Snake Oil Watch: "Herbs for Cancer"

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission brought complaints against Arizona-based 'Herbs for Cancer', operated by a Mary Spohn and which claimed that their products were effective in treating or curing cancer.

As is always the case, if such a company doesn't agree with the FTC's accusations, they are welcome to challenge the agency in court. Unfortunately for most companies, the requirement that they produce competent and reliable scientific evidence that substantiate the health claims they make is simply too great a burden to overcome.

Maybe you saw the ads from 'Herbs for Cancer'. The company claimed they made 16 Chinese herbal teas which were formulated to fight 16 types of cancer, and a 17th tea that they claimed fought "other cancers not on our list." The ads claimed that the teas were "scientifically proven to work."

On September 23, 2008 the FTC announced that they had filed complaints against Herbs for Cancer claiming they violated the FTC Act by making false and deceptive claims that these formulations effectively treat and cure cancer, and by falsely claiming that some of them are scientifically proven to work.


Herbs for Cancer believed so strongly in their products that … they never responded to the complaint. Consequently, the FTC issued an Order which requires that Spohn:

  • Provide the FTC with a contact list of all consumers who bought any Cancer Tea Formula from Herbs for Cancer on or after January 1, 2005
  • Notify these consumers alerting them to the FTC findings
  • Be unable to sell or otherwise disclose the names, or a variety of other types of identifying information, of any of the consumers on the list.

The FTC Order prohibits Spohn from:

  • Representing that any dietary supplement, food, drug, device, or health-related service or program is effective in treating or curing any type of cancer
  • Making any representation about the benefits, performance, efficacy, safety, or side effects of any dietary supplement, food, drug, device, or health-related service or program
  • Misrepresenting the information in any test or study.

[Index to Docket No.9331]

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