On Christmas Day in years past we’ve run “The Meaning of Mistletoe,” a piece based on an interview with Dr. John R. Lee. I recently came across a transcript of the interview itself and realized how much useful info my article —written originally for the San Francisco Chronicle— had omitted. The interview was conducted at Lee’s sprawling house in rural Petaluma in October, 1996. —Fred Gardner

JRL: …The priests of the Celts would find the trees and collect the berries that were growing on the mistletoe because no other tree had berries out. This was life in the center of winter. They would take these berries and mix them with hot mead –an alcohol drink they made from honey. And they would all have a weeklong party where gifts were exchanged and they would celebrate their belief in the coming of the new year. They thought the mistletoe berries were a gift from the Gods, because while it would increase their libido, no one had any babies! It was kind of free sex. And after four or five days of their celebration they would quit, all the women would have their periods, and no babies would occur. It turns out that the mistletoe berry contains a compound which is very similar to progresterone. And when you give progesterone and then quit, it brings on a period. So it acted as a temporary birth control device.

I had written a little paper 25 years ago saying that this was the origin of the tradition. As the centuries rolled on people found that other plants had progesterone like effects and they used them in ther cattle breeding and for women who had hormonal problems, and so a long folklore developed about it. And the mistletoe berry had been highly revered by all the people who stemmed from the Celts –all the people in that area who knew about it. It’s like people discovering that limes were good for scurvy. They didn’t know it was Vitaminc C.

Later, in my practice, when I had women who were hormone deficient and had osteoporosis and couldn’t use estrogen, I thought “Well, I’ll use progesterone which is made from plants” and lo and behold it helped their osteoporosis and that’s what started me on learning about progesterone.

[Lee makes the distinction between natural progesterone and all the synthetics on the market.] Synthetic means that it’s not found in nature, there’s no plant, no tree, no amnimal that makes it. It’s a plastic compound, whereas real progesterone is a natural compound that’s found in nature and can be synthesized in the body from fats. Our bodies synthesize it from cholesterol and the scientists can synthesize it from the fats in plants. It’s been on the market for 60 years and the medical profession has totally ig nored natural progesterone even though all the pharmacceutical companies make it to use as the base for all their synthetic hormones!

FG: Why do they prefer the synthetic versions?

JRL: Because they can patent them! Once you make something that’s not found in nature you can put a patent on them.

What’s the distinction between the natural and synthetic progesterone in molecular terms?

It’s a totally different molecule. In my book I show all these different molecules. Provera is not progesterone.

FG: Are there analogies to synthetic beta carotene? [In a large trial, recently publicized, beta carotene was found not to improve vision.]

JRL: Not quite. The beta carotene they’re selling is identical to the beta carotene in plants. However, in plants there are 600 different carotenes. So when you eat a carrot you get 600 different carotenes. Similarly, in a leaf of spinach there are over 10,000 different chemcial compounds. In any carrot there are over 10,000 compounds.

FG: And those other compounds play some mitigating or complementary role in the body’s response?

JRL: Exactly and the choice of using just one was the original mistake.

FG: Does the analogy hold for Cannabis and Marinol?

JRL: Cannibis, I’m sure, has 10 or 12,000 different compounds in it and if you were to isolate one or make one that is similar to it but not quite, it probably wouldn’t work the same way. Hormones work because of their very specific molecular structure. When you first look at estrogen, testosterone, cortisone and the cortical sterones, they all look identical. They only differ by one or two atoms. Just one atom different will convert a testosterone into an estrogen. The specific conformation of the molecule is all-important.

The synthetic progesterones not only do not have the full range of benefit that real progesterone has, but they all have terrible side effects. For instance, if you look up Provera in the PDR [Physician’s Desk Reference] they’ll have a big warning about contraindications. Including, “If you give this to a woman who might be pregnant it can kill the baby or cause the baby to be deformed.  Well, progesterone is named progesterone because it is the hormone that is necessary for the baby to survive and for all its tissues to develop properly. Pro-gestation! All the synthetics have these warnings that you can kill a baby or deform a baby –proof that they’re not progesterone! My point is, why does conventional medicine and the pharmaceutical companies –even though they’re the ones who make the progesterone from the fats in plants– why don’t they us it? Absorbed through the skin 70 times more effectively than when taken by mouth.

FG: Why aren’t they using it?

JRL: Because the profit can be made only on patented items. The ovary’s a pretty smart gland, it never put its hormone into anybody’s stomach (because once it gets to the stomach it’s absorbed like all fats into the liver and metabolized into the bile for excretion. So you lose 95% of it passing through the stomach and the 5 percent that does get through has been altered in passage and is not the same thing. The oral doses don’t work; the whole thing should be done through small doses in a cream. It’s so simple, so natural, and so successful and so inexpensive. The med profession doesn’t like it because they lose control. People can buy these creams over the counter. A woman can have menopausal symptoms or osteoporosis or PMS, fibrocystic breast disease and go get this cream and correct her hormone balance and she’s fine! She doesn’t have to have breasts amputated! She doesn’t have to see the doctor! Her body will tell her when’s using the right amount.

The ovaries usually make about 20 milligrams a day and a person’s going to use 15 or 20 milligrams a day for 25 days out of the month, you’re only talking about 400 milligrams for the month, and this is what’s in these creams.

I was editor of the Marin Medical Society Bulletinin the late late 60s, early 70s. And I was always leafing through medical journals looking for ideas for editorials. In one journal I came across a story that said mistletoe has a lot of progesterone in it. And at the same time, by serendipity, I read a story in the Harvard Alumni Journal(Lee graduated in 1951) about the mystery of the Celts midwinter celebration. Nobody could figure out how they why they incorporated the mistletoe berry, and so it all kind of fell together in my mind and I said, “Hell, these people had sex as part of their celebration. And it was free sex because no one became pregenant. When you’re kissed under the mistletoe that’s just a symbol for the full sex act and any woman standing there is fair game for any man walks in the door. You see how the shadow of that lingers today? Each Christmas for the time I wrote the editorials I was showing that things we associate with Christmas were actually pagan in origin. The burning of the Yule log represents the sacrifice of a virgin… The further north you got the worse the winters were and the more horrendous was the symbol to appease the gods so that summer would come back. The evergreen was chosen obviously because it’s the one thing that stays green through the winter.

It was described by Pliny the Elder when he accompanied the Roman troops when they conqured Gaul. Two-hundred  years later,when Rome became Christianized, they demolished all the Celtic religious sites and built their churches on them to obliterate the Celts. They drove ’em into the western isles now called Ireland, where they persisted with their beliefs. So it was obliterated twice, once by the Roman armies for pure control over the people, and secondly by the Christianization that tried to wipe out the remnants of the Celtic religion.

Halloween also came as a response to the fear of the winter. The pumpkin is the last thing you could still eat late in the fall. And the pumpkin is one of the few plants that have all the essential fatty acids! Isn’t that amazing –omega 2 and omega 6 and all that… And they would teach the children that you can’t be afraid to get your face cold to get an apple. In the winter when things weren’t growing there was nothing to eat. Halloween was a bunch of activities that perepared the people to tough out the winter. Medical Hypothesis picked it up. Some of the religious orders wrote nice articles to show that people should understand the difference between true fiath and the symbols of faith. “The map is not the terrain.”Everybody acknowledged that it came from the Celts but nobody knew why. I figured the celts are people like everybody else. They measured the shadow of a tree at noon and found it was getting longer and longer and longer until one day on the 22nd of December it seemed to stop and in the next few days they could detect that it had stopped “sol-stice” and then they saw it was getting shorter, the sun was beginning to rise and they said “Let’s have a celebration! The sun’s going to back and the world is going to go on!”So they had a weeklong celebration and then they declared a new year.

FG: Is our mistletoe the same as the Celts’?

JRL: The American mistletoe has more beladonna, it doesn’t have the progesterone. It’s a different phylum. The berry probably has toxic things in it. By luck their extraction in alcohol seems to have…

Break in transcript

…Mexican wild yam full of a fat that scientists can turn into progesterone. Soy has a ton of it. It also has phytoestrogens. Now they’re finding these are much better for women than tamoxifen which is a synthetic estrogen that they give to women to try to stop the breast cancer from spreading. There are now 5 or 6 papers showing that the phytoestrogen in soy genistin is better than tamoxifen and safer.

Very likely that the synthetic from Taxol will be worse. In the case of progesterone the body converts it in the mitochondria. It set my brain into thinking that real progesterone exists and it might be a very good thing for women to have if they’re deficient in it.

It’s been available since 1936, which is when they found out how to convert these fats. Before that get pigs pregnant and squeeze their ovaries. French tried to get it from placenta which had to be freeze-drief. Then in ‘36 scientists found how to extract. Cost down to $7. They found that an one acre of world yams they could produce the entire world’s supply of natural progesterone. Farms in Mexico and China anmd elsewhere growing yams. It was a great accomplishment

The pharm companies found it’s the perfect base to make all their other hormones. They make cortisone from it, they make estrogen from it, they make testosterone, they even make digitalis from it. But they won’t sell the real progesterone as a medicine because they can’t put a patent on it. And they convinced the doctors that the synthetics were just as good.

FG: How do you describe your political point of view?

JRL: A mugwump. I don’t see much difference between the major parties. I guess I’m a little bit more of a libertarian. I think that anything that stifles individual creativity is an evil thing. I think of our society as an irish mulligan soup and I’m hoping that the good things will rise to the top.

We went out for a walk. He was telling me about his son Bruce.

He wanted to put on plays. He thought actors were a lot of fun. He had gone skiing early in the morning and left early in the evening. He missed his girlfriend who asked him to pick her up and take her home from this party. He was kind of tired so his buddy was driving. So they drove home and picked her up and they let her sit in the middle and put on the seat belt –her and the driver. They were just coming back and some kid, a year older, who had already lost his license two times and been on probation for driving while drinking had got his ilicense back that day and had used his truck to carry the booze to a party and started drinking early in the afternoon. Now this was about 11 o’clock at night. He’d gotten into a fight with somebody at the party and drove away in a terrible huff and was going about 70-75 miles an hour down a country road, right across highway 116. Right at the moment when they were going by. A tenth of a second either way…

FG: My mom was killed in a car crash. It’s so crazy, We’re in cars so much. People living in one city and working in another. All that fuel and all that wasted life. The whole arrangement is far gone.

JL So I practiced for one more year and that made 34 years. My dad had practiced for only 17 years when he had his first heart attack. He died when I was 15. I figured, “I’m ahead of the game.” And I had two or three books in mind. I had been teaching this course at the College of Marin –a course called Optimal Health Guidelines– The course runs for 16 weeks so I wrote a book with 16 chapters, one chapter for each subject covered. So that way I wouldn’t have to repeat what I wanted to say every year, I could bring in new stuff from the literature and try to make everything topical and applicable. So then I sat down and I wrote this book on natural progesterone, thinking all I had to do was explain the biochemstiry to my colleagues and they would see the wisdom in this. I wrote it in about 2 months, it all had been boiling up in my head and it just poured out. It was only 101 pages. We printed up 5,000 of them –a local printer, Ajalon Press– in November ’93.

It built up a reputation among women. Virginia Hopkins, who is a science writer herself, sent a copy to Warners suggesting an edition more in lay terms. They wanted me to try to write the book without the biochemistry. I said I don’t think I could do this. I will expand on the first book and try to tell how it ought to be used by people with various conditions. She remilled it into “public domain.”

FG: I thought it read very well.

JRL: Yeah. She’s a whiz at that. And it’s selling. We’re closing in on 100,000 books —although the publisher hasn’t advertised or even refilled the bookstores’ orders efficienty.

FG: It was unavailable in November at Crown Books on Sloat, Modern Times (the lefty bookstore on Valencia), and 9th Avenue Books.

JRL: People call everyday to say they can’t get it at their bookstore.  Isn’t that wild? With no advertising! Just an underground women’s communication network.  Now I’m getting calls from South Africa and England and Austrialia…

FG: You say you have other books in mind?

JRL:  There’s one I want to write on the limbic brain. In fact, when we first moved here 20 years ago I took off a year from work and rebuilt the house, put in all these shelves with wood I found out in the barn, put in the electricity, and in between I wrote a book which I called The Minding Brain. The word “mind” is very imprecise; there is no physical place, it’s a process. So I used the gerund to be gramatically precise and called it “The Minding Brain.” I wrote it with a psychiatrist friend of mine who’s been interested in this for a long time. Unfortunately, it turned out to be over 700 pages, and the publishers we took it to said, “Gosh, this is super, but we’ll have to charge $50 for the book because it’s over 700 pages and we think for the market we ought to have a smaller book or break it into parts or condense it or do something.” So I tried rewriting to condense it and every time I tackled a chapter it got bigger. So then I met a fellow who was a science writer and he said he could do it. He took a chapter and reduced it from 32 to 16 pages and it read fine; but he got so interested in the subject of the book that he developed a psychological block. He thought that the concept of the limbic brain explaining why you like certain colors —and certain spaces and certain sounds and certain relationships— violated the concept of free will. He thought he had made all these decisions in life.

FG: And why do we all like certain sounds?

JRL: They’re all built into the software programs that we already have. It cuts across cutural lines. In music the same chord forms, and the same steps and the same vibrations per second will be pleasing whether you’re a Lithuanian, an Eskimo or an African. So we began a philosophical debate and he began rewriting the book and finally I said, “This isn’t going to work.” So that book has been sitting all these years.

The other book is my college book. It was written in a sparse, outline form nd all I have to do is expand each chapter. My classes were two hours long, The plan was, I would talk for an hour and then we’d dialog, but it never worked out that way, they’d start dialoging early and I’d never finish with what I had to say in two hours. It still meets Thursday afternoons 2-4. Eight weeks in fall and eight weeks beginning in February. I’m constantly reminded that a lot of people could benefit from this book.

I have a 55-year-old cousin back in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area who’s being treated for diverticulitis —an abcess, actually— who was put on a diet primarily of milk. A 55 year old man doesn’t have the enzyymes to digest the lactose in milk, so the lactose all goes down and serves as culture for all the germs in the diverticuli. It’s the worst possible diet. And then they’d load him up with antibiotics and suppress the abcess to the point where he would be feeling better and his temperature would go down.  Then they would quit and of course it would flare up again because the germs were still there. When germs are closed in an abcess, the only ones that can get to the antibiotic are those that accidentally touch the lining; the ones in the middle are perfectly safe and then they flare up again. This was going on with my cousin. Finally I sent him a copy of the book and he understood why it was necessary to do a little surgery and drain the abcess. He couldn’t believe that the doctors at the University of Minnesota clinic didn’t understand the situation.

Virginia and I worked on the progesterone book for about six months. It came out in May. The support from Warners has been disapppointing. In April I was invited to England to give some talks, but Warners didn’t bother to put it in the English bookstores. Apparently we did it too cheap –they haven’t invested enough money in it.

FG: Do you have enemies?

Apparently there are some ob/gyns who feel threatened somehow. But most of the letters and phonecalls I get from ob/gyns say “Reading that book was the most amazing experience. It was like lightbulbs going off in my head. When I was in medical school and residency I never really understood how all these hormones interplayed and their effects in the body; and when I read the book it all fell into place.” One fellow called up from Kansas —10 o’clock in Sebastopol, midnight in Kansas— who said “Is this the Doctor Lee who wrote the book my patients made me read?”

FG: That was my reaction: to ask the medical students I work with to read it.

I said if it’s about natural progesterone, this is the man. He said, “Well I’m pissed off. I’ve been an ob/gyn for 25 years and when I read you book I just realized how stupid I’ve been for 25 years.”

FG: In the book you refer to your own conventional medical education and approach when you started practice. Was there a turning point when your perspective changed, or a slow rethinking of things?

I was the most conventional doctor… My dad was a doctor. He had his first heart attack when I was 11 and died when I was 15. He was the only doctor in this little town and he was so darn busy all the time we hardly ever saw him. I have very slim memories.

FG: What was the little town?

JRL: Watertown, Minnesota. Thirty miles west of the Twin Cities. (Nobody ever said Minneapolis-St. Paul.) In high school the math courses were the ones that I had the most fun with. Maybe because I had good teachers, or some natural inclination. I went to Harvard on a scholarship that required I stay on the dean’s list, so I majored in math, which was my best subject and also I didn’t have to do a thesis in my senior year, which gave me the freedom to take all kinds of other classes. I took classes in architecture and the social sciences and American theater. I figured I’m never going to be here again, I’m going to get as broad an education as I can.

FG: How’d you decide on medical school?

JRL: In my third year of studying math I realized there were such things as math geniuses. People who were reallygood. And I hate accounting, hate arithmetic, never balanced a checkbook in my life, don’t enjoy that at all. I figured the only thing I could be was a math teacher in high school, and I didn’t want to foreclose myself. I had taken genetics and I had taken organic chemistry, which I really loved. Everybody said what a bear it was, but it was fun, there was nothing to it. I loved all the uncertaintly, all the unknowns. In regular chemistry they have Mendeleev’s table and everything is pre-programmed. You know what any atom is going to do just on the basis of where it is in Mendeleev’s table. But in organic chemistry nobody knows why methanol poisons your kidney and ethanol makes you high. The biochemistry of paraffin in candles is unbelievably complex. There’s 20,000 organic compounds in a leaf of spinach! This is mysteryland! This is fun! So I decided that I’d give medical school a crack and if it didn’t work out I could always be a math teacher. But medical school was kind of fun and I wound up taking extra courses and graduating with honors. I didn’t go into with the idea of saving the world. I decided as long as it’s fun, I’ll practice. Medicine was fun because people bring you puzzles every day. And then they pay you! Amazing! And they appreciate it. So I thought the practice of medicine was fun.

Gradually they made it less and less fun. Third-party payments came in and people started telling you what you ought to do. I used to be the delegate from Marin County to the CMA convention –I was a true believer. I was on the Board of Directors for two terms. I was editor of the Marin Medical Society Bulletin for three and a half years, I was head of the committee that did the “KO Polio” promotion, donating our time to give drops to kids. I was high enough in organized medicine to see that the people at the top were mostly a disappointment. They had lost the whole idea of practice, and maybe they never had it.

FG: How did your viewpoint change?

JRL: What happened was, I was on some CMA committee that argued the point— There had been a liability crisis. The malpractice insurance crisis of the early ’70s. Everybody’s premiums went up. I could no longer afford to deliver babies. I never made money in my practice, I never charged enough and I took way too long with my patients. I kept trying to explain to them things they ought to change in their life. Kids would come in with a sore throat and I’m talking about getting off milk and eating more veggies… At any rate, in this committee we debated whether the California Medical Association ought to handle its own malpractice insurance. We decided there was no more reason to do that than for the CMA to go out and build their own cars. The real problem goes deeper than who owns the insurance companies –hell, you can buy stock in insurance companies. We vetoed that idea and passed a resolution at the delegates meeting not to spend any CMA money on developing a liability insurance system or supporting doctors who wanted to do so, and that if they wanted to experiment in this area they would have to come back to the delegates and get their permission. The next year they went ahead and did it anyway! They not only took the money we had sent in on our dues, but they charged everybody three hundred dollars [for their scheme]. There were over 25,000 doctors in the CMA. In other words, they took around seven million bucks and spent it on research into establishing their own insurance company, and supporting doctors who were striking in Los Angeles –striking against their patients, which struck us as the stupidest thing in the world, because your only advocates on a state basis are your patients. So we went back to the CMA and said “Wait a minute, we voted on this last year and you have violated our resolution.” So they just disbanded our committee! So I decided not to pay the three hundred dollars. And they said, “We’ll throw you out of the CMA.” And I said, “Well, I think you’ve lost your way and I don’t know if I want to go down this road with you anymore.” The Marin Medical Society stuck with me and suggested that I run for president of the CMA but I said, “No, I don’t want to get in this battle, I don’t have the tools for this, it’s not my constitution.” The CMA offered to waive the $300 if I would say I lacked money but I said, “It’s not because I lack money, it’s because you violated the resolution that we passed. And you’re a bunch of liars and cheats.” And I practiced for 12 more years after dropping out of the CMA. The funny thing was, they still sent me the CMA journal even after I stopped paying dues.

FG: The advertisers want it in your hands even if you’re a drop-out.

JRL: Before I dropped out of the CMA I signed up for a week-end course called “Preventive Medicine” which gave me hope that they were coming around. So I went to this $150 course and what it was was a way to advertise yourself so that you were promoting annual exams at which you could do electrocardiograms, proctoscopy, blood tests, urinanalysis, chest x-ray, and you could raise your monthly income by $20,000 getting patients to come in and it’s absolutely risk-free because they’re not sick. Do this big work-up every year and call it preventive medicine and if you find something you’re a hero and if you don’t find something you’re a hero because then the patients feel wonderful because they had this $500 exam.

FG: It was about marketing their tests.

JRL: It was just a scam. There was nothing about what diseases are affected by factors in the environment or how diabetes can be prevented. It was a CMA program. And I thought, “These guys have lost their way. My dad of a heart attack at 49. His brother died at 47 and another brother at 46. My only male cousin had his first heart attack at 38. So I have a family history of some very strong heart problems. I quit drinking milk when I was in medical school and discovered how milk was as a food for grown-ups. There’s no animal with breasts whose children ever come back as grown-ups and drink mothers milk. So I’ve been interested in the prevention of heart attacks for a long time. And I modified my diet, and here I am now 67. So maybe I’ve been doing something right. All my male relatives in Minnesota who continued on dairy state food –roast beef and potatoes and gravy and milk– have all had early heart attacks. So I was feeling there’s a real place for preventive medicine. If we could change people’s habits, teach them about stress, teach them about diet. It was about that time that I was asked by the College of Marin to teach a course in that, because they knew that’s what I was doing with my patients –teaching one student at a time. So teaching 30 at a time sounded interesting, and I naively made up an outine just for eight weeks, but it quickly became 16 weeks…. By the eighth week there were 300 people and we had to move to the auditorium. But I felt uncomfortable trying to teach 300 people so they let me choose the room and I chose a room that seats 75 people. That’s about the maximum number I can be in touch with. The first few years I was scared stiff that I’d make a mistake and say something wrong. Now, as each year that goes by, people come and remind me: what you said about such-and-such in 1985 is all over the newspapers now.

So I was getting less and less enamored of organized medicine. I figured I was spending 140 hrs a week on call or practicing medicine. After 40 or 45 you don’t have the stamina to be up all night and then be at the office all day. When I tried cutting down I couldn’t make enough money, because the overhead was still the same and I didn’t charge very much. Then Bruce got killed, I practiced for another year and then decided, 34 years of practice ain’t bad. I think I’m healthy. I’m going to drop out and try writing some books and see what happens. I’d never had any money. My dad’s whole estate was a thousand dollars. I got through Harvard on a scholarship and working jobs, and I got through Minnesota Medical School as an extern –that’s what they called guy who moves the patients around.

They probably pay people to do it now but in those days they paid us $50 a month to do it. Actually you started out mopping floors at NAME Hall, which is the big freshman dorm, and then moving up to that and then finally at Shriners Hospital another medical student and I did all the labwork for all the kids that woud come in for orthopedic surgery. So I never felt poor but then having bought a house in Mill Valley and built my own office and paid the mortgage on it for 20 years, I suddenly was sitting on property that was very valuable. So I sold it off and came up here.

FG: And commuted?

JRL: For 12 years. I was on call every fifth night and every fifth weekend, and those nights I would just stay at the office. Which parents thought was wonderful because if their kid was real sick and had a high fever at one o’clock in the morning, I could say “I’ll meet you at the office.” And I’d be there with the office warmed up and I’d put a heating pad on the pediatric examining table so the kid would be comfortable. And they’d say “Imagine, we didn’t have to go to the emergecy room…” Dr. Friedman, Dr. Pozner –it was a perfect situation.

But from 1989 on I’ve been writing. And now with this book I’m getting invitied to give talks all over the place and I get 50-60 calls a day and I’m about 300 letters behind. Pat thought it was going to be like retirement but I’m hardly available… I’m not claiming that progesterone is the answer to everything. What I’m claiming is that conventional medicine dropped the ball 40 years ago and this is a major factor which has been neglected. And there are lots of other factors. People who are under stress make more cortisol and it turns out that cortisol tends to inhibit progesterone’s ability to get into the progesterone receptors.

FG: What about progesterone and men?

JRL: Men make progesterone in their testes and adrenal cortex because it’s the precursor to their own hormones. But also I’ve been reading in the biochemistry texts, when people hit 65 or 70, progesterone falls. We don’t know if it’s a new phenomenon or something that’s always happened. But it now happens that progesterone levels in men are lower than women –although they’re still considerable. When a woman goes through menopause or her ovaries aren’t ovulating, her progesterone level falls to one-fourth that of a man. So you can say that a woman’s dose has to be brought up to a man’s level, because she still needs it as a precursor to her other hormones. At any rate, in men, progesterone falls and estradiol rises. We make some estradiol. In fact, if we didn’t make some estradiol when we go through puberty, our bones would not stop growing. There was a case described in the New England Journal two years ago of a guy who’s now 7 foot 8 and his bones are breaking and nobody knows how to stop it because he was born with a genetic defect in that he has no estrogen receptors. So he makes a tiny amount of estrogen and it’s killing him. Men, at 70, the estradiol goes up. If you watch the senior golf tournament you can see their breasts developing slightly as a result of the estradiol. The third thing that happens is the testosternone is no longer made as testosterone, a lot of it converts into dihydrotestosterone, DHT. So three things are going on. DHT, more estradiol, less progesterone. And this is when people get their prostate diseases and testicular cancer. Conventional medicine is making another big mistake: they’re targeting testosterone. Testosterone is highest when you’re 18 years old. So if testosterone was the cause of these problems you’d get the disease long before you’re 75. It hits people at the time when they’re testosterone is falling and being converted into DHT. It may be that the treatment is to give progesterone and testosterone. Wouldnt’ that be something?

The year before I retired one of my patients was found to have prostate cancer. He’s always been a believer in alternative medicine. He’s a retired math teacher. He went to have a physical and they did one of these prostate scans and found irregular nodules in his prostate and the biopsy showed that these were caner cells. So he said that he didn’t want to be castrated, doesn’t want to have his prostate removed, and wondered what I thought about it. So I researched all the medical journals and found that at that age the doubling time for prostate cancer is five years. Isn’t that amazing? The doubling time for breast cancer is three months. So I said, “You’ve got lots of time.” The second thing is your estrogen levels are higher than they ought to be. We probably can’t stop that but you can cut out eating food that has a lot of animal estrogens –milk and red meat. In fact cattle are given extra estrogen to get the market weights. So he went to a WHAT TYPE diet and we added some of the usual anti-oxidants and some progesterone. And within six months or so his PSA had dropped back down to normal and a year went by and he had a repeat scan and his urologist couldn’t see any cancerous nodules in his prostate. Still told him he ought to have surgery and that he’s going to die. But now he’s in his ninth year and doing fine. So whenever people call me up with the same problem, I give them the same advice and so far they’re all doing fine. This is a marvelous field for research. Now I read there are animal studies done, They’ve learned how to transplant prostate cancer from human to a mouse. You can get a strain of mice and embed prostate cancer cells in the skin and it’ll develop. So, the test was, they got the prostate cancer and then they gave the mouse a big dose of testosterone and guss what: the cancer died. Then they put some mice and pre-treated them with testosterone and tried to implant the prostate cancer cells and couldn’t. Here you have all these doctors taking testosterone away from people. Something’s wrong!

A big study was completed in Europe. They followed thousands of men over ten years. Some men were treated with watchful waiting, some with castration, some with chemical castration and others with prostate removal. The net result after 10 years was there were no more deaths from prostate cancer in any one group. Because at 70 or 75 there’s a chance you’re going to die by stroke or heart attack or something else. But I can’t find any real research where anybody’s actually used progesterone. But I’ve known six people who’ve gone on it and their prostate specific antigen goes back to normal! Their urologists can’t find the abnormality.

I sit in a part of the web where I hear from all sorts of people all over –from professionals to lay people who’ve read the book. A fellow from Iowa called, a patient of the Mayo Clinic, prostate cancer. He has metastases in the bone. His wife is using the cream to treat her osteoporosis and her bones are responding. His bones are falling apart from holes resulting from his prostate cancer. He was told he either had to have castration, or chemical castration, or have a prostectomy. He said, those are three pretty tough options, I need time to think about it. So he goes home and he starts rubbing in the progesterone cream. And his pain in his ribs starts going away and he decides not to do anything. Finally the Mayo Clinic sends him a letter: you promised to come back. He finally went back and let them x-ray him and they couldn’t see anything. They said, “Well what are you doing?” and he told them and they said, “That can’t do any good, that’s a female hormone.” He said no, males make it, too. He tried to explain. They kept saying “It’s a sex hormone.” The crazy thing is, progesterone has no secondary sex characteristics at all.

FG: How did we get to this state of miseducation?

JRL: I think it goes back quite a ways. There’s a letter in a recent Lancet which points out that Thomas Mann was writing about the change in medicine at the turn of the century when they were getting so enamored of their ability to cut something out, to do surgery, to do mechanistic interventions rather than to learn the undelrying nuances of how the body works. I’ve always thought that Fleming’s disocvery of penicillin was probably the worst thing that could have happened to the practice of medicine because it confirmed Ehrlich’s idea of a magic bullet. That people could do anything they wanted –get gonorhea, syphilis, pneumonia– and then we had a magic bullet to kill the bad guy. And it turns out that with tb for instance there were British doctors in India at the t8urn of the century who found that in the higher reaches of the Punjab there were no cases of tb. The people were eating just the veggies that grew out of the ground, they didn’t have sweets they didn’t have processed foods, they led a hard life but there were a lot of people 100 years old and nobody had tb. Yet when those people came to England and lived with relatives in England they caught tb like everybody else. There were doctors who then transfered the diet of the Punjab people from the shoulders of the Himalayas and started these tb sanitariums using it and the diet was very effective. So it could be that something in our immune systems was affected and made them more susceptible to the tb germs. But the discovery of penicilin by Fleming and then the ocming of the war with the sulfa drugs and the erythromycins and tetracyclins accelerated this idea that you can intervene at any time and kill the disease.

I liken the body to a house. And you’ve got varmints that have gotten into your basement through some holes in the foundation someplace. And skunks and badgers and rats and mice have gotten into your house and are eating away at the supports. If you call a modern doctor, he’ll say, “We’ve got some good poisons we can put in there and kill these guys.” So he does that and now you’ve got dead varmints in your house and the holes are still there. So other ones keep coming in and you keep having this problem. (As if on cue a 20-year old cat, looking pretty sleek, enters and reminds Doctor Lee that it’s dinner time). But the doctor who has held onto the wisdom of the gneerations, the centuries, the millennia of medical practice, he says, “You live in a magical house, a very wonderful house, if we supply you with the right ingredients, it fixes its own holes in the foundation and thos hioles will knit up together and then the varmints can’t get in anymore.” Unfortunately, the present system is actually an aberration in the history of medicine. No doctor would have bleieved this prior to 1850. And even when Pasteur came and said I can show you that some diseases are caused by very specific bacteria, the doctors…

PHONE CALL… I’ve seen etchings from two hundred years ago that show a mom and a baby and mistletoe –they knew about it.