Introduction to Chelation Therapy

The word chelation is derived from the Greek word “chele” that means claw (like that of a scorpion or crab). Chelation is based on the observation that when  EDTA (ethylene-diamine-tetra-acetic acid) will remove certain poisonous metals from the body.  EDTA is a generally accepted treatment for certain poisonings.  Other uses remain very controversial.

What are the benefits of chelation?

It has been claimed to be helpful to treat atherosclerosis and some other degenerative diseases involving the circulatory system.  Chelation therapy has been compared to removing a clog from a drain. It involves taking a drug which dissolves certain chemicals in the blood vessels.  The body is then able to remove them to unclog or flush out the vessel.  It has been claimed that chelation therapy may be a cure for cancer.  Some believe that it acts against cancer by reducing free radicals, a harmful group of chemicals.

Blood Clots, Cholesterol, HDL and Atherosclerosis

EDTA is believed to reduce the blood platelet formation. This makes the blood less "sticky” and may reduce the risk of stroke.  EDTA infusion has may remove calcium from the blood stream and from atherosclerotic plaques. 

Cancer and Prevention

Free radicals may play a role in the genesis of cancer. By removing the metallic anions from the blood stream, EDTA may help the cells to remain healthy. Some people believe that there is a decrease in the incidence of cancer after EDTA treatment.

Mental Health

Some researchers have reported that patients who have undergone chelation treatment are less depressed, more alert, and had better concentration and memory. Opponents of chelation therapy dismiss this as "placebo effect."

The arguments in favor of chelation therapy have been summarized in numerous articles and at least four books.  For additional information see:  The Chelation Answer: How to Prevent Hardening of the Arteries and Rejuvenate Your Cardiovascular System (1982), by Morton Walker, D.P.M., and Garry Gordon, M.D.; Chelation Therapy: The Key to Unclogging Your Arteries (1985), by John Parks Trowbridge, M.D., and Morton Walker D.P.M.; A Textbook on EDTA Chelation Therapy (1989), by Elmer M. Cranton, M.D.; and, Bypassing Bypass: The New Technique of Chelation Therapy (2nd edition, 1990), by Elmer Cranton, M.D., and Arline Brecher.

Arguments against chelation are numerous.  See the web site for a more complete discussion.  Briefly, in October 1989, chelation therapy was listed as one of "The Top Ten Health Frauds" in an article in FDA Consumer. patient wanting chelation therapy for any condition other than a poisoning will be forced to pay for the treatment themselves.


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  4. Zeit. f. Kardiology, 76, #2, 1987.

  5. Allain P and others. Effects of an EDTA infusion on the urinary elimination of several elements in healthy subjects. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 31:347-349, 1991.

  6. Guldager B and others. EDTA treatment of intermittent claudication: A double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Journal of Internal Medicine 231:261-267, 1992.

  7. Knudson ML and others. Chelation therapy for ischemic heart disease: a randomized, controlled trial. JAMA 287:481-486, 2002.

  8. Ernst E. Chelation therapy for coronary heart disease: An overview of all clinical investigations. American Heart Journal 140:139-141, 2000.

  9. Ernst J. Commentary. Chelation therapy does not benefit heart patients. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies 7153, 2002.

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Last modified: 07/31/08