When Two Worlds of Medicine Clash … Orthomolecular Comes Up a Winner

Early in April, at the height of the SARS scare, among the many events cancelled in Toronto was the conference of the International Society of Cancer Researchers (15,000 registered to attend) because they feared contracting or taking home the SARS virus. However, the 32nd annual conference of the International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine (ISOM) never even considered cancelling. In his welcoming address Dr. Gert Schuitemaker explained, “We have no fear of contracting or passing on SARS. We just increase our daily doses of vitamin C, selenium and zinc and we know we are just fine.”

The contrast between these two utterly different worlds of modern medicine is astounding: the high-tech crowd is scared and admits helplessness. The low-tech crowd fears nothing, because their medicine is founded on an insight that confers ultimate personal and scientific security, best summed up in the words of the 18th century scientist Francis Bacon who observed, “We control Nature by obeying her.”


The assumptions informing the SARS scare are similar to ancient fears of angry, arbitrary gods who need to be understood (sequence the virus‚ genome) and propitiated with their very own ritual to be observed in perpetuity (develop a vaccine) which is very lucrative for the high priests (pharmaceutical companies). By contrast, understanding disease in terms of orthomolecular medicine places physicians and patients into an intelligent dialogue with Nature’s healing powers.

Not surprising to an orthomolecular doctor is the fact that SARS mortality (326 dead worldwide by May) involved only people who were immune-compromised through bad nutrition or pre-existing health conditions (Lancet, May 3, 2003). SARS patients develop viral pneumonia, potentially fatal due to the destruction of the oxygen-carrying alveoli in the lungs. An inflammation-producing protein, known as tumor necrosis factor, is overproduced as the immune system goes into hyper-alarm. Standard medicine combats that with steroids and anti-viral drugs, which can cause dangerous anemia and suppress the immune system — that system which sounded its alarm in the first place because it was already too weak to fight.

Compared to orthomolecular medicine, this standard medical reasoning strikes one as disturbingly prehistoric. What a SARS patient really needs is a boost to the immune system, not its suppression. Paradoxically, standard medicine agrees that recovery depends entirely on the immune system eventually mounting a successful defence against the virus. The only substances which enable such a defence are vitamins C and E, the minerals selenium and zinc, and bioflavonoids like quercetin and myricetin (found in organically grown red onions, apple peel, berries, tea, wine, and certain vegetables). Why standard medicine doesn’t read the mainstream journals, such as the Journal of Medical Virology is a mystery, for there the information is found on how these substances in mega-doses kill both RNA and DNA viruses by boosting the immune system into appropriate responses. (Basic biochemistry fortunately informs the Beijing zookeepers: they are feeding their animals huge amounts of vitamins to ensure they don’t catch SARS (New York Times, May 10, 2003).)

Not only did the ill-prepared immune systems of some people over-react dangerously to SARS, but so did the whole world, according to virus expert and Nobel laureate David Baltimore, Stephen Lewis of the UN’s AIDS program, and the relief organization Doctors Without Borders. They pointed out that over the last six months, a North American had a 10,000 times greater chance of dying from ordinary flu than from SARS (every day 55 people die of regular flu).


SARS may be more than another nasty virus. One of the key Canadian SARS researchers, Dr. Frank Plummer of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory, disagreed with the World Health Organization’s assertion that SARS is caused by a specific corona virus, because only 40% of SARS patients tested were found to have it. Corona viruses mutate often in hours, but strangely this one didn’t change in seven weeks. Really “weird” said Dr. Plummer, is the fact that the SARS samples taken from people all over the world were genetically identical — a unique finding for a virus which adapts rapidly to local conditions and ought to have been different in every sample. Furthermore, some people who recovered from this virus became ill again, yet same-strain coronavirus infections were totally unknown, until now.

Fundamentally unnatural is the fact that this virus is a hybrid: one side is like a virus that causes respiratory disease, the other looks like one that causes hepatitis and pneumonia (New Scientist, April 26, 2003). Nature does not go in for genetic recombinant technology. Are 60% of cases just regular viral pneumonia patients? And are the remaining 40% “real” SARS cases the result of an experiment gone wrong, as speculated in the international journal Virology (No. 77, 2003)?

Indeed Canada’s University of Western Ontario virologist and anti-GMO activist Professor Joe Cummins wonders why the “large body of reports on the genetic manipulation of corona viruses” is ignored and suggests that the SARS virus might well be “a unique virus that arose as a laboratory accident or purposeful experiment.” (From interview with Bill Sardi.)

What we do know is that the biotech companies Prodigene and Monsanto have used coronaviruses to make an oral livestock vaccine (projected market: US $140 billion by 2020). Indeed, it is vaccines that all biotech companies are now pinning their hopes on, as reported in Nature (April 24, 2003), since the “industry is battling for survival.” Biotech stocks have fallen by 50% in the past two years because of waning investor confidence and increasing worldwide rejection of GMO foods.

Interestingly, China had granted permits for those vaccine experiments and China’s Guangdong province is the epicentre of classic SARS from where it spread across the world.


The late great chemist Linus Pauling (two time Nobel prize winner) coined the term “orthomolecular” in 1968, meaning “right molecule”: “Treatment of disease is a matter of varying the concentration of substances (right molecules) normally present in the body.” Orthomolecular medicine is based on two principles: First, illness is seen as a biochemical alarm reaction caused by inadequately nourished cells unable to support bodily systems. Specific vitamins, amino acids, minerals, coenzymes etc. need replenishing to restore function. Inadequate nutrition comes from processed foods and pesticides which kill essential nutrients, a repetitive mono-diet lacking sufficient organic fresh fruits and vegetables, and acquired addictions to sugar, alcohol, tobacco, and other toxic substances such as artificial sweeteners and anti-depressant drugs.

Second, it is acknowledged that everybody is biochemically different due to variation in the personal history of biological and emotional stress, nutrition, genetic endowment, and cultural habits. Orthomolecular medicine has broad therapeutic guidelines, which are then fine-tuned to individual needs. Even hereditary diseases are seen as indications that this person has unusual requirements for a specific nutrient. Treatment involves nutrients because drugs (temporarily useful in an emergency) are designed to interfere with the body’s dynamics, i.e. its enzyme system, while nutrients always and unfailingly work as constructive helpers for those enzymes.


This year’s Orthomolecular Conference was dedicated to the memory of David Horrobin who sadly died in his 50s on April 1. He lived long enough to see his life’s work on the diseases caused by essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiencies replicated and accepted by mainstream medicine. Harvard University and Johns Hopkins Medical school confirmed that EFAs are the central players in a family of conditions ranging from hyperactivity to schizophrenia and include diabetes, thyroid diseases, asthma and allergies (Medical Post, April 29, 2003). (Horrobin began his research career after being fired as medical director from a New York psychiatric hospital in the 1970s because his dietary interventions cured even the most chronic mental patients so rapidly that hospital profits were threatened.) Horrobin’s research was the largest and most successful assault on poisons like Ritalin and antidepressants.

This conference always begins with a “Forum” at which patients speak of their experiences with orthomolecular medicine. The Forum has been organized for years by Robert Sealey, a chartered accountant whose mind and life were saved by Dr. Hoffer after escaping the living hell of standard psychiatry. Sealey’s books now offer practical help and guidance for victims of mental disorders. He is of special help to people whose manic-depression wrecked their finances, as he can show them the road back to financial and mental balance.

This year, the Forum testimonies included a Princeton University theologian who suffered a cortisone-induced psychosis after contact with poison oak. Misdiagnosed for years and drugged out of whatever mind remained, she finally was rescued and now rescues others from the same possible fate. In another testimony, a young musician and his mother described the descent into florid insanity (and the painstaking, dramatic stages of complete recovery) following exposure to street drugs, allergy-inducing foods, and an especially high sensitivity to the toxicity of tobacco. As well, the film by Hollywood star Margot Kidder (of Superman), Masks of Madness, was also shown.

It is impossible to attend a Forum meeting and not be profoundly shaken and overwhelmingly grateful that doctors like Abraham Hoffer exist in this world.

The scientific presentations, in addition to Dr. Hoffer’s marvellous overview of the history of orthomolecular medicine, included presentations on new discoveries about vitamin B3 by Dr. Jonathan Prousky, vitamin D by Dr. Reinhold Vieth, and addiction research into curing alcoholism, street drugs and antidepressants by Dr. Joan Mathews Larson. These presentations were so outstanding, the reader is urged to order the tapes and organize their own orthomolecular conference at home for family and friends.

Dr. Hoffer told how in the 1950s he realized one day that the chemical structure of mescaline, LSD, and certain proteins our bodies produce under stress are all hallucinogens. Testing his psychiatric patients confirmed this insight, which eventually led to the understanding that such stress-based imbalances were mediated through the lack of EFAs, as Dr. Horrobin later proved. Dr. Prousky reported of his successful new uses of vitamin B3 (niacin) for classic migraine, for example. The flush-producing pure B3 opens the constricted blood supply within minutes. In severe allergic reactions B3 works quickly and dramatically because it causes T cells to release the body’s healing histamine.

Dr. Vieth, a Canadian researcher and world expert on vitamin D reported on the new Recommended Daily Allowances based on his work, namely a minimum of 1,000 units daily. His research explores this vitamin’s effect on preventing osteoporosis, cancer and chronic disease. Dr. Larson is internationally famous for her work with alcoholism treated as a nutritional deficiency response. While Alcoholics Anonymous can claim only a success rate of 40% (followed up for seven years), her treatment boasts a success rate of 75% followed up over 20 years. Her work now has expanded to include curing victims of food-mediated and anti-depressant-induced addictions. The case histories she reported from her institute were jaw-droppers. An extraordinary experience in childhood is what eventually guided her towards orthomolecular medicine: Her family had invited a blind child for a summer vacation and, along with the other children in the house, the guest had been given cod liver oil daily. By the end of the summer the child’s sight was fully restored.

The conference also celebrated Dr. Hoffer’s 85th birthday. Having spent his life showing how processed, sugar-laden foods cause mental and physical illness, it comes as sweet vindication that the World Health Organization published its report, “Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Disease” on April 23. In it the WHO tells the food and soft drink industry to reduce sugar to 10% of caloric intake from 25%, and remove vending machines from schools. As reported in The Medical Post, May 13, 2003, the Sugar Association’s president Andrew Briscoe wrote to the WHO Director-General that he would see to it that the U.S. would stop its financial contribution to the WHO if the report were not withdrawn. The WHO made the threat public and stood firm.

Are intimations of a Golden Age of Medicine coming into focus, promising that medicine will serve humanity once again instead of Big Business? History has given us some intimations of the epidemiology of good nutrition: During World War I, Denmark suffered a severe drought as well as the Allied food blockade. So the Danish government slaughtered 80% of the country’s livestock and fed the grain (mostly vitamin- and mineral-rich rye and wheat bran) to its citizens instead. As a result, mortality from all causes fell by 17% and when the great pandemic influenza of 1918 struck (killing 40 million people worldwide in one year), Denmark was virtually spared completely. And another story from European history goes: In England during World War II, refined flour became unavailable. As a result, the population was healthier after the war than before.

In addition to the need for healthy food, a genuine “war on drugs” is needed — those mostly symptom-controlling and nutrient-depleting pharmaceutical phantoms on which our government spends annually $2 billion more than on medical services (Medical Post, May 13, 2003).

Those and the genetically engineered freaks the food industry tries to force us to eat are, however, most successfully combated by consumer resistance and conscious engagement with “the right molecules.” An orthomolecular way of life offers the way to health.


• J.M. Larson, Seven Weeks To Sobriety, Ballantine, 1997
• J.M. Larson, Depression-Free Naturally, Ballantine, 2001
• A. Hoffer, M.D., Orthomolecular Medicine for Physicians, Keats, 1989
• A. Hoffer, M.D., Vitamin C & Cancer: Discovery, Recovery, Controversy, Quarry Books, 2000
• A. Hoffer, M.D., Hoffer’s Laws of Natural Nutrition, Quarry, 2001
• A. Hoffer, M.D., Vitamin B-3 and Schizophrenia, Quarry, 1998
• A. Hoffer, M.D., Dr. Hoffer’s ABC of Natural Nutrition for Children, Quarry, 1999
• A. Hoffer, M.D., Putting It All Together: The New Orthomolecular Nutrition, Keats, 1996
• D. Horrobin ed., R.P. Huemer ed., The Roots of Molecular Medicine: A Tribute to Linus Pauling, Freeman, 1986
• M. Lyon, M.D., Healing The Hyperactive Brain, Focused Publishing, 2000
• R. Sealey, Finding Care for Depression, Sear Publications, 2002
• S. Simmie & J. Nunes, The Last Taboo, McClelland & Stewart, 2002
• R. J. Williams MD et al, A Physician’s Handbook on Orthomolecular Medicine, Keats, 1979
• R.J. Williams, Biochemical Individuality, Keats, 1998

• The conference presentations are available on tape from Audio Archives (905) 889-6555

Finding orthomolecular medical practitioners:
• International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine (chapters in 17 countries); in Toronto: (416) 733-2117, e-mail: centre@orthomed.org
• The Naturopathic Medical Research Clinic, Toronto (416) 944-8824, www.nmrc.ca, e-mail: info@nmr.ca
• Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Toronto www.ccnm.edu
• Joan M. Larson’s Health Recovery Centre, Minneapolis, MN, USA, offers intensive treatment for recovery from alcoholism, suicidal depression, addiction to anti-depressants 1-800-554-9155 or (612) 827-7800
• Mood Disorder Association of Ontario, (416) 486-8049, www.mooddisorders.on.ca

For a comprehensive overview of SARS and systemic biases blinkering medicine see Bill Sardi’s May 2003 report on the Knowledge of Health website: https://askbillsardi.com/sdm.asp

For full information on how to treat and prevent SARS, and any other viral disease, see Dr. Jozeph Pule’s website, the founder of the World Natural Health Organization: www.wnho.net

In Canada see www.HealthyWorldDistributing.com or 1-888-508-4787 or john@cureforsars.net (1-800-336-9266).

Other recommended and reliable sources are www.drhui.com, www.garynull.com and www.orthomed.com

Helke Ferrie is a medical science writer with a master's degree in physical anthropology. Her specialty lies in investigative research into ethical issues in medicine and the politics of health. She started her investigative journalism career in the mid-1990s, looking at issues of medicine and environment. She has been a regular contributor to Vitality Magazine ever since. Helke has also authored several books on various subjects including: "Ending Denial: The Lyme Disease Epidemic", "What Part of No! Don't They Understand: Rescuing Food and Medicine from Government Abuse", and "The Earth's Gift to Medicine". Here are links to some of her works: Book Review Find her book -Ending Denial Read her article: When governments abandon the public interest — look out for your own health Find her book -What Part of No! Don't They Understand Helke has also been a regular contributor for the Vitality Magazine. Links to few of her articles: The Tyranny of Government Protection Success Story - How I Recovered from Lyme Disease IN THE NEWS: Fluoride Dangers; Roundup Lawsuits; Lyme Disease Epidemic Helke Ferrie now lives a retired life and can be reached at helkeferrie@gmail.com

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