Essiac Tea, Treating and Preventing Cancer?!

Essiac Tea: Miracle or Myth

Pouring essiac tea

image: Patrick George

Depending on the source, the effectiveness of essiac tea is either vigorously defended or summarily dismissed.  Proponents of its use tout the wonders of this remedy for a great many ailments, but the primary controversy surrounds its purported effectiveness against cancer.

The search for a cure for cancer by the medical profession is a struggle that has cost billions and occupied the minds of many of humanity’s most brilliant doctors – yet a cure has not been found.  For the cure to have been amongst us in the form of a simple tea all along is too preposterous a proposition for many to believe.

Because cancer is a disease that is pervasive in the lives of so many people and their loved ones, there is understandable interest in “any” cures that surface, whether they originate from a medical professional or the holistic health community.

The Disclaimer

No article about essiac tea, or any other dietary supplement that has not passed muster with the Food and Drug Administration or other similar licensing body, would be complete without a disclaimer.  Even those who swear by essiac tea’s effectiveness know that they cannot make any medical claims to that effect because those claims cannot be medically substantiated.

We’ll dispense with the disclaimer now, rather than sticking it way down at the end of the article.

Disclaimer: Information provided in this article is not to be used as medical advice.

The disclaimer verbiage could go on at great length, but you get the idea.  This article, or any information that is found on the Internet, should never be treated as being authoritative with regard to the reader’s medical treatment.  Now that we’ve dispensed with the obvious, let’s look into some of the claims that have been made about essiac tea.

Essiac Tea: A Brief History

Named after a Canadian nurse, Rene Caisse, essiac tea was promoted by her as an effective cancer treatment beginning in the 1920s.  (Cassie spelled backwards is Essiac).  Nurse Caisse continued her advocacy of the tea’s healing powers for fifty years, until giving the formula to a Canadian company in 1977.  She claimed that the essiac formula had originally been given to her by a patient.

Unfortunately, neither that Canadian company, nor any other private company, or government licensing agency, have been able to confirm her claims.  The inability to obtain the stamp of approval from the medical community has relegated essiac tea to the dietary supplement category, but that has not dampened the enthusiasm of its advocates.

Miracle for Sale

Essiac powder

This essiac powder can be purchased from a Canadian website here along with many other related products.

“Medical science doesn’t know everything.”  This is the fallback argument for those who believe in wonder drugs, and who can argue with that?  New discoveries occur all of the time, so it’s clear that not everything is already known.  From that vantage point, new discoveries that happen outside of the medical community are possible as well.  Combine the inherent possibilities contained in “what if” with the need that exists for a cancer cure and you have all that is required for a remedy that has been discounted by professionals as “untrue” to continue to be a popular and persistent topic of discussion.

What Does Essiac Tea Do?

Putting the cancer curing aspects of the tea aside for the moment, let’s examine what else it’s purported to do.  Many of the other claims of the tea’s effectiveness stem from its preventative powers, rather than its ability to heal.  Like other supplements, it is said to cleanse the body of toxins that build up in our bodies over time.

Sustained consumption of essiac tea is supposed to, among other things, prevent the build-up of fatty deposits, cleans the digestive system, moderate the level of cholesterol, strengthen muscles, and detox the liver.  The idea is to eliminate or negate the effects of the impurities in our bodies that may someday contribute to the onset of diseases, like cancer.

Many of these cleansing techniques may contribute to maintaining healthier bodies, but that success alone in insufficient evidence from which to draw the correlation between a cleansed body and a disease fighting remedy.

How is Essiac Tea Made?

Essiac tea contains four herb ingredients: burdock plant root, the slippery elm tree’s inner bark, Turkish rhubarb roots, and the sheep sorrel plant.

There are many “original” recipe claims to be found for the exact quantities and preparation of the tea, so if you’re interested in preparing a batch of your own, it’s difficult to know which original recipe to choose.  The problem stems from the fact that Rene Caisse did not publish the recipe herself, so all of the claims of originality are based on second hand information.

The Formula

While we only have second hand knowledge of the recipe, at least it’s second hand information that was delivered under Oath.  Rene Caisse’s friend, Mary McPherson, is said to have given sworn testimony as to the following formula’s efficacy, in 1994.  It mirrors the recipe that was published by Dr. Gary Glum in 1988.

One final disclaimer: The recipe provided below if for informational purposes only.

The unedited transcription of Mary McPherson’s affidavit is provided below:

  • 6 cups of burdock root (cut)
  • half pound of sheep sorrel herb
  • 1/4 pound of slippery elm bark
  • 1 ounce of powdered Turkish rhubarb root

Mix everything thoroughly and keep it in glass jar in dark cupboard.

Take a measuring cup, use thirty-two ounces of water depending on the amount you want to make along with 1 ounce of herb mixture.

I use 1 cup of mixture to 8 x 32 = 256 ounces of water.  Boil for ten minutes then turn off stove but leave sitting on warm plate overnight.

The next day add, heat steaming hot water and let settle a couple minutes, then strain through a strainer into clean bottles and allow to cool.  Should be refrigerated when after opening.

I use a granite preserving kettle (10 – 12 qts), 8 ounce measuring cup and strainer to fill bottles.

– Mary McPherson