By Dr. Amber Merrick, N.D.

You want me to swallow what??

“German Ingenuity”…a stereotype?  It seems to be a real thing! As a nation they are on the cutting edge of technology, economy, business and health care.  Praising efficient and practical ideas, whether they be based on the latest research or a traditional tried and true approach.

One such approach, I learned while shadowing Dr. Hagen Huneke in Mannheim.  Neural Therapy, the injection of procaine into “irritation centers” to treat chronic pain and illness, is his main approach for treatment of his patients.  However, he also uses Procaine in another “novel” way.  I say  “novel” as to me it was a fresh idea, simple in its application, and apparently very efficacious.  However, according to Dr. Huneke, this “novel” use of procaine was discovered in 1935 by researchers at the University of Frankfurt.

Procaine, a local anesthetic, is usually injected intramuscularly, intravenously or as a nerve block for its analgesic properties.  It was first synthesized by a German chemist, Dr. Albert Einhorn in 1905, as a non-addictive alternative to cocaine for anesthetizing patients.  The benefits of taking procaine by mouth, however, were discovered several years later.

In 1911, Zeliony and Sawitsch found that topical anesthetics inhibited the formation of gastrin (hormone that stimulates secretion of stomach acid), which Bayer then introduced for the treatment of peptic ulcers (Rheault, 1965).  Oral procaine was also shown to cause relaxation of the pyloric sphincter (the valve controlling the emptying of stomach contents into the small intestine) while allowing stomach movements to remain intact (Roka, 1950).  This decreased episodes of vomiting, GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease), and intestinal/stomach spasms irrespective of stomach acidity (whether too low or high).

Dr. Huneke uses a procaine drink for a wide variety of digestive concerns, and finds it very useful in almost all of his patients.  He attributes the efficacy of oral procaine for digestive concerns to its ability to decrease gastrointestinal spasm, and its effect as an anti-inflammatory.  Inflammation of the gut can be caused by many things; including infections, medications, stress, food allergies and environmental toxins.  This inflammation can cause GI distress, and unfortunately many other systemic issues, such as skin problems, headache, fatigue, arthritis, mental illness and autoimmune conditions (see photo above).  Research over the past decade has shown that anesthetics such as procaine have extensive anti-inflammatory effects.  Casserto (2006) found that local anesthetics were superior to NSAIDs as anti-inflammatories with fewer side effects.

Oral procaine has also gained some popularity as an anti-aging supplement.  This has been attributed to PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), the metabolite of procaine.  PABA has been taken for skin conditions including vitiligo, Peyronie’s disease, and scleroderma. PABA is also used to treat infertility in women, arthritis, constipation, and headaches.  It is also used to darken gray hair, prevent hair loss, make skin look younger, and prevent sunburn (when applied topically).  I do not believe if much evidence exists for oral procaine for anti-aging, however, a Cochrane review in 2008 of procaine use for cognition and dementia found that oral procaine treatment might improve memory in persons without cognitive impairment, but they concluded that more research is needed.

Procaine is not very well absorbed by the GI tract, which may be why it works so well locally on the mucous membranes and digestive system.  However, by decreasing inflammation of the GI tract, and allowing the gut to heal, many systemic conditions may be alleviated.  For example, Luddeke (1951) used oral procaine with Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in the treatment of pruritis (severe itching of the skin associated with allergies and/or eczema).

Oral procaine has very little side effects, however, one should always consult a health care practitioner before trying such regimen and to ensure there are no drug interactions with medications you are currently taking.  Definitely use caution if you have an allergy to certain local anesthetics, or are diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematous or Myasthenia Gravis.

Dr. Hueneke prescribes his procaine drink based on a protocol from 1935, discovered in Frankfurt, for most digestive concerns.  He instructs his patients to take the procaine drink on an empty stomach for 10 days.  In this time, he finds that most concerns are alleviated for years.  If it does not work, he will always consider h.pylori or some other chronic health issue, or a tumour, as a cause of the GI distress.  Tried and true, a simple method for treating numerous conditions, in the most direct way possible.  Indeed “German ingenuity” truly exists!


By Dr. Amber Merrick, N.D.

Dr. Huneke and Neural Therapy

Well, I’m in Germany…what can I learn from the medical professionals here that I cannot learn in Canada? As it turns out…A LOT!!

Germany has a reputation for “cutting edge” medical research and treatment.  Much of it “functional medicine”, which is how I practice as a Naturopathic Doctor in Canada!  I decided to find some (English speaking) MDs and “naturheilpraktikers” who could expand my knowledge base of functional medicine, and who offered treatments not readily available in North America.  That is how I came to find the practice of Dr. Hagen Huneke in Mannheim, Germany.

Dr. Huneke is the youngest son of Dr. Ferdinand Huneke, the founder of Neural Therapy (developed 1925-1940); and is a long-term board member of the International Society for Neural Therapy after Huneke (IGNH).  He did his doctoral thesis in 1984 on Neural Therapy and has written many papers and articles over the years on Neural Therapy and its effects.  If I was going to learn NT, this was the man I should see!

What is Neural Therapy, you ask? 

NT is a treatment modality using injections with local anesthetics (mostly procaine) for diagnosis and therapy (functional disorders, inflammatory diseases and acute and chronic pain).   It is based on the theory that trauma can produce long-standing disturbances in the electrochemical function of tissues (disturbances in scars, nerves or nerve clusters “ganglions”).  It is the doctor’s goal to find the electrochemically disturbed tissue and administer the procaine injection.  A correctly administered injection can often quickly resolve chronic illness and pain, with lasting effects.  Dr. Huneke uses Neural Therapy for many indications such as chronic back pain, migraines, joint pain, as well as other medical illnesses such as allergies, chronic bowel problems, kidney disease, prostate and female problems, infertility, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), etc.

How does Neural Therapy work?

A German neurophysiologist, Albert Fleckenstein, demonstrated that the cells in scar tissue have a different “membrane potential” (electrical circuitry of the cell) from normal body cells.  Whenever a cell has lost its normal membrane potential, ion pumps in the cell wall stop working which allows abnormal minerals and toxins to accumulate inside the cell. As a result, the cell loses the ability to heal itself and resume normal functioning. Procaine acts on the faulty cell wall to restore the normal membrane potential. By reestablishing the normal electrical condition of cells and nerves, the disturbed functions are also restored to normality, and the patient returns to health as far as this is anatomically still possible. The neat part of Neural Therapy is that the site being treated can be very far away from the tissue in the body that is not functioning properly. For example, an appendix scar can affect the shoulder. This is possible because of the vast network of nerves called the Autonomic Nervous System.  Procaine can also travel through microtubules in the “cellular matrix” to deeper nerves and structures.

“Dr. Huneke, how do you know where to inject?”

The doctor is always on the lookout for “interference fields” or “areas of irritation”.  This is an area that has a disturbed membrane potential (as above).  What causes an “area of irritation”? It can be a whole host of things, such as infection, emotional trauma, physical trauma (surgery, accident, deep cuts, biopsy, child birth, dental procedures, vaccinations, burns, tattoos, etc.). Sometimes these areas of irritation do not disrupt the autonomic nervous system, and the individual requires no intervention.  However, general stress from illness, malnutrition, emotional stress, food sensitivities, pregnancy, etc. can convert an inactive field to a disturbed “interference field”.

To identify the patterns, the doctor takes a detailed history, with particular importance placed on progression of the illness or disease, surgeries, and trauma.  He often starts with injections locally at the site of pain and/or trauma.  If this is unsuccessful he will move to other sites, for example scars, or areas of inflammation in the mouth and gums from infection or dental procedures.  He also uses thermography scans to identify “hot spots” throughout the body that may be active and require procaine.  Even “emotional” stress and trauma will produce pain syndromes and illness.  If a patient complains of “inner contraction”, which I took to mean “anxiety” in English, from stress, he will inject procaine directly in the thyroid gland.  Patients feel extreme relief and he will often not need to see them again for years.

How many treatments are needed?

This is largely dependent on the individual and how quickly the “area of irritation” is elucidated.  Many individuals will feel relief immediately while others may require several injections over a period of several weeks to months.  According to a study published in 2015 in BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 280 chronic pain patients were treated with NT and the average number of consultations per patient was 9.  After one year, in 60 patients pain was unchanged, 52 patients reported a slight improvement, 126 were considerably better, and 41 pain-free.  At the same time, 74.1% of the patients who took pain medication before starting NT needed less or no more medication at all.

Dr. Huneke reports that he rarely see’s any side effects form this form of therapy and that the results he gets are remarkable.  He combines neural therapy with other therapies as needed to treat chronic infections and hormone imbalances that are difficult to treat with NT alone.  One patient I saw had been suffering from Hepatitis C (a viral infection resulting in severe cirrhosis of the liver and potentially liver cancer) for over 20 years.  She began seeing Dr. Huneke right away in the hopes or preventing any long-term damage.  She is now in her 60’s and her doctors are AMAZED at her state of health.  She feels great every day, and has no symptoms of chronic liver damage from the infection.  The doctor’s patients adore him, and the relief and hope he brings to their lives.  It was a privilege to work with Dr. Huneke and his associates, and to bring Neural Therapy to Canada.

You want me to swallow what??
Dr. Huneke and Neural Therapy