Alternate Title

  • EDTA therapy

Related Terms

  • Edetic acid, ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) therapy.
  • Note: The term “chelation” may be used in general to refer to the use of any chemical in the blood to remove specific contaminants or toxins (for example, deferoxamine is used as a chelating agent to treat high levels of iron in the body). This type of chelation should not be confused with the use of EDTA therapy.


  • EDTA chelation became well known during the 1950s when it was proposed as a method to cleanse the blood and blood vessel walls of toxins and minerals. The technique involves infusing a chemical called ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) into the blood. The therapy is sometimes given by mouth and occasionally, other chemicals may be used.
  • Initially, chelation was used to treat heavy metal poisoning. Some observers felt that other benefits occurred in patients receiving this therapy. Currently, chelation practitioners may recommended this treatment for diabetes, for clogged arteries in the heart or legs (called peripheral vascular disease), and for many other conditions. Twenty or more sessions may be recommended and can cost several thousand dollars.

Evidence Table


    These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

    Heavy metal/lead toxicity

    For many years, chelation therapy has been used with calcium disodium EDTA to treat heavy metal poisoning. It is still an accepted medical therapy for lead toxicity, and several studies report lower levels of lead in the blood and slower progression of kidney failure. Chelation therapy may also be used to treat iron, arsenic, mercury, or cobalt poisoning. However, some research results are mixed. More studies are needed to clarify.

    Kidney dysfunction

    Repeated chelation therapy may improve kidney function and slow the progression of kidney damage. Further research is needed to confirm these results.

    Eye disorders (calcific band keratopathy)

    EDTA is use to treat calcium deposits on the eye. However, well-designed research is needed before a recommendation can be made.

    Ovarian cancer (used with chemotherapy)

    Early evidence shows that EDTA may be beneficial in ovarian cancer patients when used with chemotherapy. However, further studies are needed before a strong recommendation can be made.

    Heart disease

    Evidence does not support the use of EDTA chelation therapy in heart disease even though there is strong popular interest in this use. At this time, the evidence suggests it does not work and it cannot be recommended as a treatment for heart disease.

    Claudication (peripheral vascular disease)

    People with clogged arteries in the legs (peripheral vascular disease) may experience a sensation of pain or fatigue in the legs with exercise (claudication). Studies suggest that EDTA chelation therapy may not be beneficial in claudication and this use is not supported by research at this time.

*Key to grades:



    The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.



    Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.


  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration ().



    Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to . Selected references are listed below.

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    View Abstract
  • Anderson TJ, Hubacek J, Wyse, DG, et al. Effect of chelation therapy on endothelial function in patients with coronary artery disease: PATCH substudy. J Am Coll Cardiol 2-5-2003;41(3):420-425.
    View Abstract
  • Bell SA. Chelation therapy for patients with ischemic heart disease. JAMA 4-24-2002;287(16):2077-2078.
    View Abstract
  • Chappell LT, Stahl JP, Evans R. EDTA chelation therapy for vascular disease: a meta-analysis using unpublished data. J Adv Med 1994;7:131-142.
  • Ernst E. Chelation therapy for coronary heart disease: an overview of all clinical investigations. Am Heart J 2000;140(1):139-141.
    View Abstract
  • Grebe HB, Gregory PJ. Inhibition of warfarin anticoagulation associated with chelation therapy. Pharmacotherapy 2002;22(8):1067-1069.
    View Abstract
  • Huynh-Do U. [Gout nephropathy–ghost or reality?]. Ther Umsch 2004;61(9):567-569.
    View Abstract
  • Knudtson ML, Wyse DG, Galbraith PD, et al. Chelation therapy for ischemic heart disease: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 1-23-2002;287(4):481-486.
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  • Morgan BW, Kori S, Thomas JD. Adverse effects in 5 patients receiving EDTA at an outpatient chelation clinic. Vet Hum Toxicol 2002;44(5):274-276.
    View Abstract
  • Najjar DM, Cohen EJ, Rapuano CJ, et al. EDTA chelation for calcific band keratopathy: results and long-term follow-up. Am J Ophthalmol 2004;137(6):1056-1064.
    View Abstract
  • Quan H, Ghali WA, Verhoef MJ, et al. Use of chelation therapy after coronary angiography. Am J Med 12-15-2001;111(9):686-691.
    View Abstract
  • Schnabel P, Erdmann E. [Is chelation therapy in coronary heart disease useful?]. Dtsch Med Wochenschr 8-16-2002;127(33):1715.
    View Abstract
  • Strassberg D. Chelation therapy for patients with ischemic heart disease. JAMA 4-24-2002;287(16):2077-2078.
    View Abstract
  • Villarruz MV, Dans AL, Tan FN. Chelation therapy for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease [protocol]. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2002;(4):CD002785.
    View Abstract
  • Wong SS, Nahin RL. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine perspectives for complementary and alternative medicine research in cardiovascular diseases. Cardiol Rev 2003;11(2):94-98.
    View Abstract