What ‘Orthomolecular medicine’ means

Linus PaulingBackground

‘Orthomolecular’ medicine is a term coined by one of the greatest scientific minds of the 20th Century, twice Nobel Laureate, Linus Pauling.

Orthomolecular medicine involves the treatment of disease with natural substances, endemic to the body, vitamins, minerals, herbs and other biological response modifiers. These are often used in enormous doses, to a drug-like intensity. But as they are not drugs, toxicity is largely avoided, and the body can respond in a more positive way. (A classic example of orthomolecular medicine is the treatment of diabetes with insulin).

The practice of orthomolecular oncology was started over 30 years ago by a Canadian psychiatrist, Dr Abram Hoffer. Inspired by some encouraging results in his work with nutrition in schizophrenia, and wanting to do more than just give spiritual counsel to his terminal cancer patients, he began to prescribe large doses of vitamins and minerals for them.

To his surprise, these terminal cancer patients lived four times as long as expected, and a small percentage were cured. (1) In a Scottish study – the Vale of Leven Study, – inspired by Dr Pauling, similar results were produced with just 10 grams of vitamin C taken intravenously daily, after all conventional treatment had been abandoned. In this study 10% of terminal patients were actually cured.(2)


  1. Hoffer A. & Pauling L: Hardin Jones biostatistical analysis of mortality data for cohorts of cancer patients with a large fraction surviving at the termination of study. Orthomolecular Medicine; 1990, 5: 143 – 154.
  2. Cameron E. & Campbell A: The orthomolecular treatment of cancer. II. Clinical trials of high dose ascorbic acid supplements in advanced human cancer. Chem. Biol. Interact; 1974,9: 285-315.
  3. Bailar JC, Gormick HL. “Cancer Undefeated”. New England Journal of Medicine, 1997; 336: 1569-74.
  4. Dr Ulrich Abel, (statistician at Heidelberg, Germany); “Chemotherapy of advanced epithelial cancer: a critical review”. Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, 1992; 46: 439-452.