortality rate among the patients and concluded that the people who had been cured had either not had cancer in the first place or had been cured by also taking conventional treatment. The rest were either dead from cancer or still had it, despite having undertaken the treatment.

Sloan Kettering also points out that there are risks with many of the component herbs in the formula. For example Buckthorn can cause severe diarrhea and pokeweed has caused death in children. In fairness to Hoxsey, however, how is this any different from many approved chemotherapy treatments? I am not saying that chemotherapy never works, but it ravages ones body. It is known that chemotherapy can cause future cancers, and many people actually die from the treatment because their bodies are too weak to endure it.

The United States Office of Technological Assessment concluded that many of the ingredients in the Hoxsey formula were known to have anti-cancer properties in vitro, which is to say in the test tube, they had never been tested on live subjects in a controlled study. Unfortunately this department of the US government was later shut down. A botanist named James A. Duke has argued that the components of Hoxsey Therapy concluded that the ingredients in the Hoxsey formula had considered anticancer effects. He published his views in "The Herbal Shotgun Shell," American Botanical Council's HerbalGram, No. 18/19, Fall 1988/Winter 1989, pp. 12-13. The HerbalGram's stated mission is to be "your source of reliable herbal information", but it should be noted that this publication is not in the same league as for example the Journal of the American Medical Association, and I am not sure whether Duke's article was peer-reviewed.

Patients Lining Up At One of Hoxsey's Clinics. His clinics were later shut down by the FDA

Patients Lining Up At One of Hoxsey's Clinics. His clinics were later shut down by the FDA

Anecdotal Evidence

Despite the consensus in the medical community that Hoxsey therapy is worthless, many naturopaths and individuals claim that it works. In 2000, The Mirror, a British tabloid newspaper ran a story about a patient who was terminally ill with cancer and who in desperation had tried the Hoxsey therapy. The patient claimed to have made a huge improvement once on the therapy. I am not aware of whether he survived long term, however. Also, even if the treatment worked for this man, you should not assume that it would work for you.

For what it is worth, Hoxsey himself died of cancer. However, I am sure that many cancer doctors and their families also succumb to this disease. No treatment is 100 percent effective.


The medical establishment believes the Hoxsey treatment to be useless if not dangerous and it is not recommended. The FDA on its website describes the Hoxsey thereapy or method as a "long running scam."

Despite this many websites continue to sell what they describe as Hoxsey-like treatments with many of the same ingredients as in the original formula. There is a clinic in Mexico that purports to treat patients using the Hoxsey method. However a retrospective study of some of the patients showed no benefit.

Other Alternative Cancer Treatments

You may also be interested in articles about these alternative cancer treatments:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2011 Robert P


truthsayer on May 09, 2012:

this nonsense of the coal miner is an attempt to discredit He waqs an oilman and his grandfather passed on a cure that was discovered by his horse grazing and a careful study of what the horse grazed where the horse cured itself of cancer Originally the FDA sued and lost because 2000 people submitted letters testifying that they had been cured of cancer and it wa thrown out of court as a bogus suit by the FDA and later they sued in 14 states on the same day pulling a political manuver to overwhelm So he lost for political reasons not because he was a fraud of knew less than anyone else about eliminating cancer

Robert P (author) from Canada on April 06, 2012:

@ HAARP - Time and time again, alternative cancer cures that show some promise are never studied in depth.

H.A.A.R.P on April 06, 2012:

No clinical trials were ever done. Hoxsey offered to pay the $25,000,000 himself but they still turned him down. Then they offered to BUY him out in a private AMA meeting.. wait so the AMA want to buy a supposed hoax for millions? Yeah right. This is nothing more than thuggery.

Related Articles