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Last month, you read about the benefits of ultraviolet light—and not just the vitamin-D-producing effects we generally associate with the sun’s rays. While vitamin D production is certainly one of its critical functions, ultraviolet (UV) radiation goes way beyond that.

The May issue detailed some of the recent research supporting the medical use of UV radiation, particularly when it comes to killing the potentially deadly “superbugs” that have taken up permanent residence in most of our nation’s hospitals and have spread into our communities. This month, let’s take a step back and look at the beginnings of this time-tested therapy and how—despite what mainstream naysayers would like you to believe—it has remained a highly effective tool for fighting a vast array of health problems, from everyday ailments like asthma and arthritis to deadly infections like pneumonia and cancer.

The makings of a modern-day miracle

Niels Ryberg Finsen, a Danish physician and scientist, is considered to be the founder of modern “phototherapy,” the technical term for treating disease using ultraviolet light. When his own health started to fail, Finsen became interested in the bacteria-destroying effects of sunlight. This led him to develop ultraviolet treatment for a form of tuberculosis that affects the skin, known as lupus vulgaris. Finsen’s UV therapy for lupus vulgaris had a 98-percent success rate1 and in 1903, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology “in recognition of his contribution to the treatment of diseases, especially lupus vulgaris, with concentrated light radiation, whereby he has opened a new avenue for medical science.”2 His work created a basis for the ultraviolet sterilization techniques in still used today in bacteriological research and radiation therapy.

Building on Finsen’s work with lupus vulgaris, one of the earliest areas of research into UV therapy was its effects on skin infections. One of the earliest pioneers of UV therapy was Dr. Walter H. Ude, who successfully treated a potentially serious streptococcal skin infection called erysipelas. In nearly 100 cases, he reported a 100-percent cure rate using ultraviolet irradiation.3

Research into the use of external irradiation continued, focusing on mumps, which was very common among school-age children at the time. But UV light prevented the most severe complications associated with mumps. And, like many of the other applications we’ll go over, mumps patients often responded after just one treatment.

Although it wasn’t the first time UV radiation had been used internally, the most successful transition from external use of ultraviolet light to blood irradiation was made by a Seattle-area physicist named Emmett K. Knott, who developed and patented a treatment he called “photoluminescence.” This form of treatment took advantage of the bacteria-killing properties of ultraviolet radiation by directly irradiating the blood stream to kill microorganisms. In 1928, Knott used photoluminescence to treat his first patient, who was suffering from a severe systemic infection (septicemia) following an abortion. (For centuries, “childbirth fever”—the same sort of systemic infection but following childbirth—was a major cause of death for young women.) By the time she received UV therapy, the woman’s condition had deteriorated to the point where she was considered beyond the help of medicine. But after her blood was irradiated and re-introduced into her body, she made a full recovery. Later on, she was able to have a healthy child, despite nearly dying of septicemia.4

Knott and another Seattle-area doctor, obstetrician Dr. Virgil K. Hancock, went on to publish their accounts of UV therapy in 1934. It wasthe first article on the efficacy of what eventually came to be known by the term we use today, ultraviolet blood irradiation (UVBI) for treating infection.5

By 1942, Hancock and Knott had successfully treated 6,520 patients using UVBI without any harmful effects whatsoever. Their pioneering work was pivotal to fostering understanding of how this method could be used to treat bloodstream infections and cure many patients thought incurable by conventional medicine.

What happens during UVBI?

But besides providing the basis for today’s research and understanding of UV therapy, Knott and Hancock also created a very simple process for conducting their UVBI therapy. Using a syringe, a small amount of blood (approximately 300ccs, 10 to 11 ounces) was drawn from the vein of a patient, a natural anti-clotting agent was added, and the blood was then passed through a machine that irradiated it using ultraviolet light at a specific frequency for about 10 seconds. The flow of blood was then reversed with the syringe and re-injected into the patient. Treatments ranged from one single irradiation to a series of treatments if necessary, but usually no more than two were performed per patient in any given day.

Acute conditions, like colds, pneumonia, toxic conditions, and viral diseases generally responded to treatment within a few hours and usually required only one or two treatments. Chronic conditions were treated once or twice a day for up to three times a week, except for two conditions—atopic dermatitis and porphyria. Hydrogen peroxide administered at the end of each treatment improves the effectiveness of UVBI.6,7 (A more detailed account of that protocol can be found in the book, Into the Light, by William Campbell Douglass, M.D.)

Like Emmett Knott, Dr. E.W. Rebbeck used UVBI for patients experiencing septicemia (systemic infection) following childbirth and abortion. While many of his patients were near death when they came to him at Shadyside hospital in Pennsylvania, all of them recovered following UVBI treatment. And in over 4,000 treatments he administered, he observed no adverse effects at all.8

Dr. Rebbeck’s results were so outstanding that Shadyside Hospital established UVBI as a standard preventive treatment, rather than using it just to treat already septic cases.9

While polio is rare these days, it was a major health threat when this early research into UVBI was going on. Another physician, Dr. George Miley, and his colleague Dr. Christensen reported that in the 58 cases of polio they treated with UVBI, they only lost one patient. All other patients, ranging from those with mild to severe disease, improved significantly within 24-48 hours.10

Dr. Miley also demonstrated that UVBI was an extremely effective therapy for viral pneumonia. His patients experienced improvement within 24-76 hours, elimination of cough in one week or less, and complete clearing of the lungs (confirmed by chest x-rays) within 24-96 hours. And all of this resulted from only one UVBI treatment.11

Ironically, in 2008, “mainstream medicine” still has no reliably effective treatment for viral pneumonia, but continues to criticize UVBI as “quackery.”

Arthritis, asthma, shingles, and more: UVBI shows promise against “everyday” problems too

Early research into the applications and benefits of UVBI suggested that it might be useful in the treatment of many common health conditions too. Clinical studies following up on these claims have shown promising results in the treatment of several autoimmune disorders, including scleroderema, rheumatoid arthritis, and organ rejection.12-14 Other studies have been conducted into its effectiveness in the treatment of type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.15,16

Dr. Miley, who pioneered the use of UVBI for pneumonia, also used UV therapy to treat cases of asthma that showed no improvement despite elimination and desensitization of all possible allergens and only temporary relief (or none at all} following the injection or inhalation of adrenaline (cases like this are technically referred to as “intractable” asthma). Of the 56 “intractable” asthma patients he treated with UVBI, 45—that’s 80 percent—showed definite improvement, and they maintained the improvement for up to a year.17, 18

In Into the Light, Dr. Douglass reports his experience with UVBI treatment of asthma. He points out that individuals with severe asthma are likely to have an asthma attack after the first UVBI treatment, but after the second or third treatment there is often marked decrease in the frequency and severity of attacks. But aside from the initial worsening, he reports (like all the other researchers) a complete absence of any toxic effects of UVBI.19,20

In the 1930s and 1940s, Dr. Miley also treated 11 patients with very difficult and resistant boils caused by a bacteria that’s still causing problems for many people today, Staphlyococcus aureus. But after two to four treatments, most of Dr. Miley’s patients experienced a reduction in the number and rate of recurrence of boils.21 He also reported that UVBI worked well for patients struggling with cases of shingles that conventional methods had been unable to alleviate.22

Poison control goes back to basics

Many of the early researchers focused their attention on the ability of sunlight and UV radiation to detoxify certain poisonous substances like the toxins produced in botulism, tetanus, and even snake venom.

In one notable case, Dr. Miley reported that a patient dying from the effects of botulism and unable to see or swallow recovered within 48 hours after treatment. She was able to leave the hospital within two weeks after a single UVBI treatment.23

Miley also observed that UVBI-treated patients with peritonitis, an infection and inflammation of the intestinal lining, showed signs of recovery within less than 35 hours, and complete recovery within 82 hours following treatment. And he reported that patients suffering from appendicitis recovered completely in less than two days.24

The amazing thing about these reports is that most of the results were achieved after only one treatment. Among those patients treated by Miley at Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia was another patient with serious blood poisoning following abortion that antibiotic therapy had failed to control.25 Prior to treatment with UVBI, the patient was near death. Within 48 hours of treatment, however, she was no longer in a morbid state.26 She subsequently made a complete recovery.

Miley also treated another patient who was in a state of systemic infection and profound shock, including irregular heartbeat, following removal of a gangrenous appendix. Within minutes after the patient’s UVBI-treated blood was returned to his body, he improved significantly and all signs of shock—including the irregular heartbeat—were substantially diminished. Within a day, the patient was able to sit up in bed and function normally. Although he needed two more UVBI treatments to eliminate all toxic symptoms, he also made a complete recovery.27

In yet another amazing case, a patient with pelvic abscess and steady decline despite antibiotic therapy was detoxified within 72 hours of receiving blood irradiation therapy. She was given a UVBI treatment prior to undergoing surgery to remove the pelvic infection and recovered without any side effects.28

Making UV light even more effective against cancer

Last month you read about combining UV radiation with other substances. These compounds, which increase the effectiveness of the UV light, are called photosensitizers. While this concept has been understood and applied since the 1800s, the most recent example of this type of therapy is the combination I told you about last month, using UV radiation along with a compound called 8-methoxyopsoralen (8-MOP) that comes from a plant that grows along the Nile to treat T-cell lymphoma.29 A similar process has also been used to treat psoriasis.

While photosensitizers aren’t necessary to achieve good results from UVBI treatment, they do improve its effectiveness.30 The use of photosensitizers in the treatment of cancer, for example, can improve treatment outcome since the rapidly dividing cancer cells absorb more of the photosensitizer compound. Then, when the blood is irradiated, more of the cancer cells will contain the photosensitized compound and be killed by the light.

One of the first researchers to investigate UVBI for treating cancer was Dr. Robert C. Olney. In five cases of cancer treated with UVBI using the UV-A frequency of ultraviolet light, he reported a 100 percent recovery rate.31

Since Dr. Olney’s early work, UVBI has been used to treat are early and advanced lung cancer, advanced esophageal cancer, early and advanced head and neck cancers, and ocular cancers.32-34

Exactly how UVBI works is a mystery, but the results are real

UVBI appears to work by stimulating the body’s immune defenses, but exactly how it does this still hasn’t been identified. Some researchers have theorized that perhaps humans may be susceptible to an “ultraviolet light deficiency.” And based on the cancer- and infection-fighting effects it has, it does seem possible that UVBI could correct an underlying vitamin D deficiency (which increases the risk of a vast array of health problems). Of course, it’s likely that UV light has many more effects in addition to stimulating vitamin D synthesis, but this aspect could play a role in its success.

But regardless of knowing exactly how UVBI works, all of the research done since the 1920s shows that it does work. In case after case of serious and life-threatening acute infections treated with UVBI therapy at Hahnemann and other hospitals, Dr. Miley reported that his patients all recovered without ill effects.35-40 The same is true of the subsequent research as well: Most physicians using UVBI have noted that, within 12-24 hours after treatment, patients usually experienced a reduction in headache, nausea, chills, fever and other symptoms of toxicity. And most go on to full recovery following as little as one treatment.

Whatever happened to UVBI?

As you’ve seen from all these case studies, UVBI had two decades (late 1930s through early 1950s) of proven effectiveness in the treatment of serious infection, often relieving symptoms within hours of treatment. Success after success was reported in dozens of medical journals, both “major” and “minor”, by responsible investigators and practicing physicians. UVBI was in use in hospitals and clinics alike, and no harmful effects were observed in tens of thousands of treatments. The overwhelming majority of bacterial infections were eliminated, and viruses yielded to UVBI too. Even fungal disease was improved.

So why did a treatment with such an outstanding record of success just “disappear”? Whatever happened to UVBI?

Antibiotics are what happened. Antibiotics “got off the ground” during World War II (1941-1945 for these United States) and did indeed save the lives of many soldiers and airmen suffering from infections that occurred after being injured. Although many antibiotics (like penicillin) were actually derived from Nature (penicillin from a mold), the average bacteria had never seen them before in such quantity and with such frequency. Bacteria had no defenses against this never-before-seen antibiotic onslaught, and antibiotics became “lethal weapons” against bacteria: One infection after another gave up and died. Not only that, but it was undeniably much easier to swallow tablets or capsules than to have an intravenous procedure, however effective it might be. The “golden age” of successful bacteria fighting was proclaimed and UVBI was “obsolete,” (not to mention that it was no longer covered by patents from the 1920s and 30s).

But bacteria are living things, and living things don’t like being killed. Living things usually find a way to survive, even when their numbers are greatly reduced at first. When they’re forced to learn new ways by affliction and hardship, surviving living things frequently emerge much stronger than they’ve ever been, more ready than ever to do battle, and this time, more likely to win.

That is exactly what has happened with bacteria and antibiotics in the 21st century. By now, everyone has heard of—and many are very afraid of—“supergerms,” bacteria resistant to nearly all types of antibiotics. Medical “authorities,” los Federales, and the media all tell us that we have almost no defenses against these “supergerms.”

But we do! Regardless of mainstream skepticism, UVBI is still one of our best defenses against “supergerms.” And even though they’ve “fallen out of fashion,” so to speak, UVBI treatments have continued to be done by many “alternative” medical practitioners. Unfortunately, present-day “conventional” practitioners now view UVBI as “quackery”. In fact, back in 2006, our old “friend,” the Washington State Medical “Quality” Assurance Commission (M“Q”AC) launched an investigation of the Tahoma Clinic just for mentioning of UVBI on Clinic’s website. Ironically, this investigation was started in 2006 in the home State of Emmet K. Knott and Dr. Virgil K. Hancock, the Seattle area residents who presented some of the most successful, life-saving UVBI-treated cases to a meeting of the King County (Washington) Medical Society—in 1934!

Even more weapons in Mother Nature’s arsenal against infectious bacteria, viruses, and fungi

While UVBI is the best researched and reported, it’s only one of our defenses against “supergerms.” There’s also considerable research (see Nutrition & Healing for September 2006) on the effectiveness of silver as a germ-killer, and—like UVBI—silver kills bacteria, viruses, and fungi without inducing resistance. Then there’s intravenous ozone, also a “non-discriminate” germicide. And these are only three of many more potential tools. So when the news reports proclaim the arrival of the Grim Reaper in the form of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, rest assured that Mother Nature can—and will—come to the rescue for those of us smart enough to turn to her for help.

But it’s well past time for the mainstream health authorities to give up their skepticism about this time-tested therapy and to realize that there are many treatment possibilities for illness besides patent medications, un-natural radiation, and surgery. The list of health problems improved by UVBI is a long one, and includes diabetes, asthma, COPD, hypertension, chronic renal failure, some cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, paralytic ileus, thrombophlebitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. It’s time to re-open the medical journals of the past, read all about these (and many more) successes of UVBI, and start applying them to today’s health problems.

I am grateful to Lauren Russel N.D. for her excellent job in organizing the voluminous information collected for this and last month’s article. I am also very grateful to William Campbell Douglass M.D. for the largest collection of data ever assembled concerning clinical applications of UVBI.

Read Part 1 – Harnessing the healing power of light, What you need to know about UV rays—beyond sunburn

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