Max Gerson is well-known to experts in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). After all, he invented the famous alternative cancer regimen, the Gerson therapy (previously discussed here, here, and here). Not that this treatment works – in fact, it is not just ineffective but also dangerous – but it has prominent promoters, not least King Charles III. As I say, Gerson is well known for his cancer quackery. What hardly anyone knows is that, before he dabbled in cancer, he invented an entirely different medicine.

Max was born as the 3rd of 9 siblings into a Jewish family on October 18, 1881. They lived in Wongrowitz, a part of Poland that at the time belonged to Germany. Max went to school in his hometown and studied medicine in Breslau (Wrocław, now Poland), Wuerzburg, Berlin, and Freiburg. In 1909, he graduated from the University of Freiburg and began practicing medicine at age 28 in Breslau. During WWI, Gerson worked as a surgeon in a military hospital in Breslau and was awarded the ’Iron Cross’ for his service. In 1916, he married Gretchen Hope; the two had three daughters and stayed together until his death.

In 1918, the Gerson family moved to Bielefeld (Germany), and Max specialized in internal medicine as well as neurology. During this period, Gerson developed an anti-inflammatory drug combination and made contact with a local pharmaceutical firm, ‘ASTA Medica’. On the occasion of the firm’s recent 100th jubilee, a German newspaper reported: “The company did business with the well-known Bielefeld physician and inventor Dr. Max Gerson. At the time, he owned the prescription and trademark for a painkiller called Quadronal. Dr. Gerson became a silent partner.”[1] Remarkably, Gerson who published >50 papers (most in German) seems to have no publication on Quadronal.

In his biography of Gerson, Howard Straus (Max’s grandson), explained that Max Gerson did, in fact, develop not just Quadronal for ASTA but also another drug, Quadronox, which however was not as successful as Quadronal. Crucially, Straus makes it very clear that the drug company defrauded Gerson and “never paid a penny to him or his family, nor honored his early ownership of the shares in the company”.[2]

When I was a young clinician in Germany, Quadronal was still quite popular, and I prescribed it regularly. It had been unquestionably the main success for the multi-million firm, ASTA. Today, it is less in use or even no longer available (I am not sure, perhaps someone can fill me in). Gerson’s second drug, Quadronox, seems to have disappeared a long time ago.

I find this story interesting and potentially relevant to the history of Max Gerson. His time in Bielefeld ended when he fled the Nazis (many of his family were killed during the Holocaust). Eventually, Max, his wife, and their three daughters ended up in New York where Gerson tried to establish his anti-cancer regimen. He became fiercely anti-pharma, and many of his followers even claim that he died by being poisoned by the medico-pharmaceutical establishment which allegedly was afraid that his ‘highly successful’ cancer therapy would put them out of business. It is hard to resist the temptation of suspecting a connection between Gerson’s pharma-phobia and the unfair treatment Max received from ASTA in Bielefeld.

Obviously, my knowledge about all this is incomplete, and I would love to hear from people who know more about it.

[1] ASTA-Erfolgsgeschichte startet vor 100 Jahren (

[2] Dr. Max Gerson Healing the Hopeless: Straus, Howard: 9780976018612: Books

15 Responses to Max Gerson: his other inventions

  • SJ Haught was a newspaperman who initially started investigating Gerson as a fraud but eventually changed his mind and wrote “Censored For Curing Cancer” in Gerson’s defense.

    It is cheaply available second-hand, probably the shortest book, and the most complete (with photos), and contains transcrpts from the Senate hearings.

    **Quote, p.90-92 of Censured for Curing Cancer by SJ Haught:
    **Quoting from John Gunther’s Death Be Not Proud:
    …Meantime we were working on another tack. Not for a moment had we stopped searching. Early in the summer Raymond Swing told me astonishing stories about a doctor named Max Gerson who had achieved remarkable arrestations of cancer and other illnesses by a therapy based on diet. Gerson was, and is, a perfectly authentic M.D., but unorthodox. He has been attacked by the Journal of the American Medical Association and others of the massive vested interests in medicine; Swing himself had been under bitter criticism for a broad¬ cast describing and praising highly Gerson’s philosophy and methods of dietary cure. …I went to see Gerson. He showed me his records of tumors — even gliomas — apparently cured. But I was still doubtful because it seemed to me inconceivable that anything so serious as a glioma could be cleared up by anything so simple as a diet. He impressed me greatly as a human being, however. This was a man full of idiosyncrasy but also one who knew much, who had suffered much, and who had sublime faith in his own ideas. …At first, (Dr. Traeger) violently opposed the Gerson claims, but then he swung over on ground that, after all, Johnny was deteriorating very fast and in any case the diet could do no harm. …We had tried orthodoxy, both static and advanced, and so now we would give heterodoxy a chance. If only we could stave Death off a little longer! And — once more — there was absolutely nothing to lose…

    One doctor told us that the reason he had seemed so casual when Johnny entered the Gerson nursing home was his conviction that he couldn’t possibly outlast the week anyway…

    Within a week, Johnny was feeling, not worse, but much better! The blood count rose steadily, the wound in the bulge healed, and miracle of miracles, the bump on the skull was going down!

    I did not know whether or not Gerson could cure, or even check, a malignant glioblastoma. I did learn beyond reasonable doubt that his diet did effect other cures. Gerson himself… has never claimed that his diet will ‘cure anything,’ as his enemies sometimes charge. But some of his results have been astonishing…

    (Dr.) Putman came back from California and paid a call. He was amazed that Johnny was still alive — let alone that he was well enough to take and pass examinations on schoolwork of the year before. Literally it seemed that Putman could not believe his eyes. . .

    Since the ‘bump’ was soft now, the other doctors wanted a minor operation done on Johnny immediately. They felt, at this stage, that drainage might be possible. Dr. Gerson was the lone hold out. The tumor was dead, he insisted, and was working its way out of the boy’s head as pus. In addition, anesthesia would be deadly for him.

    The argument that followed was a terrible strain on the boy’s parents, already near the breaking point from their long and grueling fight. They finally compromised so that Johnny would stay on the Gerson diet and that a freezing agent would be used as an anesthetic.

    But Dr. Gerson was right. On the day of the operation, the bump suddenly opened by itself. The surgeon rushed to the boy’s room and drained the abscess which extended five centimeters into the brain. A whole cup of pus was taken out!

    Johnny’s recovery was spectacular. The fearful bump had gone. He laughed often, resumed his studies, and played chess. A miracle had happened!

    A few days later the pathologist’s report was finished. It showed, as Dr. Gerson had stubbornly insisted, that the discharge was sterile, dead matter. No infection!

    And then the eye examination. Pressure from inside the skull against the optic nerve had resulted in a high papilledema, and Johnny’s vision had been sharply reduced. Now there was no papilledema, reported the surgeon. The boy’s eyes were normal. On top of that, he considered the tumor arrested.

    Their joy at hearing this unbelievably good news knew no bounds.

    But there were still plenty of confusions and disappointments too. One doctor would contradict another and then himself—because, in truth, the circumstances were so unprecedented. They were terrifically impressed at what had happened, but they could not explain it or vouch for the future. They soberly could not believe that the Gerson regimen alone had produced this effect. But when we asked them “Would you yourself take the responsibility for taking Johnny off that diet, now?” they all said, “No!”
    **End of inner-quotation (by John Gunther)

    The following spring, however, Johnny’s condition began slowly to worsen. On May 1, he underwent another operation but the tumor grew back again and it was harder this time.

    Two months later Johnny succumbed to the enemy he had so valiantly fought.

    The loss was a terrible blow to Dr. Gerson. He wrote in A Cancer Therapy , “In the development of that therapy 15 years ago, I had several other setbacks; the worst was the loss of 25 patients out of 31 who were just a few months symptom-free and to whom I had administered the opposite sex hormones to give them strength — in accordance with the initial findings of Dr. Charles Huggins. The first five patients felt so much better within a few weeks, and this misled me. This disaster threw me into a deep depression. I almost lost the strength to continue this cancer work, and the worst blow of all was the loss of my young hopeful friend, John Gunther, Jr., who was treated by more than fifteen cancer authorities and given up with a prognosis of a few weeks. However, after a recovery within eight months, I agreed to let him have some sex hormones. Six weeks later the brain tumor regrew, histologically an astrocytoma. He was returned to the former treatment and died.”

    Every scientist, groping for the truth, knows the grim face of failure; and even the prayer that from this death will come many lives does not assuage the lingering sorrow of his loss. For he is, first of all, a human being.
    **End of outer-quotation (by SJ Haught)

    • This sounds like a description of somebody who had complications following brain surgery. I would not expect a glioblastoma or any other form of brain tumour to form a visible or palpable bulge in the skull, and this seems to be what doctors call a “collection”, meaning a localised gathering of some kind of fluid. This could be an abscess (containing pus), a haematoma (containing blood) or a seroma (containing tissue fluid) among other things. Fluid under pressure always feels hard, and when the pressure reduces (perhaps because it has been absorbed or drained) then it softens.

      Papilloedema is bulging of the head of the optic nerve, and is a visible sign (with an ophthalmoscope) of increased pressure inside the skull, so it is a counterpart to the bulge feeling hard.

      Assuming that this really was a glioblastoma (pathologists did not have the diagnostic tools and techniques routinely available today, such as immunohistochemistry), then my reading of this is that it was surgically debulked, there was a fluid collection post-operatively which made the boy ill by virtue of being under pressure, this spontaneously improved, and then the remains of the tumour continued to grow leading to the inevitable fatal result.

      Glioblastomas and high-grade gliomas invade the brain widely and although they can be debulked surgically the median surival is measured in months, even with radiotherapy and chemotherapy. However, like all cancers there is a wide range of outcomes, and I personally know somebody who lived for a couple of decades before dying of something else, outliving their oncologist, and I have a friend who is still alive four years after his diagnosis.

      • Dr Julian Money-Kyrle on Saturday 17 December 2022 at 09:06n said:
        “This sounds like a description of somebody who had complications following brain surgery. I would not expect a glioblastoma…”

        The father, John Gunther, was well known and had access to plenty of resources. His son Johnny was suddenly stricken, at age 16 and operated on a few weeks later. Here is a quote.

        P32, Death Be Not Proud, Gunther
        “…[Dr Tracy] Putman had explained that he would know little until he actually went in. For all anybody really knew, Johnny might not have a tumor at all. What caused the pressure might be a blood clot. It might be a mere cyst. It might, even if a tumor, be the most innocent kind. At about 4:30 that afternoon, while Putman was still washing, Traeger (who had stood up hour after hour during the entire operation) came down and found us in the solarium near Johnny’s room. I took one look at his face, and knew the worst. Traeger had aged five years in those five hours. He was gray and seared as if drawn by Blake. He could hardly control his features. Not was I controlling mine. I took him aside and asked him just one question. “Was it encapsulated?” He answered, “No.”

        Putman came down a few minutes later, briskly but looking like officers I have seen after a battle. I heard him call, “Where are the parents?” He walked me down the hall after a word of encouragement to Frances. “It was about the size of an orange. I got half of it.”

  • I attended the Gerson Institute in Rosarita Mexico. While there I met another patient who had lost his eyesight due to pesticide use. While he was there getting treatment he regained his eyesight partially. My symptoms due to an accidental chemical overdose also improved dramatically – numbness, pain, poor balance.

    • 1) can one lose eyesight due to pesticide use?
      2) accidental overdose is bound to improve on any diet that does not contain that chemical
      3) the plural of anecdote is anecdotes and not evidence

      • @Bjorn Geir

        The link provided wouldn’t be complete without noting this testimony. (from the comments section)

        “Meredith // June 12, 2022 at 9:21 pm // Reply
        I read your article and can tell you there is much you do not know about the Gerson diet and the Gerson Institute. When I was in my mid-late 20’s I lived in San Diego. I took a job at the Gerson Institute doing their bookkeeping. This was in the late 90’s. I will tell you without a doubt, the Gerson Institute NEVER swindled anyone. Charlotte Gerson believed wholeheartedly in everything that she taught. She was an amazing woman who was a fountain of knowledge that seemed never ending. Some people are just born smart and absorb knowledge, retain it, and can teach it easily to others. You don’t need a piece of paper to prove you know something. The hospital in Mexico is not the same organization as the Gerson Institute. The Gerson Institute in San Diego, which Charlotte founded to carry on her father’s work, is a non-profit organization. It was founded solely to educate people that they had alternative options to the modern chemo, then die anyway option. Charlotte would speak at alternative medicine conventions and other small speaking engagements maybe half a dozen times a year at most. The business sold books, a monthly newsletter and accepted donations. They most often times barely made enough to keep afloat and as the bookkeeper, upon Charlotte’s request, I remember one time taking her own personal retirement money (where there was less than $20,000 in the account) and transferring it to the business account so people could still get paid. As for the hospital in Mexico, the Gerson Institute would speak to people sort of “screening them” and refer them to the hospital there if they were seeking somewhere to get full treatment where they could be pampered like at a spa with massages and a relaxing environment, have all of their meals made for them and yet have 24 hour medical attention. The hospital was again, NOT owned by the Gerson Institute. They did not received the weekly fees, the hospital did. In fact, sometimes the Gerson employees would advise the person calling that it was not a good fit for them because the Gerson Therapy did not have a history of working with their particular ailment or they may have been too ill to safely go.
        I personally have done the therapy (minus a few of the supplements) even though I was “healthy”, for the purpose of detoxifying. I will tell you, it is a LOT of work. However, for the two months I did it two summers ago, I had never felt so healthy in all of my life as I did then. It was like my bodily functions had been switched off, and suddenly they were turned back on again. I needed less sleep, I had more energy, my libido came back after it had completely disappeared, my mood was super positive all the time, and I unintentionally lost weight. I just FELT GOOD.
        This article is the scam. Many people are told it is too late to try. Many people are seeking alternative options. You are taking that away from them, taking away their hope and at the same time, defaming the name of a woman who devoted her life to helping others and never got anything in return. Shame on you.”

        • RG,

          Ha ha…. testimony of another guillible soul like you that isnt worth the paper it is written on, I should rather say the keyboard it is typed one. Hope along Rodney, nothing for you to see here.

  • Minor typo: I think you mean “WWI” not “WWII”.

  • Quadronal has a package insert updated from 12-2010 and was licensed at least in Germany.

  • I have just looked up Quadronal. It is a preparation containing aspirin and caffeine, so not really a new drug. There are a number of similar preparations which can be bought in the UK without a prescription.

    I followed your link to a paper about Quadranox but I couldn’t understand the German abstract and I couldn’t see anything that looked like the name of an active ingredient.

    • Gerson seems to have been [one of] the first to patent the combination.
      Going by the name, Quadronox had a narcotic added to it but I am not sure.

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