Essiac (es-ee-ack) is an herbal tea attributed to Canadian Nurse Rene M. Caisse, pronounced “reen (not re-nay) case”. Naming it Essiac after backward spelling of her last name, Rene dedicated her life to treating patients and trying to get her formula officially recognized. Her Rene M. Caisse Cancer Clinic for terminal cancer patients operated from 1935 to 1941.
Essiac tea has become well known for it’s effectiveness in treating a wide variety of chronic illnesses including cancer, as well as being an excellent natural detox method.
The original formula was made of 4 herbs.
The original Essiac tea is made with these four herbs:
- The root of the Burdock plant
- The entire Sheep sorrel plant
- The inner bark of the Slippery Elm tree
- The roots of the Turkey Rhubarb plant (indian rhubarb and other varieties have also been used but are less potent)
Essiac Tea is good for Alternative (blood purifying), Hepatic (detoxify and cleanse the liver), and Demulcent (soothes irritations and inflammations).
The main ingredient, burdock root, is known to specifically help neutralize toxins in the blood. It also stimulates liver secretions, thus helping the liver eliminate toxic compound build-ups. It strengthens the liver and other vital organs with necessary nutrients.
For instance, burdock root is high in:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Poor immune system
- Chronic bronchitis
- Chronic Pain
- Liver Problems
- Colon Trouble
- Chronic Fatigue
- Sinus Trouble
- High Blood Pressure
- Kidney and Bladdar Problems
- Pain related to inflammation
- High Cholesterol
Essiac Tea Benefits for Health
Since its adoption and promotion by a Canadian nurse nearly 100 years ago, Essiac has become popularly used for several reported health benefits. The herbal mixture’s most widely publicized health-related use is as cancer treatment, whether as adjunctive therapy to standard chemotherapy regimens or as comfort care for patients with terminal cases. The list of essiac tea benefits is long. In addition to its reported benefits in cancer, Essiac is also known for its usefulness in detoxification and immune system strengthening
1. Prevents the buildup of excess fatty deposits in artery walls, heart, kidney and liver.
2. Regulates cholesterol levels by transforming sugar and fat into energy.
3. Destroys parasites in the digestive system and throughout the body.
4. Counteracts the effects of aluminum, lead and mercury poisoning.
5. Strengthens and improves the functioning of muscles, organs and tissues.
6. Makes bones, joints, ligaments, lungs, and membranes strong and flexible, and therefore less vulnerable to stress or stress injuries.
7. Nourishes and stimulates the brain and nervous system.
8. Promotes the absorption of fluids in the tissues.
9. Removes toxic accumulations in the fat, lymph, bone marrow, bladder, and alimentary canals.
10. Neutralizes acids, absorbs toxins in the bowel, and eliminates both.
11. Clears the respiratory channels by dissolving and expelling mucus.
12. Relieves the liver of its burden of detoxification by converting fatty toxins into water-soluble substances that can then be easily eliminated through the kidneys.
13. Assists the liver to produce lecithin, which forms part of the myelin sheath, a white fatty material that encloses nerve fibers.
14. Reduces, perhaps eliminates, heavy metal deposits in tissues (especially those surrounding the joints) to reduce inflammation and stiffness.
15. Improves the functions of the pancreas and spleen by increasing the effectiveness of insulin.
17. Increases red cell production, and keeps them from rupturing.
18. Increases the body's ability to utilize oxygen by raising the oxygen level in the tissue cells.
19. Maintains the balance between potassium and sodium within the body so that the fluid inside and outside each cell is regulated; in this way, cells are nourished with nutrients and are also cleansed properly.
20. Converts calcium and potassium oxalates into a harmless form by making them solvent in the urine. Regulates the amount of oxalic acid delivered to the kidneys, thus reducing the risk of stone formation in the gall bladder, kidneys, or urinary tract.
21. Protects against toxins entering the brain.
22. Protects the body against radiation and X-rays.
23. Relieves pain.
24. Speeds up wound healing by regenerating the damaged area.
25. Increases the production of antibodies like lymphocytes and T-cells in the thymus gland, which is the defender of our immune system.
26. Protects the cells against free radicals.
27. Increases the appetite for healthful foods.
28. Decreases sugar cravings due to better blood sugar control.
29. Increases energy available.
30. Boosts mood and leads to an improved sense of well being.
Essiac tea is generally regarded as being benign concerning side effects, except for standard caution that anyone pregnant or nursing should not use it (which applies to any dietary herbal supplement). People react differently to pharmaceuticals and dietary supplements, while some users experience adverse side effects, others have no problems or side effects at all. Possible side effects of taking the tea are possible, but not probable. As with any herbal supplement, you should consult with your physician before using essiac tea. They may have a good reason why you shouldn’t.
Anyone starting this tea should begin with very small doses, regardless of product directions.
Cynthia Olsen wrote in her book Essiac: A Native Herbal Cancer Remedy, 2nd Edition page 61,
Though side effects are rare when taking Essiac, there are three general ones:
- Nausea and/or indigestion, generally caused by eating or drinking too soon before or after drinking the tea,
- Intestinal or digestive discomfort, caused principally because as toxins dissolve, the body tries to eliminate them quickly,
- An increase in the size of an existing tumor, caused by the metastasized cells gathering at the original site, before the tumor softens and reduces in size.
Sheila Snow wrote in her book Essence of Essiac on page 48,
Here are three possible causes of adverse reactions:
- A full stomach of undigested food or consuming beverage just before taking the remedy, especially tea or coffee.
- Waste materials build up in the body, it attempts to eliminate them all at once. This could create extreme discomfort in the digestive tract, occasionally to the point of vomiting.
- A tumor may increase in size (as metastasized cells are gathered to original site) and could cause a blockage in some vulnerable area of the body before it softens and reduces in size.
Essiac works really well so it is best to start with the recommended dose so your immune system builds up gradually . This allows essiac to kill off microbes gradually and won't overburden the the body's elimination system or cause too much swelling in the tumor.
“When any discomfort occurred, Rene always cautioned her patients to stop taking the decoction for several days until they felt better. Then they were told to begin again with just half an ounce every other day and gradually to increase the dose to one ounce each day. This usually corrected the problem.”
Other side effects, such as diarrhea, a mysterious lower-back kidney ache, flu-like symptoms or upset stomach may be caused by using too high of a dose and not drinking enough water. Anyone taking essiac tea should increase their water intake, due to its detoxification properties, which cause the release of toxins from tissues and blood, excreting them via the intestinal and urinary tracts. The toxins must be diluted as they are released from the body tissues or they become concentrated, causing stress on the liver and kidneys and leading to you not feeling well.
Hence, our advice to drink three of four quarts of plain water daily if you are taking any version of essiac tea. Unfortunately, please note that soda pop, juice, tea, coffee (which is diuretic) and other beverages do not count in that amount.
You may be allergic to one (or more) of the essiac tea herbs if you become itchy, developing some itchy rash areas on your body, even itchy runny eyes, and / or you come down with an unaccountable case of hay-fever symptoms with sneezing, runny nose and eyes. Sheep sorrel is thought to be the allergen, according to noted researcher and author Mali Klein (who happens to be slightly allergic to it). Try cutting dosage way down or stop taking it for a while or stop altogether. Some people who take too much essiac tea for too long possibly could become finally very allergic to it.
If you have NO allergy symptoms from taking the tea, in our opinion you should stick to a reasonable dosage ranging from minimum of one ounce per day as a “tonic” to maximum of no more than six ounces tea per day for “illness”.
According to Chris Corpening R.N. (A Nurse’s Herbal Tea),
“Diarrhea has been the main side effect I have seen, although it is not a common side effect. Gastrointestinal discomfort has also been reported to me on various occasions. According to herbal literature, turkey rhubarb is a laxative and if the body can not handle it, diarrhea will result. My advice to those experiencing diarrhea or discomfort is to cut the dosage down to 1oz a day (or stop entirely) until the problems resolve, then gradually get yourself back to taking original amount.”
Kidney Disease, Kidney Stones
If you have kidney disease or are prone to kidney stones, some sources advise not taking essiac tea because of the oxalic acid in sheep sorrel. Although using a small dosage amount shouldn’t cause problems, people with kidney problems should consult their doctor before using essiac tea.
For those choosing to go the with the tea, there are some precautions that should be taken. Diabetics who are insulin dependant may need to adjust their dosage, also those on anti-diabetes medications. All diabetics should monitor their blood sugar closely while on this tea.
Some of the constituents in this tea can affect the way glucose and insulin are taken up in the cells and utilized. Many people find they need less medication while taking this tea. This is not always the case, but is worthy of mention.
Monitoring is critical because blood sugar might drop too low, or your blood sugar might shoot up too high, according to this email comment:
“You need a stronger warning for diabetics. I have been a well regulated insulin dependent diabetic for over fifty years. I followed all directions for making and drinking at proper time. I got very nauseated and my blood sugar shot up to 284 four hours later.”
The comment-sender replied that the dosage direction of the dry herb blend he bought was 2 ounces twice a day (4 ounces total per day). Apparently his blood sugar shot up after the first 2 ounce dose.
This is worth repeating…. “When any discomfort occurred, Rene always cautioned her patients to stop taking the decoction for several days until they felt better. Then they were told to begin again with just half an ounce every other day and gradually to increase the dose to one ounce each day. This usually corrected the problem.”
So diabetics are advised to start with a tiny dose of 1/2 ounce tea (1 Tablespoon) every other day before gradually increasing dose to 1/2 ounce tea per day (1/2 Tablespoon twice a day) to 1 ounce tea per day (1 Tablespoon twice a day). Monitoring should reveal whether blood sugar level goes up or down.
Tips to Avoid Essiac Tea Side Effects
- Start with a small dose at first to see how your body reacts.
- Take the tea on an empty stomach. In the morning and before bed are good times.
- Drink plenty of water to dilute toxins and help with removal.
- Stick to a reasonable dose. Most essiac tea side effects are caused by taking too much. With the many variables in products, herbs and preparation, it’s ultimately up to you to decide whats best for your body.
Originally created by a native Ojibwa healer and brought to popular attention in the 1920’s, the herbal mixture Essiac has become one of the most widely used forms of alternative medicine in the treatment of various health conditions, most notably cancer. It was popularized by Canadian nurse Rene Caisse throughout the 1920’s until her death in the late 1970’s, and continues to be well-regarded by many users presently.
Formula Variation and Dosing Based on Caisse’s RecipeCaisse dedicated her life to perfecting the herbal formula.
Unfortunately, though, much controversy surrounded the true formula because Rene Caisse never published the exact recipe during her lifetime. This was due to concern that lay people would make it incorrectly or that it would be commercially exploited. In her last years, Caisse gave the formula to the Resperin Company under the pretense that it would undergo clinical trials and that several Essiac clinics would be opened.
However, the trials did not support Essiac’s use in cancer and the clinics were never opened. Essiac therefore did not become a medical therapy and is instead sold as a nutritional or herbal supplement.
And while Resperin, and later Canadian Essiac, sold Essiac from Caisse’s recipe, several individuals also claimed to have the true Caisse formula despite the fact that Caisse reportedly shared the recipe with very few people. This led to confusion regarding the true formula. In 1994, though, Caisse’s best friend and helper, Mary McPherson, signed an affidavit confirming the actual formula used by Caisse. This is generally accepted as the true essiac tea recipe.
Based on Caisse’s formula, the correct dosage of Essiac tea is 1 fluid ounce (30 mL) diluted in 2 fluid ounces (60 mL) of hot water per day. In terms of time of day, the tea should be sipped at bedtime on an empty stomach, with no food eaten both one hour before and one hour after drinking the tea. As a daily tonic for general, preventive health maintenance and for immune system strengthening, the recommended dose is 0.5 fluid ounces (15 mL) diluted in one ounce of hot water per day. It is recommended that water intake be increased while using Essiac.
Caisse was adamant regarding the dosage of Essiac. She reportedly had substantial fear that people would overdose in order to achieve greater benefits. However, one should be careful to avoid this temptation, given the possible side effects of Essiac.
These side effects include gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea, dangerously low levels of potassium, kidney stones, and headache/nausea, among others. If side effects occur, Caisse recommended halving the dose or stopping for a few days, in addition to drinking a gallon of water daily to help flush the tea from the body.
”Rene Caisse”] “People will not stick to the dose I give. They’ll decide on their own, if a little’s good, a lot’s better. That’s the way they think.”
Considerations Regarding Different Dosing Instructions from Various Manufacturers
As a health supplement, Essiac does not fall under the regulation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authority, and there is no standardization for Essiac sold by different companies. Some companies follow Caisse’s exact recipe, as sworn to by McPherson. Others may make either a weaker or stronger version.
Therefore, different manufacturers may provide other instructions on dosage based on their particular recipe. Due to this variation, it is important to follow the directions given by the particular manufacturer. Consumers also have the option of making their own tea from scratch, as Caisse’s formula, as confirmed by McPherson, is now widely available.
Failure to use the correct dose may result in either inadequate results due to under-dosing or potential side effects from overdosing, as discussed earlier.
Contraindication to Essiac Tea Use
While Essiac is generally believed to be safe, there are a few conditions/health states in which it should be avoided. These include:
- Bowel obstruction or diarrhea
- Ulcers or colitis
- Increased blood iron levels
- History or kidney stones
- Children under 12 years of age
If you have any of these conditions DO NOT use Essiac Tea.
Even in the absence of one of these conditions, though, one must exercise caution when self-treating with Essiac tea or any alternative therapy.
Essiac tea has a long history regarding its fight for approval as a medical therapy and controversy regarding the true formula. However, with Caisse’s formula and recommended dose now confirmed, the public can consume Essiac tea with relative confidence that they are taking it as Caisse intended.
One must always be careful with this or any alternative treatment, though, as lack of regulation and standardization can cause confusion regarding dosage and lead to possible side effects.
- Use common sense and talk to your doctor or office nurse before trying any remedy, keep them informed about alternatives and supplements you start taking. If your doctor never heard of essiac, tell him the names of the herbs in it. He may have good reason that you should not take essiac. Then again, a very “conservative doctor” may not know a thing about alternatives, supplements or herbs (and may think you are foolish to ask about them).
- Know whether bulk herbs are cut or powdered before you order them. The Rene Caisse recipedirections specify herbs should be powdered except for Burdock root, which should be “cut”. That said, there are several curious things to consider about the recipe, such as the soft-tissue Sheep sorrel. Herbalist say soft-tissue herbs should not be subjected to water temperature over 140º — and sea level boiling point of water is 212º. Well, that means traditional Rene Caisse recipe simmers poor Sheep sorrel to death. Solution: buy separated herbs so the Sheep sorrel can be added after 10-minute simmer (and rhubarb root decreased to control diarrhea).
- 2 gallons of water per cup of herbs is the traditional Rene Caisse ratio and US/Canadian “cup measure” is expressed in fluid ounces (not weight ounces) — whether it’s a cup of water, cup of flour or cup of herbs. US measuring cups are marked (in metric too) for fluid ounces, like 4 oz. and 8 oz. So one cup of herbs is 8 oz. and 1/2 cup of herbs is 4 oz. (See the Recipe page for approximate number of bottles of tea made using various amounts of water and herbs.) What is confusing about “ounces” is in buying something nonfluid like herbs which by law is expressed in ounces of weight, which has nothing to with fluid ounces.
- Reheating to 180º helps prevent bacterial growth and mold after the 10-12 hour steep, but don’t let the tea come to a rolling boil again. Bottle your tea before the temperature drops, using bottles that have just been sterilized. See how to sterilize for several methods, choose the one that is easiest for you. People usually bottle (very carefully) while the tea is steaming hot. But if you prefer adding the Sheep sorrel after the reheat, use a candy thermometer to see when the tea has cooled down to around 140º before adding it.
- Use a stainless steel strainer or sieve to catch the herb residue. Do not use cheesecloth to strain, or put the herbs in a “boiling bag” to brew them, because cloth mesh prevents important stuff from ending up in the tea — like the gelatinous mucilage of Burdock root and especially Slippery Elm. One straining is enough, repeated straining just lets the tea cool down more.
- TIP: the herb residue (sludge, sediment, whatever you want to call it) all settles nicely on the bottom of the kettle during the 10-12 hour steep. If you slowly and carefully pour off the cooled tea into another kettle before the reheat and then reheat the almost residue-free tea, there may be little or no straining to do while bottling your hot tea (and some people like some residue in their tea anyway). But, buying another Stainless steel kettle is more expense!
- Save the residue, which really isn’t “spent”, to use as swell garden compost or as a poultice bandaged on skin areas. The essiac seller at herbalhealer.com has photos showing before-and-after results of using poultices on a fellow’s knee area to allegedly help heal it of a lesion or tumorous something.
- Bottles for your tea don’t have to be “Amber Boston Rounds” the bottle page describes “freebies” that will do just fine. Many use clear glass jars with mouths big enough to be sterilized in the dishwasher.
- Store unopened bottles in a dark, cool place like a rarely-opened closet or drawer, or put each bottle in a brown paper bag, to protect the tea from prolonged exposure to light (same with the dry herbs). Once a bottle is opened, it has to be refrigerated. The 13 – 14 bottles (16 oz size) from a two-gallon brew batch can all be crammed into refrigerator door shelves, but some people like quart bottles (32 oz) better. If any tea you are using gets moldy or peculiar, dispose of it — “when in doubt throw it out”. But save and re-use the bottle.
- Don’t microwave essiac tea to warm it up for drinking, warm it up on the stove, dilute it with hot water or drink it cold right out of the bottle. Reasons and theories that microwaving or freezing essiac tea damages its potency range from “alteration of molecular structure” to “disturbance of spiritual energies and vibrations”.
- Increase your daily intake of water (which should be around 8 glasses anyway) if you take essiac, to more than 1/2 gallon per day, the ideal amount being (gulp) a gallon of water per day. Plain water — juice, coffee, tea, beer or soda pop don’t count. Coffee is a diuretic, you lose more water than a cup of coffee provides. Don’t drink coffee or tea within an hour of taking essiac tea, apparently the tannins interfere with absorption of some essiac components like iron. That does make it difficult for early-morning coffee drinkers, breakfast lovers! Well, do you ever wake up at 3:00 am or so to visit the bathroom? Visit the fridge too — for your essiac.
- Don’t take your essiac tea at the same time with anything else like medications, vitamins or other supplements because of essiac’s “empty stomach rule”. Take them at different times in the day, at least an hour apart from drinking essiac tea. And, don’t add food products like honey, cream or sugar to essiac to make it taste better, that is the same as violating “empty stomach before-and-after” rule. Most people don’t mind essiac’s boiled-weeds taste, others get used to it and even like it.
- All these traditional DO and DON’T rules — are they writ in stone? Nope — a friend of mine gets up, slugs down an ounce of cold essiac tea straight from the bottle and gets the coffee-maker going, in 10 minutes the coffee is ready and it, too, is slugged down. Friend has faithfully taken essiac this way for 12 years, doctor shakes his head at any test results and says, “I don’t know what you’re doing but whatever it is, just keep doing it.”
- Essiac is relatively safe to take according to 75 years of anecdotal records. The herbs are used as foods by some cultures and essiac doesn’t interfere with treatments like chemo or radiation. Nevertheless, see “Possible Side Effects and Cautions About Taking Essiac Tea” — possible, not probable.
For those who can't afford to buy the original product or those who want to make their own Essiac Tea
This brewing tip is beautifully simple and logical: Subject: No Residue To Strain
"After the 12 hour steep, the herb residue or “sludge” is all settled to the bottom. Carefully, slowly pour off the tea into a second stainless steel kettle, leaving the sludge behind. Then do your reheat of the tea in the second kettle and bottle it — it will not need to be strained! I hope people will try this tip and find it helpful."
Bob Karjala discovered a swell tip for sterilizing bottles in a microwave oven: Sterilizing bottles:
Add about 1 ounce of distilled water to each, putting on plastic caps loosely, and microwave several bottles at a time for about 15 minutes until the steam has sterilized the caps and bottles. Of course, if you have metal caps, don’t put them in the microwave but boil them separately. After cooling, the caps can be tightened and the bottles stored until ready for use or they may be filled immediately with the hot tea.
If your microwave is big enough, you can do 13 – 14 (16 oz size) bottles needed for two-gallon batch at the same time. However, the cautions are important:
- The bottles will blow up if the caps are screwed on so tight that steam can’t escape.
- Put 1 or 2 oz water in each bottle, put in too much and all you have is hot water but not enough steam to do the sterilizing.
- Microwave for 15 to 20 minutes to do the steam sterilizing. Afterward open the microwave door but don’t take the bottles out immediately — they are incredibly hot. Then use a mitt or pot-holders to take the bottles out.
- Metal caps can’t be microwaved but method will probably work with no caps on bottles.
Bob also said: “The only thing I would add is to possibly increase the microwave time when doing a large number of bottles simultaneously. This of course varies with different maximum power levels of individual ovens. You want the water in all bottles brought to a sustained steaming boil.”
This is a step-by-step way to brew and bottle (16 oz. size) using the above tips:
- As your essiac tea is consumed, rinse out and fill each empty bottle with water to keep residue from drying in it.
- Start your brewing sometime in the evening. It takes about 45 minutes for 2 gallons of distilled water to reach a boil. Stir in the herb mix and when it starts to simmer again, put the lid on. After the 10 minute low boil, shut the stove off and let the stainless steel kettle sit on the stove all night (don’t lift the lid).
- In the morning or 10-12 hours later, without stirring or disturbing the sludge that settled in the bottom, carefully pour the tea into another stainless steel or large stovetop-glass kettle.
- Reheat the tea in the second kettle (or emptied, washed first kettle) barely to the boiling point and shut off the stove. During the reheat, prepare your bottles.
- To prepare the bottles, fill them 1/3 full of hot tap water with a squirt of an antibacterial cleaner like “409 Antibacterial”. Dish detergents create bubbles which are too hard to rinse away. Wash the caps with the antibacterial kitchen cleaner too.
- Give each bottle a good shake and swab the insides with a bottle brush. Set each bottle under running hot water faucet until overflow runs clear, then pour water out.
- Then fill each bottle with 1 inch or so of distilled water for the microwave and *loosely* screw the lids on (if some pop off while microwaving, it doesn’t matter).
- Microwave bottles for 15 – 20 minutes to steam sterilize. We microwave all 14 bottles (16 oz size) needed for a so-called 2-gallon batch at the same time.
- Afterward let the microwave door stand open for a few minutes. Use hotpads to take bottles out of microwave, they are incredibly hot. Pour out any remaining water from them.
- Set the hot kettle of tea in the sink and one at a time fill the bottles with tea using a glass measuring cup, in the sink next to the kettle if possible.
- Screw on the lids and let the bottles of tea cool on the kitchen counter, tightening down the lids after an hour or so. Refrigerate or store in a dark, cool place.
Brewing and bottling gets easier every time you do it. If you are intimidated by the recipe directions, Rene Caisse is reported to have “thrown a handful of this and a handful of that” into her kettle. So relax, there’s really not much you can do to screw up the making of your essiac tea.