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Have you ever heard of an herbal and inexpensive concoction that has been said to fight cancer? I’m talking about Essiac tea, a mixture of plant ingredients that many cancer patients claim helped them to defeat cancer.*
What is this mysterious brown liquid? Essiac tea is a traditional Native American formula that was rediscovered by cancer nurse Rene Caisse of Canada, and this natural cancer treatment was perfected through years of clinical studies with her longtime research partner, Dr. Charles Brusch, personal physician to President John F. Kennedy. This Essiac tonic is said to enable the body to effectively remove toxins and wastes, permitting for cellular renewal and revitalized health.
Essiac tea is a mixture of roots, bark and leaves sold worldwide as a health tonic. While it has been most notably been used as an anticancer treatment, it’s also used to treat other serious health problems like gastrointestinal diseases, diabetes and even AIDS. (1) The original Essiac mixture is made up of four ingredients: burdock root, sheep sorrel, slippery elm and Indian (or Turkey) rhubarb root. A similar product known as Flor Essence has the same Essiac ingredients plus four additional ones: watercress, blessed thistle, red clover and kelp.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has neither approved Essiac or Flor-Essence as a cancer treatment nor are there a ton of scientific studies to back up the anti-cancer claims, but there exists some promising research and many firsthand accounts of Essiac’s teas abilities. Let’s look at how and why this mixture might be so naturally and medicinally magical.
5 Essiac Tea Benefits
1. Natural Cancer Fighter
When it comes to cancer, there are more testimonials than conclusive scientific studies about Essiac tea’s benefits. However, a study published in The Canadian Journal of Urology showed that a 64-year-old man went into remission from hormone-refractory prostate cancer, and the remission was attributed to his consumption of Essiac. (2)
All of the herbs in Essiac tea have been reported to have antioxidant and anti-cancer effects. Essiac itself has also been reported to demonstrate anti-cancer activity in vitro. A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology examined the effects of Essiac on free radical scavenging and DNA damage. The data from the study showed that Essiac tea possesses potent antioxidant and DNA-protective activity, two key properties common to natural anti-cancer agents. (3)
Some doctors like Dr. Murray Susser in Los Angeles, California have seen Essiac tea extend the life of cancer patients by many years and have also seen it work in place of conventional chemo therapy.
When consumed, Essiac tea acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent throughout the body. Since inflammation is at the root of practically all diseases, Essiac can be helpful for such a wide range of ailments. Essiac can be especially helpful when it comes to treating the inflammation and chronic pain associated with arthritis, cancer and HIV. (4)
Sheep sorrel, one of the four key ingredients in Essiac tea, is commonly used to help reduce inflammation and pain that accompanies sinusitis. The tannins present in sheep sorrel also help to decrease the overproduction of mucus.
3. Strengthens Immune System
In vitro analysis of Essiac shows that it has significant antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties. It also exhibited the the ability to kill off tumor cells. (5) The burdock root in Essiac tea helps detox the lymphatic system, a process which is excellent for the immune system and body as a whole.
4. Detoxify the Body
Essiac tea contains burdock root, an awesome blood purifier that clears out toxins from the bloodstream. In addition, Indian or Turkey rhubarb root also helps detoxify the system by acting as a gentle yet highly effective laxative. It also helps support a liver cleanse by removing waste from the liver, furthering Essiac tea’s detoxifying effects since the liver is our most detoxifying organ. Used traditionally in small amounts, this herb acts as a gently laxative and helps purge the liver of toxic buildup and waste.
5. Improves Gastrointestinal Problems
Essiac tea’s slippery elm is amazing when it comes to gastrointestinal issues. Slippery elm contains mucilage, a substance that becomes a slick gel when mixed with water. This mucilage coats and soothes the lining of the mouth, throat, stomach and intestines. Slippery elm is also high in antioxidants and calms the inflammation that comes with gastrointestinal conditions.
Slippery elm also causes reflux stimulation of nerve endings in the gastrointestinal tract, which leads to increased mucus secretion. The increased mucus levels can guard the gastrointestinal tract against excess acidity as well as ulcers. Slippery elm is commonly suggested for sore throats, coughs, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). (6)
Indian or Turkey rhubarb further helps the gastrointestinal system. The rhubarb contains malic acid that helps the body to make ATP more efficiently, aiding in energy levels and healing, which has a positive and balancing effect on the whole digestive system.
Essiac Tea Nutrition Facts
The four ingredients in essiac tea are loaded with nutrients and medicinal properties. Rene apparently used Indian rhubarb at one point, but later changed to Turkey rhubarb, claiming that it was less bitter and more palatable. To this day, manufacturers and marketers of Essiac tea debate about the differences between Turkey rhubarb and Indian rhubarb. Herbalists, who are focused on medicinal qualities of herbs, seem to agree that both varieties of rhubarb are about the same medicinally and both are better than common garden rhubarb root. (7)
History of Essiac Tea
Where did the name Essiac come from? Essiac was given its name by Rene Caisse. “Caisse” spelt backwards is Essiac. In the 1920s, Rene Caisse was a nurse in Canada who started promoting Essiac as a natural cancer treatment. Fast forward to present day: Essiac and Flor Essence are still sold as herbal supplements, but they cannot claim to treat or cure cancer.
In 1922, a breast cancer patient gave nurse Rene the Essiac formula. She said it had cured her disease! According this patient, the recipe originated from an Ontario OjibwaNative American medicine man.
Rene continued to use the Essiac tea with cancer patients and in 1934, she opened a cancer clinic in Ontario where she gave Essiac to patients completely free of charge. In 1938, the Royal Cancer Commission of Canada visited the clinic, but found little evidence that Essiac was effective. Rene closed her clinic in 1942, but she continued to give Essiac tea to patients through the late 1970s.
From 1959 until the late 1970s, Rene worked with an American doctor to study Essiac and promote its use. The nurse-doctor team also created the formula now called Flor Essence. Unfortunately, results of their studies were not reported in any peer-reviewed scientific journals.
In 1977, Rene gave the Essiac recipe to a company in Canada. A year later, the government of Canada allowed this company to conduct clinical studies on the safety and effectiveness of Essiac. However, by 1982, the Canadian government withdrew its permission and when the company tried to have Essiac approved as a drug by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it did not get approval.
Since the 1980s, other companies have been making Essiac-like products. None of these companies are permitted to make claims that the mixtures treat or cure any disease, but many consumers buy these Essiac products to self-treat and cure many serious health ailments.
How to Use Essiac Tea
Essiac tea is taken orally and typically on an empty stomach. The dosage of Essiac tea depends on the condition. As an immune tonic or for very mild ailments, it’s typical to take two ounces once a day. For cancer or other serious ailments, the frequency can raise to three times daily with up to three ounces each time.
A lot of health stores and online shops sell an already made Essiac Tea called Caisse’s Tea that claims to follow the original Canadian formula. With this Caisse’s tea, you add two ounces of heated spring water to two ounces of the concentrated tea. It is recommended that you take this mixture 30 minutes before breakfast or before bed two hours after eating dinner.
You can also buy Essiac tea in tea bag form. In tea bag form, it will be commonly called Ojibwa tea. You can buy Essiac as a powder or in capsule form as well. Compared to other alternative remedies, Essiac tea isn’t very expensive.
How to Make Homemade Essiac Tea
If you want to make Essiac Tea yourself, it’s really not that difficult. Supposedly this original recipe was passed on by Rene’s best friend, Mary McPherson.
- 6½ cups of burdock root (cut)
- 1 pound of sheep sorrel herb (powdered)
- 1/4 pound of slippery elm bark (powdered)
- 1 ounce of Turkey or Indian rhubarb root (powdered)
- Mix these ingredients thoroughly and store in glass jar in dark, dry place.
- Measure out 1 ounce of the herb mixture for every 32 ounces of water (depending on the amount you want to make).
- Combine the herbs and water in a stainless steel or cast iron pot and boil hard for 10 minutes covered.
- Turn off the heat, keep the pot covered and leave the mixture out over night.
- The following morning, heat the mixture to steaming hot, but not boiling.
- Turn off the heat and let it settle a few minutes then strain through fine strainer into hot sterilized glass bottles and let it sit to cool.
- Store the mixture in a dark, cool place until first use. Once opened, it must be refrigerated going forward.
Essiac Tea Precautions
Check with your doctor before consuming Essiac tea if you are diabetic, taking anticoagulant drugs or have had a cholecystectomy (removal of the gallbladder). If you have osteoporosis, you should also consult with a physician since the oxalic acid present in Essiac tea can interfere with calcium metabolism. If you are taking any cardiac glycosides, ask your physician to monitor you closely for possible toxicity of the drug. Some constituents in this tea may assist the body to utilize these types of drugs more efficiently.
There are several other groups of people who will likely not benefit or might have adverse effects from the consumption of Essiac tea. Since Essiac tea has constituents that might increase blood flow to the pelvic region and stimulate menses, it is not recommended for women who are pregnant or trying to conceive. It is also not recommended for nursing mothers or children under the age of 12.
If you have a history of increased iron levels then you should avoid Essiac tea since it contains varying amounts of iron. If you have kidney disease or are prone to kidney issues, the oxalic acid in Essiac tea can irritate the kidneys. Additionally, if you have diarrhea, bowel obstruction, ulcers or colitis you need to be cautious with Essiac tea since the Turkey rhubarb in the tea has a laxative effect and can also be irritating to these conditions.
If you have a brain tumor or tumors that are encroaching on a major blood supply or an area of an organ that expansion of the tumor could have dire consequences, then you might want to avoid Essiac tea or only consume it in very small doses. In the case of tumors, Essiac tea has enlarged tumors before breaking them down, which can be especially dangerous in the case of brain tumors if pieces of malignant tissues are released and could cause a stroke. (10)
Sticking to the small doses recommended with Essiac tea are essential for best results. If you notice any adverse affects after consuming this tea, then you should stop taking it and consult with your doctor.
There are few reports of side effects from taking Essiac tea, but makers caution consumption of Essiac tea can contribute to having more bowel movements, passing urine more frequently, flu like symptoms and skin redness or inflammation. (11) Some of these possible side effects can likely be related to Essiac’s detoxification of the body.
It is estimated that over 50 percent of all patients diagnosed with cancer explore complementary and alternative medicine, especially herbal medicine. If you’re interested in complementary treatment for cancer, Essiac tea is high on the list of recommendations for many holistic health practitioners.
Only you can decide whether or not an alternative cancer therapy like Essiac tea is right for you. If decide to try Essiac tea for cancer or any other health concern, it’s a great idea to speak with a professional who can help you decide if it’s a smart choice for your specific concerns and also guide you to a proper dosage and duration of use.
*results not typical