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What is the Gerson Therapy and Juicing?

The Gerson therapy is an alternative treatment protocol that was developed in the 1930s by Dr. Max Gerson. It focuses on using nutrition, specifically raw juices, to stimulate the body’s natural healing mechanisms in order to treat diseases like cancer.

Overview of the Gerson Therapy

The Gerson therapy is centered around the idea that disease can be treated and cured by detoxifying the body and providing it with high levels of nutrients and enzymes. The main components of the therapy include:

  • Drinking fresh, raw vegetable and fruit juices multiple times per day
  • Eating a plant-based, whole foods diet with no processed or refined foods
  • Taking supplements like potassium, iodine, and vitamin B12
  • Using coffee enemas to aid detoxification
  • Taking thyroid medication (even if not hypothyroid)
  • Avoiding animal proteins and added fats
  • Skin brushing and castor oil packs to stimulate lymphatic drainage

The therapy is very intensive and requires patients to follow the protocol strictly under the supervision of a Gerson-trained physician. The diet and juicing regime take a significant amount of work to maintain.

History of the Gerson Therapy

The Gerson therapy was developed by Dr. Max Gerson, a German-born physician who practiced medicine in Germany and New York in the early 1900s. Dr. Gerson began developing his nutritional approach when he started experimenting with diet to treat his own severe migraines.

In the 1920s, he found that eating very plain, non-fatty foods improved his condition. This led him to apply the diet approach to patients with diseases like tuberculosis, heart disease, and eventually cancer. Over several decades of practice, he refined the therapy into the regimen it is today.

Dr. Gerson published his first book outlining the therapy in 1958. His daughter, Charlotte Gerson, continued to promote and advance the therapy after his death. The Gerson Institute was established in 1977 to educate the public and train physicians in the protocol.

Main Components of the Gerson Therapy

Fresh Vegetable Juices

Drinking fresh, raw vegetable juices is the crux of the Gerson therapy. Patients are instructed to drink up to 6-9 glasses of juice per day. The juices provide high levels of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and compounds called phytochemicals that come from plants.

The juices are made using an electric juicer with organic fruits and vegetables. Juice options may include:

  • Carrot juice
  • Apple and carrot juice
  • Green leaf juice made from romaine lettuce, endive, parsley, kale, and spinach
  • Beet juice
  • Celery juice
  • Coconut kefir

Patients avoid citrus juices because they are thought to contain too much sugar. The juices are consumed on an empty stomach throughout the day and provide the bulk of calories in the diet.

Low-Fat, Plant-Based Diet

In addition to juicing, the Gerson therapy requires adhering to a very restricted diet low in fat, protein, and salt. All foods must be fresh, raw, organic, and plant-based:

  • Fruits like apples, peaches, apricots, and berries
  • Non-starchy vegetables like spinach, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, and tomatoes
  • Wholegrain breads and cereals
  • Legumes like beans, peas, and lentils
  • Potatoes and mushrooms

Anything processed, refined, canned, frozen, or packaged is prohibited. Other restricted foods include:

  • Meat and fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Oils, butter, and animal fats
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Chocolate, coffee, alcohol, and black tea
  • Salt and spices beyond herbs

In addition to being low fat, the diet only permits limited portions of protein. Protein is restricted to 10% or less of total calories.

Detoxification Methods

The Gerson therapy utilizes various detoxification techniques to eliminate toxins from the body:

  • Coffee enemas – Up to 5 coffee enemas per day. Coffee is thought to stimulate liver detoxification pathways.
  • Castor oil – Castor oil packs applied topically to the skin improve circulation and detoxification.
  • Skin brushing – Dry brushing improves skin circulation and toxin removal.
  • Salt and soda baths – Bathing in Epsom salts, baking soda, and water removes toxins.

Patients are required to perform several of these detox techniques every day while following the therapy.


The Gerson therapy involves taking specific mineral and vitamin supplements. Potassium supplementation along with iodine, niacin (B3), thyroid hormone, pancreatic enzymes, and vitamin B12 injections are prescribed.

Potassium is necessary to maintain electrolyte balance when juices are replacing most food intake. Thyroid hormone supplementation is used even in people who are not hypothyroid to boost metabolism.

Claims About the Gerson Therapy

Advocates of the Gerson therapy claim it can cure cancer and other degenerative diseases by:

  • Correcting nutritional deficiencies and imbalance
  • Detoxifying the liver and body
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Oxygenating the body’s tissues
  • Raising potassium levels in cells
  • Increasing enzyme activity
  • Lowering sodium levels and stimulating metabolism with thyroid supplementation

According to the Gerson Institute, the protocol has successfully treated heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, migraine headaches, asthma, and “degenerative diseases such as cancer.”

However, these claims lack robust scientific evidence to back them up. There have been case reports and anecdotal accounts of tumors shrinking and cancer going into remission using the Gerson therapy, but controlled studies are lacking.

Does the Gerson Therapy Cure Cancer?

There is currently no good scientific evidence showing that the Gerson therapy alone can cure cancer or other diseases. Some key points about the Gerson therapy and cancer include:

  • No population-based, controlled studies have been conducted confirming the long-term cure of cancer using the Gerson therapy.
  • Potential mechanisms of action have been proposed, such as detoxing the body, but significant research is lacking.
  • Case reports and uncontrolled trials show some tumor shrinkage and temporary remission of cancer.
  • Most available information comes from summaries or reviews of selected case reports from Gerson clinics.
  • Lack of published reports with actual data makes the claims difficult to scientifically evaluate.
  • Some patients on the therapy die from their cancer despite the treatment.

Overall, there is not yet reliable evidence that the Gerson therapy is an effective alternative treatment for cancer. Research has been limited by lack of funding, lack of access to medical records from Gerson clinics, and other challenges.

Possible Dangers and Side Effects

When performed under the close supervision of a trained Gerson practitioner, the therapy follows strict protocols to help minimize risks of side effects. However, there are some possible dangers:

  • Nutritional imbalances – The diet severely restricts calories, protein, and some vitamins (D, B12). Nutrient deficiency is a concern.
  • Fluid loss – Vomiting, diarrhea and frequent enemas can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Kidney failure – High potassium levels from juices coupled with kidney stress from detox can lead to kidney failure.
  • Abnormal heart rhythms – Electrolyte shifts may trigger arrhythmias.
  • Infection – Bacterial contaminants introduced through enemas can lead to infection.
  • Bowel perforation – Improper coffee enema procedure risks perforating the bowel.

When done outside of the prescribed protocols, especially without medical supervision, the risks of side effects from the Gerson therapy increase greatly. Any negative effects may also be compounded by forgoing conventional cancer treatments.

Cost of the Gerson Therapy

The Gerson therapy is a complex, intensive regimen that requires significant commitment and costs. Typical expenses for treatment include:

  • One week inpatient treatment at a Gerson clinic: $5,500 – $11,000
  • Outpatient treatment: $450+ per day
  • Hourly consultations: $90 – $150
  • Required supplements: $300 – $400 per month
  • Juicing appliances and organic produce: $200 – $500 per month

In addition are costs for travel, accommodations, caregivers, and more. Total costs will usually exceed $10,000+ for several weeks of treatment. Health insurance typically does not cover any components of the therapy as it is an alternative regimen.

Juicing as Part of the Gerson Therapy

Drinking raw, freshly extracted vegetable and fruit juices is the foundation of the Gerson protocol. Here are some key points about juicing in the Gerson therapy:

  • Juices supply concentrated micronutrients from produce that would be difficult to eat in volume.
  • Enzymes and phytochemicals remain intact since juicing does not require cooking.
  • Fruit juices provide energy and carbohydrates when calorie intake is restricted.
  • Vegetable juices enhance alkalinity and mineral availability.
  • Juices are absorbed with minimal effort by the digestive system.
  • Up to 6-9 glasses or quarts of juice are consumed per day, providing most calories.
  • A wide variety of juices are used for a range of nutrients.
  • Produce must be organic and presses with a cold-press juicer.

Juicing is central to delivering high-dose nutrition without requiring eating large volumes of produce. Raw juices are considered powerful tools in detoxifying, energizing, and stimulating healing in the Gerson therapy protocol.

What Produce Is Used in Gerson Therapy Juicing?

Juices for the Gerson therapy use a rotating selection of different organic fruits and vegetables. Recommended produce includes:

Vegetables Fruits
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Parsley
  • Garlic
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Pineapple

Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and lemons are avoided on the therapy since they are considered too high in sugar. Tomatoes are the one vegetable limited on the diet due to their high acidity.

Produce variety provides a wide range of micronutrients. Organic fruits and vegetables maximize nutrient content while avoiding pesticide residues.

Sample Juicing Protocol

A sample daily juicing schedule on the Gerson therapy may look like:

  • 7:30am – Orange juice upon waking
  • 8:30am – Green juice made of romaine, parsley, garlic, and carrots
  • 10:00am – Apple and carrot juice
  • 12:00pm – Beet and greens juice with chard, kale, carrots, and beets
  • 2:30pm – Grapefruit and greens juice
  • 4:30pm – Coconut kefir
  • 6:30pm – Carrot juice

This provides 6-8 glasses spaced over the day. Enough variety is used to obtain a wide mix of nutrients from different fruits and vegetables. The timing of juices depends on the schedule of meals, supplements, and coffee enemas.

The Broader Role of Juicing in Health

While juicing lies at the heart of the intensive Gerson regimen, drinking vegetable and fruit juices can also play a more moderate role in a healthy lifestyle and diet. Some potential benefits include:

  • Increased vegetable intake – Juices make it easier to consume more veggies.
  • Greater nutrient absorption – Bioavailability of some nutrients may be higher.
  • Supporting weight loss – Replacing higher-calorie foods with low-calorie juices can aid weight loss.
  • Detoxification – Phytochemicals may help remove toxins.
  • Disease prevention – Increased produce intake reduces disease risk.
  • Boosting immunity – Greater vitamin and mineral intake supports immunity.

Including a fresh juice once a day along with a balanced diet can provide useful health advantages without requiring an intensive juicing protocol. Of course, consuming whole fruits and vegetables should be emphasized first whenever possible.


The Gerson therapy is a longstanding alternative cancer treatment that has sparked continued debate despite limited research backing up its effectiveness. While an intensive juicing protocol lies at the core of the Gerson regimen, juice cleansing is not yet proven as a cure for cancer. Much more high-quality research is still needed to establish the safety and efficacy of the Gerson therapy. However, incorporation of fresh juices may have value as part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle.

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