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Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, Sept 19, 2018

President Kennedy's Nutrition Physician, Dr. Max Jacobson
The Real Story of Orthomolecular Medicine in the White House

by David A. Jeand'Heur and Andrew W. Saul

(OMNS Sept 19 2018) In the fall of 1960, shortly before the first debate with Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Senator John F. Kennedy grew so exhausted from campaigning that he was slurring his speech. Life magazine photographer Mark Shaw suggested an appointment with Max Jacobson, MD. At the appointed time, Kennedy slipped away from the Secret Service at the Carlyle Hotel and took a cab to Jacobson's office.

Upon hearing his medical history and what medications he was taking, Dr. Jacobson gave Kennedy his first treatment, an intramuscular injection of vitamin B-complex, A, E, D, B-12, plus 10 mg. of amphetamine to counter the fatigue brought on by his hectic campaign schedule and adrenal condition, as well as an intravenous injection of calcium and vitamin C. Kennedy responded that his muscle weakness had disappeared and he felt calm, cool and very alert.

Had never looked so healthy

After the first debate with Kennedy, Nixon commented that he had never seen Kennedy looking so healthy. The same could not be said for Mr. Nixon. Nixon's mother called to ask if he was feeling all right. On the other hand, JFK responded so well to Jacobson's treatments that he asked the doctor to move to Washington. Max turned him down. The Kennedys wanted Max exclusively to themselves but Max was unwilling to abandon his busy private practice, especially his two hundred multiple sclerosis patients with nowhere else to turn.

Instead, they worked out a deal. Mark Shaw, who piloted his own Cessna, offered to fly Dr. Jacobson to the Kennedys whenever needed. Over the next few years, Shaw would fly Dr. Jacobson to Washington DC, Palm Beach, Hyannis Port, and Glenora (the Kennedy's farm in Virginia). Shaw became part of the Kennedy inner circle, those very few cognizant of the President's serious infirmities who helped keep his need for treatment a secret from the public. For his trips to the Kennedys, Dr. Jacobson had a medical bag disguised as a briefcase.

When Mark Shaw was assigned to photograph the Kennedys for Life magazine, his black and white photographs of Jack and Jackie Kennedy playing with their young children on the windswept lawns and beaches in Hyannis brought a level of intimacy not before seen of a world leader. Shaw dedicated his book, The John F. Kennedys: A Family Album, to his friend, Dr. Max Jacobson. In the copy he personally gave to the doctor, Shaw penned below the inscription: "To Max, who alone understands and time will give perspective."

The doctor's own words

In his memoirs, Max described one aspect of Kennedy's treatment as follows:

"It is well known that JFK was afflicted with a slight case of Addison's disease, a functional disturbance of the adrenal cortex. The President was taking a 0.5 mg. tablet of Prednisolone once per day. The immuno-suppressing effect of cortisone, even with this small dose, lowers one's resistance to infections. As a preventive measure I administered five cc's of gamma globulin intramuscularly every four to six weeks."

Dr. Jacobson's treatments were often quite different from his American counterparts. Whereas an American doctor would write a prescription for a pharmaceutical and advise plenty of liquids and bed rest, Max could often treat the same condition with a localized injection from medicine created in his laboratory that would quickly relieve pain and restore the patient to health. For example, when Dr. Jacobson was called to Palm Beach to treat Jackie Kennedy for a severe migraine, his injection [a combination of a local anesthetic, an anti-migraine drug, an anti-clotting drug, and a drug to increase tissue permeability] at the base of the neck brought her immediate relief, amazing JFK. In other cases, his injections of vitamins raised his patient's nutrient levels quickly to recover more rapidly from illness.

Further back injury; further treatment

A real test of Dr. Jacobson's abilities took place after the Kennedys traveled to Canada on May 16, 1961. The President, who was in constant pain from his back according to Max, injured himself so seriously shoveling during a planting ceremony that he returned on crutches, could not descend the stairs and had to be lowered by forklift from Air Force One.

On May 23, Dr. Jacobson received a call from the White House and Mark Shaw flew Max to Washington. Dr. Jacobson realized he had a gravely ill patient on his hands when he was taken to the President's bedroom and found him lying on the bed, barely able to move.

The White House physician, Dr. Janet Travell, had sprayed Kennedy's back with ethyl chloride which temporarily numbed the skin. Max had tested and "long since abandoned this therapy" since "the relief of pain was neither complete nor lasting. Moreover, it did not restore normal use of the affected area."

Facing the prospect of yet another possibly fatal back surgery, Dr. Jacobson was Kennedy's last hope. Fortunately for Kennedy, Max had acquired a great deal of expertise treating back pain. In fact, as a medical intern in Berlin in the 1920s, Max was assistant to Berlin's leading surgeon, Dr. Auguste Bier, who performed the very first spinal anesthetic in 1898. In addition to being a research chemist in experimental medicine, Max was also a surgeon as well as a general practitioner.

Dr. Jacobson first demonstrated an exercise to strengthen the back, and then treated Kennedy with a combination of an anti-inflammatory, a local anesthetic, and vitamin B-12, injected in an exact spot on either side of the spine.

Max recorded that "Immediately after his treatment was over, he stood up and walked back and forth several times. He exclaimed his amazement and added, 'I feel very much better.' I jokingly replied, 'I'm sorry to hear that.' He laughed and said, 'I would like you to come with me to Europe next week. I hope you can rearrange your schedule.'"

Behind the scenes

In order to keep Dr. Jacobson's name off the manifest, the White House went to the absurd length of chartering a commercial plane on which Max and [his wife] Nina discovered they were the only passengers. After they arrived in Paris, JFK asked Max if they had a good flight. Max replied that the service was bad. Kennedy looked at him quizzically. Max told him when the flight attendants realized they only had two passengers; they ignored them and threw themselves a party in the back of the plane. For the rest of the journey, Max and Nina accompanied the Kennedys through Europe on Air Force One seated next to his quarters across the aisle from Secretary of State Dean Rusk.

Dr. Jacobson's treatment of President Kennedy during the Vienna Summit did not include amphetamines. False allegations were made in the press, even though at least one major paper was notified directly by Dr. Benjamin S. Frank who assisted Dr. Jacobson in the preparation of the medications for President Kennedy. The medications were also submitted to the White House for laboratory analysis.

The United Nations speech, September 20, 1963

President Kennedy once said that Max was the only person he knew who grew more calm during a crisis. With Dr. Jacobson, Kennedy's afflictions were lifted from unalloyed misery into a game, as described in this selection from Max's memoirs:

"[A White House staffer] led me to the President's bedroom. President Kennedy was still in his night clothes, and he greeted me with a whisper that was so hoarse that I could hardly understand him. He challenged me, saying, 'What are you going to do about this?'

"It was absolutely imperative that the President deliver his address before the United Nations in person. His presence was necessary to defeat the Russian proposal. I told the President that I would restore his voice in short order. I said that I'd give him a subcutaneous injection slightly below the larynx. He replied, 'Do what's necessary. I don't give a hoot.' . . . The Secret Service men who had picked me up at the airport had picked the wrong bag. I could get the necessary medication from my office which luckily was only a block away. Time was precious. My nurse quickly brought a package to the Service men at the private elevator to the President's penthouse. I can still see the surprised expression on Kennedy's face when, after the injection, he could again speak with a normal voice.

"Having arrived at the U.N., the President made his way to the rostrum where he was received with a standing ovation by the General Assembly. He delivered his speech without difficulty. [ ] It was received with wild enthusiasm. When the Assembly voted on the Russian proposal; it was defeated. After the session, Kennedy gave a reception. When I congratulated him on his success, he thanked me and added, 'I couldn't have done it without my voice.'"

Max continued to keep Kennedy's back pain under control. He treated JFK for the duration of his Presidency. The last time was two weeks before Dallas. After his death, Bobby phoned to ask Max to destroy Jack's medical file.

Max complied.


Certainly one lesson to take away from Dr. Max Jacobson's crowded waiting room was that Max's practice demonstrated that injected medication - vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, etc. - are powerful medicine. Surely the "R" in RDA really stands for "ridiculously low." Many patients experienced their vitamin levels raised to a healthy balance for the first time. Max's emphasis on exercise and diet put them on the path to wellness in a time of low nutritional awareness - the days of over-the-counter Benzedrine and Dexedrine diet pills, chain smoking and the three-martini business lunch.

In 2018, America has fallen far behind in healthcare while Congress wasted time trying to kill Obamacare, an improvement in medical insurance regulations that, nevertheless, perpetuates an industry which is a curse to doctors and patients alike and should not have existed in the first place. Washington's capitulation to lobbyists has allowed market forces to run wild, corrupting the science and art of medicine which Max held sacred. Freely available, unadulterated medical care should be a human right for all. Until then, the American system can only lay shallow claim to civilization.

Dr. Jacobson took responsibility for Kennedy's perilous health without official protection and refused compensation. To serve the country that became his home (after he was forced to flee Berlin the night before the Nazis were going to arrest him) was all he asked. One can only speculate on how the course of history might have changed for the worse without Dr. Jacobson's care of President Kennedy. Our nation owes a profound debt of gratitude to the memory of this heroic physician.

(David A. Jeand'Heur personally knew Dr. Max Jacobson, who was his family's physician. Following the doctor's death in 1979, David interviewed his widow extensively. This account is grounded in these experiences, plus Dr. Max's unpublished memoirs, letters and manuscripts in the author's care. Andrew W. Saul is Editor-in-Chief of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service. He has known David Jeand'Heur since 1964.)

To learn more about Dr. "Miracle Max" Jacobson, go to Scroll far down to access the online archive of the doctor's vitamin protocols presented in original documents written by Dr. Jacobson himself. This is the first time this material has ever been made public.

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Ian Brighthope, M.D. (Australia)
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Andrew W. Saul, Ph.D. (USA), Editor-In-Chief
Editor, Japanese Edition: Atsuo Yanagisawa, M.D., Ph.D. (Japan)
Robert G. Smith, Ph.D. (USA), Associate Editor
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