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Beyond Chelation

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Chelation therapy is a safe and effective method for drawing toxins and metabolic wastes from the bloodstream. Chelating agents administered intravenously have been proven to increase blood flow and remove arterial plaque. Chelation therapy can help reverse atherosclerosis, can prevent heart attacks and strokes, and is used as an alternative to bypass surgery and angioplasty.

Chelation (key-LAY-shun) comes from the Greek Word chele meaning "to claw" or "to bind." Chelation therapy is used to rid the body of unnecessary and toxic metals, and is employed by a growing number of physicians to reverse the process of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). The reversal is accomplished in part through the removal of the calcium content of plaque from the artery walls through the injection of chelating agents. By restoring good circulation to all the tissues of the body, chelation therapy can help to avoid bypass surgery, reverse gangrene, alleviate intermittent claudiction (cramps) of the legs, and restore memory. Due to its ability to remove toxic metal ions, chelation therapy reduces internal inflammation caused by free radicals (highly reactive destructive molecules), and as a result can ease the discomfort and disability from degenerative diseases such as arthritis, scleroderma (a hardening that occurs in skin and certain organs) and lupus.

"According to current drug safety standards, aspirin is about three and a half times more toxic than EDTA."

Chelation therapy has been used safely on more than five hundred thousand patients in the United States for the past forty years, but EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid), the drug used during the infusions, has yet to receive FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval for anything other than lead and heavy metal toxicity. Still, there are over one thousand physicians who recommend and use chelation therapy for cardiovascular disease and related health problems. Following the treatment protocol set by the American College of Advancement in Medicine and the American Board of Chelation Therapy, FDA-approved studies are currently underway to establish the safety of EDTA.

How Chelation Therapy is Administered

Chelation therapy is performed on an outpatient basis, is painless and takes approximately three and a half hours. For optimal results, physicians who use chelation therapy recommend twenty to thirty treatments given at an average rate of one to three per week, with patient evaluations being made at regular intervals.

The patient reclines comfortably and is given an intravenous solution of EDTA with vitamins and minerals. To monitor the patient’s progress, James Julian, MD of Los Angeles, recommends that the following tests be taken before, during and after chelation:

  • Blood pressure and circulation
  • Cholesterol and other blood components
  • Pre- and post vascular
  • Blood sugar and nutritional
  • Kidney and organ function
  • Tissue minerals, if indicated

A whole foods, low-fat diet and appropriate exercise are normally recommended as part of a full treatment program. According to Garry Gordon, MD of Tempe, Arizona, a carefully tailored program of vitamin and nutritional supplements should also be part of the treatment, and can include ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), heparin, selenium, chromium, copper, zinc, and manganese. Smoking is strongly discouraged and alcohol should be consumed only in moderation. The cost per treatment can vary, depending in part on the nutritional ingredients the doctor may choose to use.

Conditions Benefited by Chelation Therapy

By 1948, the US Navy had begun using EDTA to safely and successfully treat lead poisoning. At the same time, EDTA was being used to remove calcium from pipes and boilers. Norman Clarke, Sr, MD, Director of Research at Providence Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, hypothesized that because calcium plaque is a prominent component in atherosclerosis, EDTA would be an effective treatment for heart conditions. His experiments with EDTA chelation treatments for heart patients validated his theory. Patients with angina reported dramatic relief from chest pain. Healing was also reported by patients with gangrene. For many patients, memory, sight, hearing, and sense of smell improved, and most reported increased vigor.

EDTA chelation therapy has since proven to be safe and effective in the treatment of ailments linked to atherosclerosis such as coronary artery disease (heart attacks), cerebral vascular disease (stroke), peripheral vascular disease (leading to pain in the legs and ultimately gangrene and amputation), as well as arterial blockages from atherosclerosis elsewhere in the body. According to current drug safety standards, aspirin is nearly three and a half times more toxic than EDTA.


In 1988 nearly one million Americans died of cardiovascular disease, making it the number one killer in the United States. Each year nearly three hundred thousand bypass surgeries and two hundred fifty thousand angioplasties are performed in the United States. Furthermore, nearly twenty thousand deaths occur each year as a result of these procedures. In 1992, Nortin Hadler, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, wrote that none of the two hundred-fifty thousand balloon angioplasties performed the previous year could be justified, and that only three to five percent of the three hundred thousand coronary artery bypass surgeries done the same year were actually indicated. Yet a cost comparison study prepared for the Great Lakes Association of Clinical Medicine in 1993 estimated that $10 Billion was spent in the United States in 1991 on bypass surgery alone. At a symposium of the American Heart Association, Henry McIntosh, MD, stated that bypass surgery should be limited to patients with crippling angina who do not respond to more conservative treatment. Chelation therapy offers a viable alternative. In a 1988 study of 2,870 cases, Efrain Olszewer, MD and James Carter, MD, head of nutrition at the Department of Applied Health Science, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University, documented that EDTA chelation therapy brought about significant improvement in 93.9 percent of patients suffering from ischemic heart disease (coronary artery blockage).

Warren Levin, MD, of New York City, once administered chelation therapy to a psychoanalyst on the staff of a major New York medical center. "He was in his fifties and looked remarkably healthy, except that he was in a wheelchair. He had awakened that morning to discover his lower leg was cold, numb, mottled and blue, with two black-looking toes. He rushed to his hospital and consulted the chief of vascular surgery, who recommended an immediate amputation above the knee. He asked this world-renowned surgeon about the possibility of using chelation in this situation, and was told, ‘Don’t bother me with that voodoo.’

"The ailing man decided to get a second opinion. This physician also urged him to have an immediate amputation. When asked about chelation, therapy, the second doctor’s response was, ‘You can try it if you want, but it’s a waste of time.’

"Through his own tenacity, the psychoanalyst showed up in my office. We started emergency chelation and after approximately nine treatments – one taken every other day – he was pain free and picking up. After approximately seventeen chelation treatments, he was walking on the leg again. He never had an amputation, and he lived the rest of his life without any further complications."

Anecdotal stories of patient success tend to mean little to a medical researcher like Morton Walker, DPM. "But," he writes, "what must an investigative medical journalist do when exposed to story after story of potentially imminent death, blindness, amputation, paralysis, and other problems among people, and upon visiting those people to check their stories, finds them presently free of all signs of their former health problems? About two hundred individuals who were victims of hardening of the arteries are . . .[now] vibrant, productive, youthful looking, vigorous, full of zest, and enthusiastically endorse chelation therapy as the cause of their prolonged good health. I have turned up not a single untruth."

Chelation therapy could save billions of dollars each year by preventing unnecessary coronary bypass surgeries, angioplasties, and other expensive procedures relating to vascular disorders.

Medical journalists Harold and Arline Brecher, who have written extensively about chelation therapy, note that physicians who use it not only advise it for their patients, but use it themselves, unlike many of their orthodox colleagues. "We have yet to find a physician who offers chelation to his patients who does not chelate himself, his family and friends," they report.

Research is needed to validate the effectiveness of chelation therapy in reversing atherosclerosis and related circulatory conditions. If approved by the FDA as a treatment for atherosclerosis, chelation therapy could save thousands of lives annually.

One study documented significant improvement in ninety-nine percent of patients suffering from peripheral vascular disease and blocked arteries of the legs. Twenty-four percent of those patients with cerebrovascular and other degenerative cerebral diseases also showed marked improvement, with an additional thirty percent having good improvement. Overall, nearly ninety percent of all treated patients had marked or good improvement as a result of chelation therapy.

A double-blind study in 1989 revealed that every patient suffering from peripheral vascular disease who was treated with chelation therapy showed a statistically significant improvement after only ten treatments. In another study published in 1989, eighty-eight percent of the patients receiving chelation therapy showed improvement in cerebrovascular blood flow.

Other documented benefits of chelation therapy include:

  • Normalization of fifty percent of cardiac arrhythmias
  • Improved cerebrovascular arterial occlusion
  • Improved memory and concentration when diminished circulation is a cause
  • Improved vision (with vascular-related vision difficulties)
  • Significantly reduced cancer mortality rates (as a preventive)
  • Protection against iron poisoning and iron storage disease
  • Detoxification of snake and spider venoms

According to Elmer Cranton, MD of Troutdale, Virginia, chelation therapy has a profound effect on overall health. "In my clinical experience there is no doubt that intravenous EDTA chelation therapy to some extent slows the aging process," says Dr. Cranton. "Allergies and chemical sensitivities also seem to improve somewhat due to a better functioning of the immune system. All types of arthritis and muscle and joint aches and pains seem to be more easily controlled after chelation, although it is not a cure. In most cases, the progression of Alzheimer’s disease will be slowed, and in some cases the improvement is quite remarkable and the disease does not seem to progress. Macular degeneration, a major cause of visual loss in the elderly, is often improved and almost always arrested or slowed in its progression by chelation therapy."

Oral Chelation

There are a variety of substances that act as oral chelating agents, according to Garry F. Gordon, MD of Tempe, Arizona. "Oral chelation is a well-documented, firmly established medical practice," he says. He points out that penicillamine, a drug used to treat heavy metal poisoning, rheumatoid arthritis and Wilson’s disease (a rare metabolic disorder resulting in an excess accumulation of copper in the liver, red blood cells and the brain), works in a fashion very similar to EDTA. "Some of the benefits derived from penicillamine in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis are undoubtedly related to the control and removal of excess free radicals. And EDTA itself, when taken orally, provides most of its chelating activities in the body even though only about five percent of it is actually absorbed. The chelating effects are less dramatic and slower than when received intravenously, but the oral approach has several major advantages, including convenience, potential long-term continuous health maintenance and low cost."

Dr. Gordon also uses many nutritionally based substances as oral chelators, such as garlic, Vitamin C, carrageenan, zinc, and certain amino acids like cysteine and methionine. "Cysteine, for instance, is very effective in the treatment of nickel toxicity," he says, "and it seems to also increase glutathione in the body, which in turn helps to control free radicals."

In his patients who use oral chelation formulas, Dr. Gordon has consistently observed a reduction of serum cholesterol by an average of twenty percent or more, which he feels significantly decreases the likelihood of atherosclerosis. "The thousands of patients who visit my clinic each year and follow our recommended oral chelation program have all successfully avoided strokes, and heart attack rates were also greatly diminished," he says. "We’ve never had more than two heart attacks per year among all of our patients, even among those with a history of severe heart disease. I firmly believe that an oral chelation program can do more for your overall longevity than you can do even with the most prudent lifestyle possible because of the continuous nutritional protection chelation offers against a stressful and polluted world."

Dr. Gordon does not recommend oral chelation as a substitute for intravenous chelation therapy, however. "There is significant difference in both the rapidity and degree of benefits achieved with intravenous chelation over any currently available oral chelation agents," he says. "And the intravenous approach is clearly the proper choice for patients who have only a few months to get well before facing surgery or worse." But for patients whose conditions are not as drastic as well as for those who want to optimally safeguard themselves against free radicals and plaque buildup, Dr. Gordon views oral chelation as an effective, noninvasive, inexpensive choice.


Beginning in 1958 a lengthy study was conducted in Switzerland on 231 adults who lived near a well-traveled highway and had a higher rate of cancer mortality than other people of the same city who lived in traffic-free areas. The study group also suffered from a higher incidence of nervous disorders, headaches, fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders, depression, and substance abuse. The researchers suggested that their symptoms might be due to a higher level of exposure to lead from automobile exhausts. Then in 1961, fifty-nine patients from the group received ten or more EDTA chelation treatments plus Vitamins C and B1, while the remaining 172 members of the group were untreated and served as control subjects. An eighteen-year follow-up study of the group conducted by Walter Blumer, MD, of Nestal, Switzerland, revealed that only one of the fifty-nine treated patients died of cancer (1.7 percent) as compared to thirty deaths (17.6 percent) form cancer among the nontreated subjects. This is a ninety percent reduction of mortality from cancer. Dr. Blumer found that death from atherosclerosis was also reduced among the treated patients. His findings were based upon Swiss death certificates and statistical evidence showing that EDTA chelation therapy was the only significant difference between the control group and their treated patients. Commenting on Dr. Blumer’s study, Garry F. Gordon, MD, of Tempe, Arizona, says, "Anything that reduces your burden of toxic metals, which feeds the fire of free radicals, sufficiently safeguards your immune system so that your body can more efficiently handle early cancers." Dr. Gordon prefers to view chelation therapy in terms of cancer prevention and not as a treatment itself. "Cancer has been linked to free radical pathology and EDTA chelation removes elements, such as iron, which can accelerate this pathology," he says. "Therefore, chelation treatments can minimize one’s risk of developing cancer."

How to Find the Right Doctor

Patients interested in chelation therapy should choose a doctor who follows the protocol of the American Board of Chelation Therapy or the American College of Advancement in Medicine (ACAM).

Prior to chelation, a complete physical examination that includes a heart function test, hair mineral analysis, an electrocardiogram, a stress test, and a doppler flow analysis should be conducted. Kidney function must also be checked.

EDTA dosage should be individualized for each patient according to age, sex, weight, and kidney function, and should be administered slowly over a period of three or more hours.

Treatments should be administered by well-trained staff members who are readily available to deal with any symptoms that might occur during the process, such as weakness or dizziness from low blood sugar levels.

If a patient decides to have chelation therapy, it should be performed by a doctor with several years experience, who has completed the training conducted by ACAM. If the therapy is administered by a nurse or nonphysician, a qualified physician must be on the premises at all times during the procedure.

The Future of Chelation Therapy

Because the patent for EDTA has expired, it is unlikely that any pharmaceutical company will invest the money necessary to fund studies for FDA approval of chelation therapy, despite the overwhelming evidence of its effectiveness. Robert Haskell, MD writes, "Of all the regimens you can use to help a patient combat degenerative disease and restore health, chelation therapy is the most powerful. It produces the greatest number of benefits to the body – far beyond those of improved blood flow. If you want to get your prescribed nutrition to those parts of the body in which they must work . . . chelation therapy is the way to do it."

CAUTION: EDTA should not be used during pregnancy, severe kidney failure, and hypoparathyroidism (low blood circulation).

Where to Find Help

As in all the specialties of medicine, board certification assures that a particular physician has been trained, and his or her knowledge has been demonstrated to be at the highest level. For more information on chelation therapy, contact one of the following organizations:

American Board of Chelation Therapy
70 West Huron Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610
(312) 266-7246

ABCT established the protocol of chelation therapy in 1983, and has been certifying physicians trained in the specialty of chelation therapy. A letter or phone call will provide the names of board-certified physicians.

American College of Advancement in Medicine

PO Box 3427
Laguna Hills, CA 92654
(714) 583-7666

ACAM seeks to establish certification and standards of practice for chelation therapy. It provides training and education, and sponsors semiannual conferences for physicians and scientists. It provides referrals and informational material, including a directory listing of all physicians worldwide who have been trained in preventive medicine as well as in the ACAM protocol. The directory is updated monthly. The organization also provides a copy of the ACAM protocol for chelation to the public. For more information, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

Great Lakes Association of Clinical Medicine, Inc.
70 West Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60610
(321) 266-7246

Members of this association are MDs and DOs who practice preventive and nutritional medicine and offer chelation therapy. This association presents a biannual workshop in chelation therapy that eventually leads to certification the ABCT.

The Rheumatoid Disease Foundation
5106 Old Harding Road
Franklin, TN 37064
(615) 646-1030

This nonprofit, charitable organization has a listing of physicians who perform chelation therapy. Send a legal size, stamped, self-addressed envelope, along with a donation, when requesting information.


Bypassing Bypass. Cranton, Elmer.
Troutdale, VA: Hampton Roads 1990.
Dr. Cranton’s book discusses metals, free radicals and cross linking in relation to chelation therapy. His work on preventive medicine can enhance the benefits of surgery, as well as prevent surgery.

Chelation Extends Life. Julian, James, MD.
Hollywood, CA: Wellness Press, 1982.
This book shows you how to prevent and/or reverse arteriosclerosis. All medical terms are explained in the glossary at the beginning of the book before you meet them in the text.

The Chelation Way. Walker, Morten, DPM.
Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group, Inc. 1990
A complete how-to book on chelation, including over-the-counter chelation agents, where to find them, and how to use them.

40-Something Forever. Brecher, Harold and Arlin
NY: Healthsavers Press, 1992.
A consumer’s guide to chelation and a healthy heart.

The Healing Powers of Chelation Therapy. Trowbridge, John P, MD and Walker, Morten, DPM.
Stamford, CT: New Way of Life, Inc. 1992
A primer for the layperson on IV chelation therapy.

The Scientific Basis of EDTA Chelation Therapy. Halstead, Bruce
Colton, CA: Golden Quill Publishers, Inc. 1979
Provides the scientific basis of chelation therapy for the more technically oriented reader. This book includes detailed illustrations.

A Textbook on EDTA Chelation Therapy, Special Issue of Journal Of Advancement in Medicine, Volume 2, Numbers 1 and 2.  Cranton, Elmer, Ed. New York: Human Science Press, Inc.
Spring/Summer, 1989.
This text is designed to provide pertinent clinical data and guidance on how to safely administer the therapy for professionals.

"I believe that you can, by taking some simple and inexpensive measures, extend your life and your years of well-being. My most important recommendation is that you take vitamins every day in optimum amounts, to supplement the vitamins you receive in your food."

• Linus Pauling, PhD, Two-Time Nobel Prize Laureate