The late Ana Aslan’s client list read like a Who’s Who of 1960s Hollywood: Dyan Cannon, George Hamilton, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Marlene Dietrich, Lillian Gish, Kirk Douglas, Bob Hope and more. Each set out on an annual pilgrimage to Otopeni, near Bucharest, Romania, to see this remarkable doctor and scientist in the 1960s and 70s.

So did Winston Churchill, and John F. Kennedy; two of many heads of state who felt compelled to make the trip.

The reason? To be treated with a “fountain of youth” remedy called Gerovital H3, a controversial treatment that wasn’t available in the United States. Here’s the story and why it’s still making news today…

Ana Aslan was born on New Year’s Day in 1897 and in 1924 became Romania’s first female physician. She initially specialized in cardiology and diseases of the arteries. As part of her treatment, she used the local anesthetic procaine, which came into clinical use after 1905 as Novocain. However, she used it not for its numbing qualities but for its ability to heal.

By doing so she was emulating the eminent French surgeon, René Leriche. He praised the healing qualities of procaine, describing it as the “surgeons’ bloodless knife.”

Procaine: An anti-aging tonic

Seeing good results, Dr. Aslan experimented with its use in the elderly with osteoarthritis. Since procaine isn’t active in the body for long, it had to be used repeatedly at a low dose over a long period. Using it this way Dr. Aslan not only noticed mild improvement in this painful condition but also clear improvement in the general physical and mental health of the patients. They felt more alive and energetic, slept better, and had a renewed interest in life.

Dr. Aslan wasn’t the only doctor to notice the beneficial effects not related to anesthesia. This was reported not only by her colleagues in Romania but also by doctors in France, Germany, and Russia. Oregon surgeon William Livingston also treated his patients with multiple procaine injections. The doctors’ reports included healthier skin, hair regrowth and recolor, and improvements in arthritic pain.

The first integrative medical anti-aging institute

Dr. Aslan’s own findings led her to focus her efforts on improving the quality of life of the elderly. After three years studying the effect of procaine on the regulation of the autonomic nervous system, she founded the world’s first Institute of Gerontology and Geriatrics in 1952. Understanding that health is more than biology, the Institute included sociologists, psychologists, pharmacologists, and specialists in other disciplines.

Since procaine is very short acting, she worked with a chemist to stabilize it by combining it with other substances so it would work for much longer – more than six hours – in the body without causing anesthesia. This was achieved in 1957 when procaine became Gerovital H3.

Gerovital H3 was born

Reports coming out of the Institute’s clinics with the new formula were remarkable. They showed that virtually all adverse phenomena associated with aging were being diminished.

Dr. Aslan described Gerovital H3 as “an energy-giving drug, which increases the strength of the mind, improves the memory, eliminates depression and anxiety, and increases the ability to function physically. The drug works at the cellular level, influencing the level of the cellular membrane, and at the inter-cellular level restores those cells which usually regenerate only very slowly, and sometimes not at all, in aging people.

“I have obtained outstanding results in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, of paradentosis (periodontal disease), and of various skin diseases — eczema, alopecia, and psoriasis.

“We have also established the beneficial effect of Gerovital treatments on disturbances in the endocrine glands and the nervous system. Although Gerovital contains no hormones, it has a definite rejuvenating effect on the patient’s physical appearance.”

She also reported “excellent results” for asthma, gastric and duodenal ulcers, one-sided paralysis, and heart weaknesses after heart attacks.

In 1956 she gave a lecture in Germany before 500 physicians from 13 countries. They listened in shocked silence at her extraordinary claims but were won over after seeing films of patients before and after the treatment.

Perhaps the most remarkable was the case of a 90-year-old former mathematician. He was confined to bed, unable to read, deaf, and in a vegetable-like state. Less than 12 months later he was reading newspapers and commenting on world affairs. Later still he was leaping up the steps of the Geriatrics Institute.

How can Gerovital H3 achieve this?

Procaine and Gerovital H3 fight aging three ways

Dr. Aslan reported three main benefits of Gerovital H3. These include that this anti-aging remedy:

  1. Restores balance: A two-year study of 15,000 patients showed it lowered high blood pressure and raised low blood pressure. It achieved the same with high and low heart rates. Extensive research also demonstrated its ability to restore balance to the endocrine system, normalizing hormone levels, and to restore functional balance to the central nervous system.
  2. Improves circulation: Acts as a mild vasodilator, increases blood flow and the supply of oxygen, and facilitates the excretion of toxins.
  3. Inhibits MAO: Monoamine oxidases are a family of enzymes that play crucial roles in the central nervous system and are also expressed in a variety of peripheral organs. Some of these enzymes are frequently upregulated in aging and age-related diseases. In recent years MAO inhibitors have been proposed as an anti-aging remedy. Gerovital H3 inhibits excess MAO, bringing the enzymes down towards normal levels.

So, all of this begs the question… why have you not heard of Gerovital H3?

Banned by the FDA

As heralded as it was among the elite, the U.S. government had a different opinion. They decided Gerovital H3 was nothing more than snake oil and that it wouldn’t be allowed in the United States.

In 1977, The National Institute on Aging (NIA) studied the remedy and decided that it had no proven worth. Following their report, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carried out their own evaluation of studies and claims of its anti-aging abilities. The FDA came to the same conclusion as the NIA.

Since, in their view, Gerovital H3 didn’t work as advertised, it was banned from sale in the U.S. in 1982.

Thirty years later, in 2012, anti-aging and longevity clinics began promoting Gerovital H3 across the U.S. in pill form and as intravenous infusions. This led Dr. Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian and Supercentenarian Studies at Boston Medical Center, to warn the public in 2013 that “there is no scientific evidence supporting any systemic health benefits or ‘anti-aging’ effects of the drug.”

As the FDA, NIA, and an esteemed longevity expert all tell the same story, it would seem we should heed their warning and steer well clear. Then again, a recent scientific review from a team in Germany came to a somewhat different conclusion.

A potential geroprotector

In a thorough review of both procaine and GH3, published in 2021, researchers from the University of Konstanz, Germany, concluded by writing that “procaine displays a variety of biological and pharmacological effects, functioning as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, neuroprotective, radioprotective, [cell] protective, and demethylating agent (anti-cancer activity).

“Following the in-depth comprehension of the fascinating multiple facets of procaine, a judicious use of procaine-based drugs could be employed in the prophylaxis and treatment of different metabolic and degenerative disorders commonly encountered in elderly patients, but which nowadays seem to affect younger and younger individuals.”

Even though their review included the negative NIA report, the authors believe the remedy should be considered as a geroprotector. This is a remedy that has the ability to target fundamental mechanisms of aging common to multiple age-related diseases with the potential to extend healthy lifespan and repair or reduce aging-related damage.

In fact, over the last 35 years, even more benefits have been attributed to Gerovital H3 such as that it:

  • Quenches free radicals: Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are free radicals that contribute to the aging process when in excess. Procaine and Gerovital H3 act as antioxidants to bring down ROS. They can also protect against ionizing radiation which contributes to ROS generation and DNA damage. Free radicals also attack lipids/fats. Both remedies protect the mitochondria – where energy is produced – from lipid peroxidation. Mitochondrial free radical damage is strongly linked to the biology of aging.
  • Increases cellular antioxidants: such as SOD and catalase and decreases lipofuscin (the aging pigment) accumulation in the brain, testicles, liver, and heart in rodents.
  • Lowers the risk of cancer: In lab studies of lung, stomach, liver, colon, bladder, bone, and breast cancers, as well as leukemia, procaine inhibited cancer cell growth and migration, and enhanced apoptosis (cancer cell death). It achieves this through a variety of mechanisms.

Double-blind human studies

While Dr. Aslan and other researchers wrote up their positive experience with patients, the gold standard is the double-blind trial of which there are precious few unfortunately.

Researchers at the Chicago Medical School published the results of a series of carefully controlled double-blind tests with both GH3 and procaine in 1965. While the results from procaine were minor, GH3 demonstrated positive physical and psychological effects.

In 1976 two American doctors enrolled 63 patients aged between 45 and 83 with diagnoses of depressive disorders. After four weeks the GH3 group were “significantly better than placebo on all three variables [of depression] measured.”

A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study published in 2016 was conducted to see if GH3 could relieve mental symptoms and improve quality of life. It included 100 men and women between 50 and 89 years of age who took either GH3 or placebo for three months. The Chinese researchers concluded by writing: “GH3 shows positive effects in supporting mental health and improving general health and well-being while promoting the recovery of cognitive function among older adults.”

So, all of this begs the question…

Can Gerovital H3 extend your life?

Dr. Aslan and colleagues carried out three studies to test this. Among 1,840 albino rats, those given Gerovital H3 lived 18 to 21 percent longer when compared to controls injected with a saline solution. A later study on a much larger body of rodents supported the earlier findings.

In a third study, fruit flies grown on a nutritive medium enriched with Gerovital H3 had their lives extended by 22.7 percent when compared with controls. Studies in both France and the U.S. demonstrated that male rodents lived 30 percent longer than controls.

These studies were conducted over four decades ago and even though the findings are positive, no research group has ever followed up on these results.

Our takeaway

I have no experience with Gerovital H3, but I do know there are numerous natural and alternative therapies and remedies that have been wrongly discredited and banned by the FDA in favor of “for profit” pharmaceuticals. If that happened here, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Fortunately, since the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, an oral formulation of Gerovital H3 is now classified as a dietary supplement and is available online for purchase. You’ll also find topical Gerovital formulas available as anti-aging skin creams and serums.

Best Regards,
The Aging Defeated Team


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