By Jackie Christensen, BS, HHP, NC, MH
Faculty Member of GCNM
Chelation (pronounced key-LAY-shun) is a term derived from the Greek chele, meaning "claw." A chelation agent is a chemical agent that, like a claw, grabs and chemically bonds with metals or other minerals and toxins. Simply put, chelation is the process in which chemicals bind with minerals. While chelation is a naturally occurring biological process (hemoglobin binds with iron to provide oxygen to tissues). Synthesized chelation agents were first developed during World War II as a way to clear toxic metals from the body. Now chelation therapy is employed by a growing number of health care practitioners to improve circulation and help reverse the process of atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular issues. The reversal is accomplished by the removal of the calcium content of plaque from the artery walls through the chelating agents. Based upon this thinking, chelation therapy has been proposed as a method for preventing and treating atherosclerosis. The procedure can reduce arterial plaque and lesions, increase the elasticity of the blood vessels, improve circulation, and decrease free-radical damage within the cardiovascular system (Hawken).
Intravenous chelation therapy administers a man-made amino acid called EDTA into the veins. EDTA is an abbreviation for ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid. It’s marketed under several names, including Edetate, Disodium, Endrate, and Sodium Versenate. EDTA is often used in cases of heavy metal poisoning (lead or mercury). Besides binding heavy metals, EDTA also "chelates" (naturally seeks out and binds) calcium, one of the components of atherosclerotic plaque, latches onto or binds to these metals, creating a compound that is then excreted in the urine. In the early 1960s, this led to speculation that EDTA could remove calcium deposits from buildups in arteries. The idea was that once the calcium was removed by regular treatments of EDTA, the remaining elements in the plaque would break up and the plaque would clear away. The narrowed arteries would then be restored to their former state. Multiple studies have now proven that EDTA is a successful therapy for removing calcium from the blood and arterial plaque. Research has also shown that EDTA can effectively fight free radicals (Hawken).
Chelation therapy can be intravenous or oral. Oral Chelation is similar to intravenous chelation therapy in terms of action, but differs in application and potency. Intravenous chelation is injected directly into the bloodstream, targeting the cardiovascular system. Oral Chelation therapy the chelating product is taken orally, digested and assimilated to all the tissues and organs within the body. Oral Chelation provides a systemic detoxification which can be slower than intravenous chelation therapy.Sources: Hawken, C.M. Chelation Therapy for Cardiovascular Health. Pleasant Grove: Woodland Pub, 2007. Print.
Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: the Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts, 2003. Print.
Haugen, David M. Alternative Medicine. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2008. Print.