Hoxsey treated external cancers with a red paste made of bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis~a common wildflower-mixed with zinc chloride and antimony sulfide. The rootstock of bloodroot, a spring-blooming flower, contains an alkaloid, sanguinarine, that has powerful anti-tumor properties. North American Indians living along the shores of Lake Superior used the red sap from bloodroot to treat cancer. Drawing on Indian lore, Dr. J. W. Fell, working at Middlesex Hospital in London in the 1850s, developed a paste made of bloodroot extract, zinc chloride, flour, and water. Applied directly to a malignant growth, Dr. Fell's paste generally destroyed it within two to four weeks. In the 1960s, various teams of doctors reported the complete healing of cancers of the nose, external ear, and other organs using a paste made of bloodroot and zinc chloride-a mixture virtually identical to Hoxsey's.2
The American Medical Association condemned Hoxsey's "caustic pastes" as fraudulent in 1949, even though a prominent Wisconsin surgeon, Dr. Frederick Mohs, in 1941 had used a red paste identical to Hoxsey's to fix cancerous tissue that he surgically removed under complete microscopic control.3
Medical historian Patricia Spain Ward reported "provocative findings of antitumor properties" in many of the individual Hoxsey herbs when she investigated the Hoxsey regimen in 1988 for the United States Congress's Office of Technology Assessment.4 The basic ingredients of Hoxsey's internal tonic are potassium iodide and such substances as licorice, red clover, burdock root, stillingia root, barberis root, pokeroot, cascara, prickly ash bark, and buckthorn bark. Ward noted that "orthodox scientific research has by now identified antitumor activity" in most of Hoxsey's plants.
For example, two Hungarian scientists in 1966 reported "considerable antitumor activity" in a purified fraction of burdock. Japanese researchers at Nagoya University in 1984 found in burdock a new type of desmutagen, a substance that is uniquely capable of reducing mutation in either the absence or the presence of metabolic activation. This new property is so important, the Japanese scientists named it the B-factor, for "burdock factor."5
Hoxsey himself believed that his therapy normalized and balanced the chemistry within the body. Like many other holistic healers, he considered cancer to be a systemic disease, not a localized one. Cancer, he wrote, "occurs only in the presence of a profound physiological change in the constituents of body fluids and a consequent chemical imbalance in the organism." His herbal medicines are intended to restore the original chemical balance to the body's disturbed metabolism, creating an environment unfavorable to cancer cells, which cease to multiply and eventually die.6 The herbal remedies are said to strengthen the immune system and to help carry away wastes and toxins from the tumors that the herbal compounds caused to necrotize. While this theory may be inexact, current research appears to be vindicating Hoxsey, or at least showing that his method merits a thorough, unbiased investigation by the medical orthodoxy.
Mildred Nelson was first introduced to the Hoxsey approach in 1946, when her mother, Della Mae Nelson, underwent the Hoxsey therapy for cancer. Mildred, a conventionally trained nurse from Jacksboro, Texas, believed Hoxsey was a quack, so she went to Dallas to try to talk Della Mae out of her foolishness. Instead, she ended up taking a job at Hoxsey's clinic as a nurse. Her mother recovered and is alive and well today. Mildred's father was also treated by Hoxsey for a recurrence of cancer in the eye socket, having had one cancerous eye removed earlier. He became cancer-free and remained so until his death in 1957 from meningitis.