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J R Soc Med. 2002 November; 95(11): 575.
PMCID: PMC1279271

Stevens' cure for tuberculosis

I was fascinated by Dr Newsom's account of Stevens' cure (September 2002 JRSM1). In 1927 my father was apparently close to death in Talgarth TB sanatorium, South Wales, with severe bilateral lung disease and multiple haemoptyses. He was considered too ill for the thoracoplasty operation fashionable at the time. His father, himself dying of TB, had advised him on his deathbed to try Stevens' cure and at this stage of his illness he did. His recovery started from that date. He never had another haemoptysis and within 3-4 years was able to obtain life insurance and marry. The medical examiner was said to have flung down his stethoscope in amazement, declaring ‘no sign of disease at all’. My father continued to take the umckaloabo root on and off for years but never had another attack. The distinctive pungent odour of what seemed to be an infusion would often fill the house and signal that Dad was not feeling too good for some reason. He worked as a chemistry teacher till he was 65 with never a day ‘off sick’ and died of heart failure at 77. When I went to Oxford to read medicine in 1958 I was found, to my surprise, to be Mantoux-test negative.

My father, who possessed a lot of newspaper articles and one of the books on Stevens' cure, thought the BMA had been very unfair to Stevens (a non-medic) and very unscientific in their approach to a much needed avenue of possible TB research. Perhaps today, with the widespread resistance to TB drugs, the root should be properly evaluated.


1. Newsom SWB. Stevens' cure: a secret remedy. J R Soc Med 2002;95: 463-7 [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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