Mildred Nelson

Mildred Nelson: 1919-1999

Nurse Mildred Nelson, director of the Tijuana Bio Medical Center, better known as the Hoxsey Cancer Clinic, suffered a stroke in her home next to the clinic and died shortly after on January 28, 1999.

Mildred, as she was commonly known to her patients, began working as a nurse with clinic founder Harry Hoxsey, soon after her mother started the treatment in Dallas in 1946 for her terminal cancer. She took the job only to disprove the treatment and discourage her mother from pursuing it. Within a year, her mother recovered, and Mildred's personal experience convinced her of the value of the botanicallybased remedies.

When the treatment was banned by the FDA in the U.S. in 1960, Mildred went underground with it for three years in California, Nevada, and Utah, before Harry Hoxsey arranged for her to take it to Tijuana. Often regarded as the granddaddy of alternative cancer therapies, Hoxsey was the first such clinic to operate south of the border.

Decidedly apolitical, Mildred avoided the political battles and public controversy that Harry Hoxsey pursued for over thirty years in seeking a formal scientific investigation of the treatment in his high-profile battle with the AMA and federal authorities. Since moving to Tijuana, she treated an estimated 30,000 cancer patients, mostly terminal cases already given up by conventional medicine. Like Hoxsey, she claimed an 80-percent cure rate for previously untreated cases.

Although the treatment has yet to be tested in clinical trials, virtually all the Hoxsey herbs in the famous internal tonic have been documented for anticancer properties. Among the ingredients are red clover, burdock, poke root, stillingia, barberry, licorice, buckthorn bark, prickly ash bark, and cascara sagrada, in a base of potassium iodide. By the 1950s, organized medicine did admit that the Hoxsey escharotic [a corrosive or caustic substance] external remedies cure external cancers. One, the red paste, contains bloodroot, an old native American herb for external cancer.

According to a report by Patricia Spain Ward, a medical historian who wrote a contract paper on Hoxsey for the Office of Technology Assessment, former research arm of Congress, "More recent literature leaves no doubt that Hoxsey's formula, however strangely concocted by modern scientific standards, does indeed contain many plant substances of marked therapeutic activity. Whether there is therapeutic merit in Hoxsey's particular formula for internal use remains as much a question today as it was in 1925, despite provocative findings of anti-tumor propertles in many of the individual herbs he used." Harry Hoxsey claimed that the formula originated with his great-grandfather who observed a horse with cancer reputedly cure itself by browsing on herbs in a pasture.

The story of Mildred and Hoxsey was portrayed in the documentary film, "Hoxsey: How Healing Becomes A Crime," shown in movie theaters and on national TV around 1988. The Office of Alternative Medicine began a preliminary review of Hoxsey patient records in 1997 after reviewing the formulas and visiting the clinic.

Universally adored by her patients, Mildred saw herself above all as a nurse and empiric. She said, "When you really get right down to the whole scope of medicine, the only stable drags we have today are a product of the herbs. But scientifically we do not know all the interactions that take place. Not being scientifically minded, and being a nurse at heart, I have found that it is more important to have results than scientific proof."

Mildred's sister Liz Jonas now operates the Mexican clinic.

American Botanical Council.


By Kenny Ausubel


Almost three decades of reporting in the field of complementary alternative medicine have reinforced my view that the Hoxsey Therapy is the most interesting and impressive of the modern alternative approaches to treating cancer.

The Hoxsey Therapy is the oldest alternative cancer treatment in continuous use. It originated in mid-19th century America, when the Hoxseys, a family of ranchers and veterinarians, discovered an herbal treatment for cancer, using it first on animals and then on people with the disease.

In 1936, Harry Hoxsey (1901-1974), who practiced as a lay naturopath and worked closely with open-minded medical doctors and osteopaths, established the Hoxsey Cancer Clinic in Dallas, Texas.

Decades ahead of his time, he proposed that cancer is a systemic disease that can be treated by a non-toxic, herbal chemotherapy that works to heal the whole body. He also paid great attention to nutrition, the environment, and psychological, or mind-body, support.

By all accounts, Hoxsey was one of the most original and colorful figures in the history of American medicine, and a leading practitioner of the empirical tradition.

Hoxsey's chosen successor, Mildred Nelson, R.N., was a remarkable healer and a legendary pioneer in her own right. Nelson started working with the therapy in 1946, and became the chief nurse at the Hoxsey Cancer Clinic in Dallas. In 1963, when government pressure forced the last Hoxsey clinic in the U.S. to close, Nelson established the Bio-Medical Center in Tijuana, Mexico, beyond the reach of the FDA. Significantly, it was the first alternative cancer clinic to open in that country.

Nelson directed the Bio-Medical Center until her death from a heart attack in January 1999 at age 79.

Over the years, without advertising and relying exclusively on word-of-mouth patient referrals, "Bio-Med," as the patients call it, has treated scores of thousands of people with cancer, many of them at very late stages and, in the view of a number of independent observers, with apparent success.

The Hoxsey Therapy used at Bio-Med derives from the family's original formula, and consists of a liquid medicine composed of about 10 herbs that have a long history of reported action against cancer. Several topical, herbal-based salves and powders are used on external cancers like malignant melanoma. A special diet, supplements, and non-toxic complementary therapies round out the program.

In 1988, the noted academic and historian Patricia Spain Ward, Ph.D., evaluated the Hoxsey Therapy for the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment. As part of her generally positive assessment, Ward wrote: "Recent literature leaves no doubt that Hoxsey's formula, however strangely concocted by modern scientific standards, does indeed contain many plant substances of marked therapeutic activity."

Mildred Nelson and her Bio-Medical Center, and Harry Hoxsey before her, always put the needs of patients first, and money second.

It's a standard that any clinician or clinic -- alternative or conventional -- might well aspire to.

Before she died, Nelson appointed her younger sister, Liz Jonas, as the administrator of the Bio-Medical Center. There, the English-speaking Mexican medical doctors who worked with Nelson continue to treat 100 or more patients a week from all over the world, drawn by the promise of real hope for a disease that knows no borders.


By Peter Barry Chowka

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