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Samantha Kidwell

The History of Essiac

Essiac, the Ojibwa Tea of Life, is an herbal remedy used by the Canadian nurse Rene Caisse to treat and successfully heal thousands of terminally ill cancer patients ( When Caisse was working in an Ontario hospital, she met a lady with a badly scarred breast, who told Caisse that she had been healed of breast cancer by an Indian friend with an herbal tea, and then gave her the formula ( After that, Caisse began using the formula on many patients, allowing them to drink it or receive it through intramuscular injections (for more serious cases ) ( These patients testify to essiac's good effects as do many renowned doctors, which can lead one to believe in the ability of this herbal tea.

Through the years, countless physicians have supported Caisse's herbal remedy and Dr. Charles Brusch even made the claim that "clinically, on patients suffering from pathologically proven cancer, it reduces pain and causes a recession in the growth. Patients gained weight and showed a great improvement in their general health. Their elimination improved considerably, and their appetite became whetted. Remarkably beneficial results were obtained even on those cases at the 'end of the road' where it proved to prolong life and the 'quality of that life' (" Essiac is actually a combination of four principle herbs-. burdock root, turkey rhubarb root (or Indian rhubarb), sheep sorrel, and slippery elm bark (

Burdock has been found to produce "considerable antitumor activity"...and reduction of cell mutation ( It also "stimulates bile production and helps liver functions, and is used as a tonic, blood pufifier, and cleanser ("

Turkey rhubarb root "is a laxative and astringent; it is an effective tonic for the digestive system and acts upon the bowels, removing debris and tightening the tissues.

Sheep sorrel is known to sharpen the appetite, assuage heat, cool the liver, and strengthen the heart.

Slippery elm is known as a stomach remedy and wound healer; it is healing to the mucous membrane of the entire digestive tract ("

Herbalists theorize that the synergistic interaction of herbal ingredients is the cause for the effectiveness of essiac, "this remedy has anticancer and antiviral properties. It eliminates the pathogens with nontoxic virucides; repairs the liver, pancreas, and kidneys; detoxifies the body by ridding it of metabolic wastes; increases cellular metabolism by normalizing the blood chemistry- rebuilds the immune system and T-cells by regulating the hormonal balance ("

Caisse also noticed that essiac reduced nodular masses to a more normal tissue, while simultaneously lessening the pain ( Patients reported that the tumor would enlarge and harden, then start to soften and discharge large amounts of pus and fleshy material, and finally the tumor would disappear ( Caisse believed that "one of the herbs in essiac reduced tumor growth, and that the other herbs acted as blood purifiers, carrying away destroyed tissue as well as infections thrown off by the malignancy (" She even believed that if the tumor did not disappear, it could be surgically removed with less risk of metastases resulting in new outbreaks (

Many claims have been made as to the effectiveness of the essiac treatment, most coming from renowned physicians and patients who were treated and now contend that they are cured. In 1926, eight doctors sent a petition to the Department of National Health and Welfare in Ottawa, pushing Caisse's cause, "we believe the treatment for cancer by Rene Caisse can do no harm, and that it relieves pain, will reduce enlargement and prolong life in hopeless cases. To the best of our knowledge she has not been given a case to treat until every thing else has been tried without effect, and even then she is able to show remarkably beneficial results ("

When Dr. Brusch, a revered doctor, was asked about essiac, he responded, "essiac has tremendous merit to supplement any therapy a cancer patient may be using. I can't call it a cure, but it definitely has had and still has important merit. I regard it as essential to back any other therapy ("

Dr. Emma Carson, a Los Angeles physician wrote, "several prominent physicians and surgeons who are quite familiar with the indisputable results obtained in response to 'Essiac treatment' for cancer is the most humane, satisfactory and frequently successful remedy for the annihilation of cancer that they had found at that time ("

Essiac's effectiveness has been affirmed by Caisse, many doctors, and thousands of patients who were submitted to the treatment. Caisse spoke from the first-hand results she saw after treating thousands of patients, some of which were members of her family (

In 1924, Caisse's aunt Mzera Potvin was found to have cancer of the stomach and told she had only half a year to live. Rene gave the essiac treatment to her aunt, who went on to live 21 years ( Caisse's mother was also diagnosed with cancer and told that she had only days to live, Caisse gave her daily injections and she lived another 18 years before losing her life from heart disease (

There are also many testimonials given by patients who were treated with the herbal tea. J. Smith, an 80 year old man, came to see Caisse with a hemorrhaging growth on his face, and within 24 hours of treatment, the bleeding had stopped (http:/ After more treatments, the growth was noticeably smaller and the hole in his chin started to heal.

Another essiac patient was Tony Baziuk who had lip cancer, and had received radium treatment, his lip was so enlarged that he could see it over his nose- he noticed instant relief, and six months later he had returned to work (http:/

Annie Bonnar, diagnosed with cancer of the uterus and bowel, was also a patient of Caisse's and testifies to essiac's effectiveness. After radium treatments, her cancer had spread so much that her arm was twice its original size and actually black. She had lost a considerable amount of weight, going from 150 to 90 pounds. After 4 months of treatment, her arm was its regular size and she had gained all of the weight back.

Dr. W. C. Arnold was so astounded by Caisse's reports that he urged her to continue her experiments with mice; after they were injected with human cancer, they responded to essiac injections by living longer, and having regression of the tumors (

Dr. Carson summed it up when she said, "really the progress obtainable and the actual results from 'Essiac' treatments and the rapidity of repair was absolutely marvelous and must be seen to convincingly confirm belief (


Every year, about one million Americans are diagnosed with cancer, which explains why doctors continue to search for a cure. As of now, a wide variety of effective treatments are used to combat cancerous tumors, including surgical removal, radiation, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and immunotherapy. Unfortunately, these treatments are so strong that they cause many negative side effects such as hair loss, sterility, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and diarrhea. These side effects explain why many people search for alternative cures, such as drugs, in hopes that they will not have to endure these painful experiences. Sadly, it seems that most forms of cancer are not curable with drugs. However, there have been significant advancements using drugs for adjuvant chemotherapy of breast cancer and colon cancer, but with few exceptions the tumors that makeup most malignancies in adults (tumors of the lung, breast, prostate, and colon) respond only temporarily to existing drugs, and must be accompanied by some form of removal (Rosenberg, 1992).


Because cancer is so difficult to terminate, two or more approaches must often be used. For example, one treatment for breast cancer is a lumpectomy, or the removal of the tumor without removing the breast. However, even after that procedure adjuvant chemotherapy is recommended. Often times this is accompanied by serious side-effects, which are characterized by severe nausea and vomiting resulting in hospitalization (Ingle, 1990). However, anxiety about these side effects could make the situation worse than it really is, as many studies have proven that several patients experience anticipatory symptoms (Andrykowski & Gregg, 1992). If left untreated, these psychological reactions may last as long as three months (Redd, Silberfarb, Anderson, et al., 1991). There is also proof that patients develop nausea because of hospital stimuli years after their treatment is finished (Cella, Pratt, & Holland, 1986).


Many studies have shown that behavioral interventions help to reduce the negative side effects of cancer. For example, Redd & Andrykwoski (1982) demonstrated that behavioral interventions can help control the nausea and vomiting that are commonly associated with chemotherapy. Positive attitudes also seem to be useful in the treatment of cancer, as shown by Fox (1989) in his report that said depression may lower immune function. So, avoiding depression could strengthen immunity and aid in recovery from cancer. A significant study relating to this topic involved 86 women with metastatic breast cancer, who were followed over time. The women were randomly assigned to a group either receiving or not receiving social support, which consisted of weekly 90-minute group therapy sessions, lead by women who had recovered from breast cancer. The patients in the support groups survived an average of 36.6 months, whereas those in the other group survived an average of 18.9 months (Spiegel, Bloom, Kraemer, & Gottheil, 1989).


It is obvious that the best method for destroying cancer involves a form of radiation or surgery combined with social support. However, essiac does not incorporate any of these procedures. Also, no scientific research, reviews, or journals were found pertaining to essiac, therefore its respectability is very questionable. Essiac supposedly works by reducing tumor growth, purifying blood, and carrying away destroyed tissue as well as infections caused by the malignancy, and enabling normal cells to destroy abnormal ones. No mention of the removal of the tumor is ever made and it is difficult to believe that the mass just disappears. Therefore, patients should not consider using essiac as an exclusive cure, but if they feel confident about its effects, it could possibly work like a placebo and help to build confidence, which can help a patient to recover, but nothing should be used without first consulting with a physician.

The sources that I found on the Internet were from people who truly believe that essiac is a cure for cancer, a business trying to sell their product, and someone who had experienced such personal illness and wanted to help others in unconventional ways. The information found on the web sites is believable, but is only case reports and testimonials, not scientific data. Therefore, the information can be dangerous because desperate people are looking for cures, and they don't realize that web site information is not necessarily true. In conclusion, people who make these web sites should provide data that proves their information, rather than making outrageous allegations. Also, people who search on the Internet should be wary of undocumented information.


Andrykowski, M. A., & Gregg, M. E. (I 992). The role of psychological variables'

chemotherapy nausea: Anxiety and expectation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 48-58.

Fox, B. H. (I 989). Depressive symptoms and risk of cancer. Journal of the American Medical

Association, 123 1.

Redd, W. H., & Andrykowski, M. A. (1982). Behavioral interventions in cancer treatment: Controlling adverse reactions to chemotherapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1018-1029.

Rosenberg SA. Kamofsky Memorial Lecture. The immunotherapy and gene therapy of cancer.

J. Clin Oncol. (1992), 180-199.

Spiegel, D., Bloom, J. R., Kraemer, H. C., & Gottheil, E. (1989). Effect of psychosocial tr@ent on survival of patients with metastatic breast cancer. Lan@t, 88:8-891.


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