Sun, sand and the freedom to practice alternative medicine–Mexico’s got it all. But were it not for a young doctor’s job search, Canadians looking for alternative treatments for cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, heart attack and stroke would not have had as many options as they have now.

Dr Esai Castillo, a fully licensed medical doctor, needed a job and stumbled into the world of complementary medicine by chance. Once there, however, it felt like home.

"I liked the way patients [in the clinic] were treated," he said, still full of wonder 20 years later. "And they were not dying!"

Such successes inspired him to eventually open his own clinic and offer patients "the best from both medical worlds." What Dr Castillo’s clinic offers is a combination of conventional and alternative medical treatments, including intravenous dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), a natural byproduct of wood with anti-inflammatory properties; intravenous hydrogen peroxide for chronic infections and cancer (cancer cells don’t like an oxygen-rich environment); laetrile (extracted from apricot pits) for cancer; germanium, a trace element used in treating chronic lung conditions like emphysema and asthma; and the most popular treatment, chelation therapy.

Why Mexico?

Snug in the heart of a new business district in Tijuana is the clinic where Dr Castillo and three other doctors see up to 20 patients a day. Dr Castillo estimates that up to 90 percent of the patients make their way to Mexico by word of mouth. News of success travels fast and Dr Castillo has a 70 percent success rate for cancer and 95 percent for diabetes. He measures success for cancer patients on quality of life and survival time. For diabetes, success is measured in improved quality of life and in blood tests.

At his clinic in Tijuana, Dr Castillo offers what many cannot get in Canada and the United States–the combination of orthodox medicine and natural health treatments.

He is well aware of who his patients are–almost a third are elderly and on a fixed income–and he is adamant that treatment costs remain reasonable. He chooses to see patients on an out-patient basis only, rather than incur the high cost of in-hospital care. An initial consultation costs $30 (US) and cancer treatment can run approximately $100 a day. Many people stay in the United States and simply cross the border into Mexico. The clinic is about four blocks or a 30 minute walk from the border.

The clinic offers one-stop shopping for convenience. There’s a full lab service, including X-rays and ultrasound, a pharmacy, a dentist and a homeopath on site.

After the initial consultation comes phase one: an intense period that lasts from 15 to 21 days and consists mostly of intravenous treatments. A herbarium with plants and birds faces this treatment area, which gives it a pleasant, healing atmosphere in which patients thrive.

Patients go home for phase two. They follow dietary suggestions, take the provided supplements and fax in blood tests. Doctors consult from afar during this period. The next visit comes anywhere from three to six months to one year later. Dr Castillo feels quite confident saying goodbye to these patients, especially when it comes to conditions like prostate cancer, which respond well to his treatment. That’s not the case with other cancer conditions. "Melanoma is a vicious cancer. I won’t dare let patients go for as long as six months without seeing them," he says.

Both education and communication between doctors and patients rank highly at this clinic, where visual aids fully explain diagnoses and treatments.

"Patients pay better attention to themselves if they know the seriousness of their condition," he says.