Carnivora, is a health supplement derived from the carnivorous Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) that you may have seen advertised online or heard of in radio commercials (such as during Coast to Coast AM with George Noory). Carnivora is said to help the immune system function better, or in the words of one Youtube video I saw, “wakes up the immune system and makes it dominant.” Does Carnivora work?” is the question everybody asks me. I've been curious about this product since I first heard the radio commercial, so in this review I will share what I found ―and didn’t find ―when I looked at the research. By knowing the research, you can make a more informed decision if Carnivora is right for you.
Who Makes Carnivora?
According to the product website, Carnivora Research International, is the company that makes Carnivora. The Contact Us page of the Carnivora.com website actually lists the emails of a variety of people within the Carnivora organization ―even the owner/CEO of the company.
That level of transparency is rare, and I actually liked that.
Oddly however, there is no address for the Carnivora company? In other words, where is Carnivora made or shipped from?
Doing a Google image search for “Carnivora ” and “Carnivora Research International,” likewise, did not show a physical location of the company.
The product website does list a phone number to order the product – 866 836 8735 -so I called it. I spoke with someone who identified herself as information specialist who told me that Carnivora Research International is located at :
- PO Box 1035 Weston CT 08663
This is the same address listed on the BBB file for Carnivora also.
But, since this is just a PO Box, I know they don’t make Carnivora at that location. I wanted to know the specific address where Carnivora was actually produced. I'm not sure of the location.
Carnivora Research International is a Better Business Bureau accredited company since 2009 and has a rating of A+ when this review was created. The company has been in business since 1981. See the BBB file for additional information and any updates in the rating.
On the Science of Carnivora page of the product website there are links to many studies that serve as a testament to the benefits of Carnivora. While the page I saw was listed as “Currently under Construction,” Most of the links were clickable and linked directly to published peer reviewed studies. I liked that. I looked at all of the studies listed on the Science of Carnivora page and, after which, came to these conclusions:
1. The word “Carnivora” did not appear in any of the studies listed.
2. Most of the studies listed are test tube or mouse studies.
3. The only study in the list to mention Dionaea muscipula dates to 1989 and is listed several times at different locations on the page.
In other words, it appears that none of the studies listed on the Carnivora website, actually tested Carnivora itself.
Many of the studies make references to compounds ―such as something called Plumbagin ―but studies of individual/isolated ingredients (in test tubes or lab animals) is not the same thing as human studies on Carnivora itself.
After looking at the evidence presented on the product website, my question is:
Where is the research on the Carnivora supplement itself?
I can't find it.
I then searched the National Library of medicine for:
No studies showed up.
The venus flytrap page of the American Cancer Society, states that in 1985, a German oncologist named Helmut Keller who invented Carnivora in the 1970s (and who holds the patented on it) did a study involving 210 people with various types of cancer. Dr. Keller noted that 56% of peopled treated with the Carnivora extract experienced either a remission or stabilization of their tumors. That's really impressive, but the ACS said the study has not been replicated.
I was not able to locate this study and ― ironically ― it's not listed on the Carnivora website either.
Why didn't Dr. Keller replicate his findings?
To be fair, I'm actually disappointed that the American Cancer Society did not attempt to replicate this study. Even though I can't find it, they did say the study was published, so I assume they have read it. What's up with that that ACS?
If anyone can show me the published study of Dr. Keller and Carnivora, I'll be happy to update this review.
A study published in 2013 does review various compounds in Venus fly trap as they relate to cancer. This study covers several mouse and tube research investigations on Venus fly trap compounds. It does not mention human studies. The study does not mention Carnivora by name.
Other Carnivora Research?
After writing my review, I was contacted by an information specialist at Carnivora, the conversation of which you can read in the comments below. This person informed that there was additional research on Carnivora, performed in Europe, 25 years ago. I was told this research was prohibited in the US. I was also told that to read that information, I would have to provide an email address that was not based in either the US or Canada.
It was an odd request, however, I was intrigued by the possibility that addition research existed, so I complied and received the information a few days later. Below is a summary of the documents I received, along with my thoughts on that information.
1. President Regan and Carnivora. I was sent what appears to be, a small page out of a book, that discusses President Regan's use of Carnivora to treat polyps. If this is a book excerpt, there is no citation as to what that book is. In the January 2011 issue of Dr. Rowen's Second Opinion Newsletter (see below for more info), Dr. Rowen says that President Regan “used Carnivora with success to keep malignant polyps from returning in 1985.”
But, according to according to the website DrZebra.com, President Regan had his polyps surgically removed in 1987. If they were successfully treated by Carnivora in 1985, why did he have surgery to remove the polyps in 1987? Regardless of who is right on this issue, this book excerpt is not a published peer reviewed study.
2. German Cancer Therapies: Natural and Conventional Medicines that Offer Hope and Healing. This is a book by Dr. Morton Walker, a freelance writer and retired podiatrist and was published in 2003. I mentioned Dr. Walker in the section about Carnivora and HIV, so see that section also. Chapter 3, 4 and 5 of that book discusses Carnivora. That said, book chapters sent to me do not contain any peer reviewed studies to substantiate the claims made in these chapters. As such, we can't tell anything about them―and that’s unfortunate.
Remember, I had to provide a non-USA based email address to receive all of the information I'm discussing in this section. I don’t see why I had to do this because this book is available on Amazon.
Here is the book on Amazon for those who want to check it out.
3. Comments of Dr Daniel Kinner, OMD, L.Ac. On His Personal Clinical Experience Using Carnivora, Venus Flytrap Extract. This appears to be a letter, dated March 8, 2000, from Dr. Kinner to Carnivora Research International. According to his website, DanKennerresearch.com, Dr. Kinner holds a PhD in Naturopathic Medical Science and is an Oriental Medical Doctor (OMD). He is also a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac).
In the letter, Dr. Kinner speaks of the experiences of his patients who used Carnivora. All the experiences were positive. But, since this is just a letter, it is not a published peer reviewed study and amounts to just a testimonial in my view.
4. The Townsend Letter for Doctors. This appears to be an alternative medicine newsletter (published in the US) and the issue that was sent to me is dated May 1992. I am not sure who wrote this article. There is a reference circled, in the document which I imagine as proof of what is stated in the newsletter. The reference circled is titled:
Kreher B, “Structure elucidation of plumbagin-analagues from Dionaca Muscipula and their immunomodulating activities in vitro and in vivo. International Symposium: Molecular Recognition, Sopron, Hungry, August 24-27, 1988.”
From the title, it appears this citation represents a study that was presented at a science convention. While presenting information is good in that it helps disseminate information to the scientific community, it does not mean that the information has gone through the peer review process. Regardless, this is not a human study. I was not sent any peer reviewed studies of this information either, so it appears that this investigation was never peer reviewed. Why was this information, never published in a medical journal?
5. Dr. Robert Rowen's Second Opinion Newsletter, dated August 2004. This is just a newsletter where a doctor discusses what he knows and has observed about Carnivora. It also mentions Dr. Kenner (see point #3). Unfortunately, there are no peer reviewed references in the attached newsletter either.
6. Dr. Robert Rowen's Second Opinion Newsletter, dated July 2009. In this issue of the newsletter Carnivora is also discussed but it doesn’t say anything new. It just appears to be a rehash of Ronald Reagan and other people who said they were helped by Carnivora.
7. Dr Robert Rowen's Second Opinion Newsletter. This newsletter is dated January 2011. Again, this is just a newsletter.
8. Molecular Recognition: Carnivora a New Discovery. This document is dated 1988. In the email I received, I was told that this is a clinical study. But, there is no author and no citation about where this is published. I don’t know if “Molecular Recognition” is the title of a journal or a chapter in a book or a private, internal document. This does not look like any published peer reviewed study I've ever seen.
9. Comparison of lymphocytes subpopulation in various cancer therapies. This document is said to be a European clinical study, however it is not peer reviewed and does not appear to be published in any medical journal. While it has a couple of graphs, the document appears for the part, to be a letter dated February 13 1995, written by someone (who, I don’t know) to Dr. Helmut Keller.
There were other documents sent to me also that were said to be “European studies” however they don’t appear to be published in any medical journal.
Unfortunately, I'm sorry to say but none of the documents sent to me are to the level that I would accept as “proof”, which is published, peer reviewed research.
Carnivora and Dr. C. Joe Schneller
One YouTube video about Carnivora features Dr. C. Joe Schneller who said he is doing a study of how 3 capsules a day of Carnivora “wakes up the immune system and makes it dominant.” The video was uploaded June 16 2011 but it appears to not yet be completed or published, as it is not listed on the Carnivora website or listed in the National Library of Medicine. Likewise, when I did a Google search for:
“Dr. Schneller Carnivora study,”
No study was revealed. I will update this review with his study and its results if it gets published.
What I'd like to do now is look at the major reasons people might be interested in Carnivora and see if I can find any studies on them. That way those interested in specific issues can get an idea whether Carnivora might be right for them.
Carnivora and The Immune System
Carnivora is primarily marketed as something that can improve / modulate the immune system. Ironically, when I searched the National Library of Medicine for “Carnivora” no relevant studies showed up. So, I then searched the National Library of Medicine for these specific words to see if there were any research:
- Venus flytrap immune
- Venus flytrap immunity
- Venus flytrap immune system
- Venus flytrap phagocytosis (refers to how some immune cells work)
- Venus flytrap antibody
- Venus fly trap B cell (B cells are a type of immune cell)
- Venus flytrap T cell (T cells are a type of immune cell)
- Dionaea Muscipula immune
- Dionaea Muscipula immune system
- Dionaea Muscipula immunity
- Dionaea Muscipula phagocytosis
- Dionaea Muscipula antibody
- Dionaea Muscipula B cell
- Dionaea Muscipula T cell
No studies showed up for any of these search terms.
This says to me that Venus flytrap/ Dionaea Muscipula might not have been specifically studied for what effects ―if any―it has on immune system functioning.
So why is it being marketed to boost immunity?
One of the compounds in the Venus flytrap is called Plumbagin. Some websites even claim that Plumagin is the active ingredient in Carnivora.
Plumbagin does have some research. For example, Plumbagin has been studied for its possible anti-cancer effects. When I searched the National Library of Medicine for:
“Plumbagin immune” (click the link to see the studies) I saw a lot of studies, but most of them were conducted in test tubes or used lab mice.
What I didn't see was a study showing that Plumbagin (oral or injected) prevented the flu or improved arthritis symptoms ―or improved any other immune system related condition ―in humans.
Carnivora and AIDS
Since Carnivora is touted to improve the immune system, a logical question would be Does it help HIV/AIDS? On one website that discusses this topic, a 1994 magazine article titled, The Carnivora Cure for Cancer, AIDS and Other Pathologies” published in Immune Perspectives, is mentioned. In this article, it's said that Carnivora caused the ” total elimination of the HIV virus.”
I tried to locate this article but I could not find it.
Additionally, I was not able to find a peer reviewed journal called “Immune Perspectives” either. In fact, I could not find ANY magazine called “Immune Perspectives.”
The author of this article was Dr. Morton Walker, whose website is DrMortonWalker.com. I believe this is the doctor associated with the Immune Perspectives article. However, when I searched his site for the article it does not appear there either.
I then searched the National Library of Medicine for these words:
- Venus flytrap AIDS
- Venus flytrap HIV
- Dionaea Muscipula AIDS
- Dionaea Muscipula HIV
This search revealed no studies either.
I did locate a 2002 study titled Inhibitory effects of quinones on RNase H activity associated with HIV-1 reverse transcriptase that noted that Plumbagin (one of the compounds in Venus flytrap, as well as other plants) inhibited an enzyme that is needed for HIV to replicate. While this is interesting, the study was over a decade ago and was basically just test tube study.
Because of the lack of published research on this topic, I am unfortunately forced to conclude for the moment that there is no good proof that Carnivora or Venus flytrap extracts improves immune function in those with HIV/AIDS.
Carnivora and Cancer
I searched the National Library of Medicine for “Carnivora Cancer” and didn’t see any studies that specifically investigated Carnivora―itself― for how it might help cancer.
This is ironic because many websites relate the story of how former President Ronald Reagan used Carnivora to prevent cancer. Mr. Reagan still had part of his colon removed because of colon cancer. So, if he did use Carnivora, how significant of an effect did it have on his cancer?
Regardless, some of the compounds (such as Plumbagin) in Venus flytrap have been studied for how they might affect cell growth. But, in these studies, Plumbagin is used as an isolated compound (which is different than Carnivora which contains a variety of compounds). Also, most research on Plumbagin appears to be in the form of test tube/Petri dish studies or lab animal studies.
I'm not aware of any studies in humans showing that Plumbagin cures cancer or slows cancer growth.
Also, how much Plumbagin is in Carnivora? I don’t know, but either way, its irrelevant at this point because of the lack of published studies on humans.
For more a more in-depth discussion, see this 2013 review titled Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula Solander ex Ellis) Contains Powerful Compounds that Prevent and Cure Cancer. When I read this study, I noticed that it never mentions the name Carnivora or the name of Dr. Helmut Keller, the creator of Carnivora.
Carnivora and Arthritis
I did a Google search for “Carnivora and arthritis” and noticed that some websites mention that Carnivora has been used in Germany as a treatment for arthritis. But, when I looked at the various websites that discuss this issue, none that I saw included any studies to substantiate that Carnivora helps arthritis. They show no proof.
Likewise, I could not find any evidence when I searched the National Library of Medicine either. Maybe it helps or maybe it doesn’t but until studies are published I believe the idea of Carnivora helping arthritis is open to speculation.
Carnivora and Lupus
I searched the National Library of Medicine for these words:
- Carnivora lupus
- Dionaea Muscipula lupus
- Venus flytrap lupus
- Plumbagin lupus
No studies showed up. Unfortunately, it appears that there is no good proof ,as yet, to determine if Carnivora helps lupus.
Carnivora And Fibromyalgia
Some websites discuss Carnivora as a possible treatment for fibromyalgia pain, but those sites I saw provide no good proof of this. When I searched for proof, I could not find any. I searched the National Library of Medicine for these words:
- Carnivora fibromyalgia
- Venus flytrap fibromyalgia
- Dionaea Muscipula fibromyalgia
No studies showed up.
Also, as far as I can tell, the word, fibromyalgia, is not even mentioned on the Carnivora.com website. So why do some websites say it helps?
Carnivora and Lyme Disease
Various websites discuss that Carnivora might help Lyme disease but when I searched the National Library of Medicine for these words:
- Carnivora Lyme disease
- Venus flytrap lime disease
- Dionaea Muscipula lyme disease
No studies showed up. As such, it's impossible for me to say if it helps or doesn’t.
Carnivora and Alzheimers
I cant find any good proof that the Carnivora supplement improves memory or helps people with memory problems including Alzheimers disease.
Carnivora and Cats
At least one study reports benefits for Carnivora against Feline Herpes Virus 1 (FHV-1), a viral infection that can cause respiratory problems in cats. Researchers in 2016 published titled Effects of Administration of Carnivora on Clinical Signs in Cats After Repeat Challenge with Feline Herpesvirus 1 (click to read pdf).
This investigation appeared to show cats treated with carnivora had fewer upper respiratory symptoms than cats treated with a placebo. Here is a summary of the study and the results:
- The study involved 16 young adult cats (2 years of age).
- All the cats had FHV-1 for one year before the study.
- The cats were randomly split into a group that took carnivora for or a placebo for 56 days.
- After treatment, all cats were exposed to the FHV-1 virus.
- Cats treated with carnivora were observed to have fewer upper respiratory track symptoms than the cats that received the placebo.
Interestingly, the researchers also noted that “no clinically significant differences when comparing serum biochemical values from the Carnivora treated cats before and after treatment.” If I understand this correctly, it would seem that even though Carnivora appeared to reduce FHV-1 symptoms, it did not impact the virus.
The study does not specifically mention any effect on the immune system cells. That is unfortunate given the immune-modulating reputation of Carnivora.
The authors state that this study was supported by the makers of Carnivora, but that the company did not take any part in the study. That is good.
Carnivora And Detox
Some websites advocate Carnivora as part of a detox or “cleanse” to rid the body of harmful parasites and waste. These websites however give no good proof that Carnivora does this. Some of the websites I saw, contain information that is not based in fact (e.g. having 25 pounds of undigested fecal matter in the colon). As such, I view them with a skeptical eye.
If Carnivora did boost the immune system, then I could understand how an enhanced immune system might be better at battling invading bacteria/viruses. But since I could not find any good proof of enhanced immunity (see the immunity section above), I am inclined to be skeptical of this claim.
Carnivora Side Effects
According to the Carnivora.com website “There are NO side effects associated with the use of Carnivora.” At the time of this review, I am also not aware of any negative side effects from the use of Carnivora. That said, since I was unable to locate any peer-reviewed studies that specifically used Carnivora itself, I'm not sure what the side effects might be.
Update: In a 2014, one case report detailed the effects a 30 year old man with Hodgkin’s lymphoma (a type of cancer) who developed kidney failure after using Carnivora for about a year. This appears to the first case of this effect reported.
On the FAQ page of the Carnivora website it's said that if people use too much Carnivora too soon, that they may experience a herxheimer reaction which refers to a temporary increase in adverse symptoms. This is said to be the result of the treatment killing the infection. The condition was originally attributed to the treatment of syphilis with antibiotics, but it might occur with other conditions as well. How prevalent a herxheimer reaction is with Carnavora use, I don't know.
Tip. As a rule, I believe it's best to start any new supplement regimen slowly, using less than is recommended for at least the first week. Doing this should, in theory, reduce the severity of side effects that might result from the supplement.
The Carnivora website states that the product does not interact with any medications. How they know this (because of the lack of studies on Carnivora), I do not know. They do mention that people who take blood thinner medications should consult their doctor if they use high doses (75 drops per day) of the Pure Extract Carnivora. Whether this indicates that Carnivora has a blood thinning property at high doses or it's just the company being wise and cautious I'm not sure.
One website I saw mentions that pregnant should not to use Carnivora. This is likely because there is no research on how this supplement affects women who are pregnant. This is a general /blanket statement that is mentioned for many supplements and is likely a good idea to adhere to. When in doubt, pregnant women should ask their doctor before they try any new supplement.
How Much Is Carnivora?
When I checked the products website, each bottle was $39.95 + $6 for shipping. A free bottle is added as a bonus for those who purchase 5 or more bottles.
Research I'd Like To See
It would not be difficult to do research on Carnivora. For example, if I were in grad school today, this would be some the kinds of research I might want to do:
1. Randomly give Carnivora -or placebo – to 10 people before and after measuring concentrations of various white blood cells . Let's see if anything changes.
2. Randomly give Carnivora (or a placebo) to 10 people with fibromyalgia and measure their pain levels before and after treatment.
3. Randomly give Carnivora (or placebo) to 10 people with arthritis and measure their pain levels before and after treatment.
Each of these questions could be answered in 1- 2 months or less. How come nobody has done research like this? Hopefully, I just gave graduate students an idea about what they might like to do their dissertation on (hint, hint).
Does Carnivora Work?
To be perfectly honest, right now I don't know if Carnivora works or not because I don’t see any good proof for it. I say this because I was not able to locate any published, peer reviewed studies on Carnivora itself. The research I found in support of one of its main ingredients appears to be currently limited to lab animals or test tube studies. I could not find a single human study of Carnivora – or its main ingredient – involving humans. While it is true that lack of evidence does not necessarily mean something doesn’t work, my litmus test for supplements is published studies. As such, I remain skeptical ,although I might change my opinion if peer reviewed studies are published in the future.
What do you think?