Essiac's original formula is believed to have its roots in native
Canadian Ojibway medicine. Essiac, given its name by Rene Caisse ("caisse"
spelt backwards), consists of four main herbs that grow in the
wilderness of Ontario, Canada.
WARNING: Many of the statements made here have NOT been
evaluated or approved by the F.D.A. We must also legally warn you that even
though your medical doctor has had absolutely no training in Herbology or
Natural Healing, if you are ill, have any disease or are pregnant or nursing,
consult your medical doctor before attempting any natural or herbal program.
Cancer Treatment with Essiac
Essiac is an herbal cancer treatment developed by a Canadian nurse,
Renée Caisse (1888-1978). (Essiac is Caisse spelled backwards.) Ms.
Caisse claimed that the formula had been given to her in 1922 by a
patient whose breast cancer had been cured by a traditional native
American healer in Ontario.
Thousands of patients have since been treated with this herbal
mixture, most of them at Caisse¹s own Bracebridge Clinic in Ontario.
While this clinic was shut down in 1942, the controversy over Essiac
simmered for years. Charles Brusch, MD--President John Kennedy's
physician--is said to have declared in 1959 that "Essiac has merit
in the treatment of cancer."
Essiac cannot be freely marketed in either the US or Canada.
However, a company in Ontario is allowed to provide Essiac to
Canadian patients under a special arrangement with health ofŽcials
there. One problem is that Caisse never made the formula public in
her lifetime. A number of companies now sell competing "original"
Essiac in the form of a tea, but the authenticity of some of these
formulas are open to question.
Essiac was tested at both Memorial Sloan-Kettering (MSKCC) and the
US National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the 1970s and was said to have
no anticancer activity in animal systems. But the mixture remains
worth investigating, not just because of persistent anecdotal
reports, but because most of its identiŽable components have
individually shown anticancer properties in independent tests.
The four main herbs in Essiac are:
Burdock (Arctium lappa): There have been several studies
showing antitumor activity of burdock in animal systems (1,2).
(Other studies showed no such effects.) An antimutation factor has
also been isolated, which is resistant to both heat and
protein-digesting enzymes. Scientists at Kawasaki Medical School,
Okayama, Japan, called this "the burdock factor" (3). Burdock has
also been found to be active in the test tube against the human
immuno-deŽciency virus (HIV) (4). Benzaldehyde, also present in
burdock, has been shown to have signiŽcant anticancer effects in
humans. (Intriguingly, burdock independently was included in another
famous Osecret¹ herbal remedy, the Hoxsey treatment.)
Indian rhubarb (Rheum palmatum): This plant has been
demonstrated to have antitumor activity in the sarcoma 37 test
system (5). (Again, conžicting tests did not show such activity.)
Certain chemicals in Indian rhubarb, such as aloe emodin, catechin
and rhein, "have shown antitumor activity in some animal test
systems," according to the OfŽce of Technology Assessment report on
unconventional cancer treatments (6).
Sorrel: NCI is said to have tested one sample of Taiwanese
sorrel and found no activity against mouse leukemia. But again, aloe
emodin, isolated from sorrel, does show "signiŽcant antileukemic
activity" (7, 8).
Slippery elm: NCI tested slippery elm and found no activity.
But slippery elm contains beta-sitosterol and a polysaccharide, both
of which have shown activity (9).
Several cases of poisoning have been reported from drinking
commercial burdock root tea (10). "It is important to consider plant
sources in the differential diagnosis of the poisoned patient,"
Arizona doctors wrote. No acute toxicity was seen with Essiac in the
MSKCC tests, although there was said to be a slight weight loss in
treated animals. NCI, however, claimed to see lethal toxicity at the
highest concentrations of Essiac given to animals.
©1993 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
Source: Essiac Tea From: Cancer Therapy © 1992 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
ESSIAC: THE SECRET'S OUT
It is sometimes claimed that alternative treatments
are a cruel rip-off that further impoverishes desperate cancer
patients. But what about Essiac (TM), a Native American remedy
popularized by the late Canadian nurse, Rene Caisse (1889-1978)?
While Essiac-type formulas are available at a reasonable cost in
many health food stores, the brew is potentially even less
expensive, since it is derived from weeds found in many backyards.
Essiac's use is growing in both the U.S. and Canada, where it is
legal, but only for terminal cancer patients. Because of its
underground popularity, some entrepreneurs have tried to cash in.
Companies have come out with competing formulas to trademarked
Essiac, some with deceptively similar names or claims to
authenticity. Some patients complain about the confusion.
Canadian author Sheila Snow has been studying the question for 20
years. In a 1993 book*, she writes that "certain groups and
individuals have been flooding the Canadian market with products
reputed to be made from [the] original recipe." Naturally, "each
distributor denies the authenticity of other competitor
Yet, according to Snow, there is one way to increase the chances
of getting an authentic version of Essiacmake it yourself, either
from wildcrafted herbs or from those purchased from respectable
All companies agree that four basic herbs are always present in
this Native American formula; some of these have immune-modulating
properties (see R. W. Moss's Cancer Therapy, pp. 146-148). According
to Snow, the authentic Essiac decoction can be homemade from
ingredients obtainable from any good herb store. The prices we cite
below are from one such firm, chosen at random from the New York
phone book: Aphrodisia (The total cost of these dry ingredients is
According to Snow, these dried herbs can be used to create enough
liquid brew for a daily one ounce dose for 18 to 24 months. In other
words, homemade, this treatment costs about4 cents per day. No
wonder, in the era of $150,000 bone marrow transplants, Essiac is
becoming more popular.
Snow gives complete instructions for preparing the brew. One
thoroughly mixes these dry ingredients in a bowl, then pours the dry
mixture into a wide-mouth glass jar and shakes well. One mixes 1 1/2
quarts of distilled water to every ounce of the dry mixture and
boils it up in a stainless steel, lidded pot. After boiling hard for
10 minutes, turn off the heat, says Snow, scrape down the sides of
the pot, and stir well. The pot then sits for 10-12 hours. To
preserve a supply, one must sterilize the implements and reheat the
liquid until it is steaming hot, but not boiling. One strains the
mixture and puts it in bottles. The caps of the bottle are tightened
and then and set aside to cool. Once the bottles are opened, they
should be refrigerated, but not frozen.
It is important to question the source and authenticity of the
herbs. For example, there are over 100 species of "sorrel" but it is
important to make sure one is getting real sheep sorrel (Rumex
acetosella), and not some substitute, such as ordinary garden sorrel
The final product looks somewhat like apple cider or light honey
and has a mild, earthy aroma and a flavor that some patients refer
to as "punk"a little like dry, decayed wood. To use, Snow says one
- Shake the bottle gently to mix any settled sediment.
- Take 1 oz. of the decoction in 2 oz. of hot water on an empty
stomach, 2 to 3 hours after supper each night.
- Refrain from food or drink for 1 hour after taking it.
- Allow at least 3 hrs. to elapse between using Essiac and any
prescription drug or treatment.
Some patients complain of nausea and/or indigestion after taking
Essiac, says Snow. This may be because they take it on a full
stomach. Large doses of burdock root tea have also been found
toxic in certain cases. For more information, see the article on
Essiac in Cancer
Therapy as well as Snow.
NURSE CAISSE'S HERBAL BREW
- 13 (measuring cup) ozs. burdock root (Arctium lappa), cut into
small pieces; $1.00 per oz.
- 4 oz. (scale weight) powdered sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella)
herb; $1.75 per oz.
- 1 oz. (scale weight) powdered slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) inner
bark; $1.40 per oz.
- 1/4 oz. (scale weight) Turkey rhubarb (Rheum palmatum) root.
$1.35 per oz. (Powder before use.)
©1993 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
Source: Cancer Chronicles article on "Essiac--The Secret is Out"
Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D. is the author of many books and
documentaries on cancer-related topics. He has been an advisor on
alternative cancer treatments to the National Institutes of Health,
Columbia University, and the University of Texas. He researches and
writes The Moss Reports on cancer. For information, please contact
coordinator Anne Beattie at 800-980-1234 (814-238-3367 when calling
from outside the USA) or email her at
1. Foldeak S and Dombradi G. Tumor-growth inhibiting substances
of plant origin. I. Isolation of the active principle of Arctium
lappa. Acta Phys Chem.1964;10:91-93.
2. Dombradi C and Foldeak S. Screening report on the antitumor
activity of puriŽed Arctium lappa extracts. Tumori.1966;52:173.
3. Morita K, et al. A desmutagenic factor isolated from burdock (Arctium
lappa Linne). Mutat Res.1984;129:25-31.
4. WHO. In vitro screening of traditional medicines for anti-HIV
activity: memorandum from a WHO meeting. Bul. WHO (Switzerland),
5. Belkin M and Fitzgerald D. Tumor damaging capacity of plant
materials. 1. Plants used as cathartics. J Natl Cancer
6. US Congress, OfŽce of Technology Assessment (OTA).
Unconventional cancer treatments. Washington, DC: US Government
Printing OfŽce, 1990.
7. Kupchan SM and Karim A. Tumor inhibitors. Aloe emodin:
antileukemic principle isolated from Rhamnus frangula L.
8. Morita H, et al. Cytotoxic and mutagenic effects of emodin on
cultured mouse carcinoma FM3A cells. Mutat Res.1988;204:329-32.
9. Pettit GR, et al. Antineoplastic agents. The yellow jacket
Vespula pensylvanica. Lloydia.1977;40:247-52.
10. Rhoads P, et al. Anticholinergic poisonings associated with
commercial burdock root tea. J Toxicol.1984-85;22:581-584.