Essiac is an herbal recipe with an interesting history. It is a combination of herbs that includes burdock root, slippery elm, sheep sorrel and rhubarb root. This formula has been used clinically to treat cancer.
In the 1890’s, the recipe was given to a Canadian nurse named Rene Caisse by a patient who had gotten it from an Ojibwa medicine man. “Essiac” is Caisse spelled backwards. Over the next eighty years, the formula was used in various forms and various proportions in clinical settings for treating cancer. There were great successes along with many failures, but overall, the formula seemed to work.
Some of the positive results from taking Essiac were: pain relief, increased appetite, improved sleep, feeling of well-being, decreased depression, increased life span and decreased nodular masses. When the treatment worked, the doctors reported that the herbal tea seemed to identify the toxins, break them down and cause them to be discharged.
Since Essiac was used in clinical settings, it was used in conjunction with other treatments of the day – particularly surgery. While in some patients Essiac completely got rid of the cancer, in others it would concentrate it into a single mass that was significantly easier to remove with surgery.
Until 1978, the true proportions to the formula were kept secret by Rene Caisse. She worked with several well known hospitals and universities without ever disclosing the exact formula. Many experiments were run on the individual herbs in the formula – the combination always worked better than any single herb. The form was also examined. It was determined that a tea form was the best.
Most of the herbs in the Essiac formula have cleansing and detoxifying properties, with one of the herbs being soothing and healing. I have always viewed the formula (and other herbal cancer formulas) as cleaners. What I find interesting about the Essiac story is Nurse Caisse’s account of what the herbs did. She believed that cancer results from a glandular deficiency in the body. She believed that when that gland failed, its protective hormone or enzyme was not available to control malignant cancer cells. What she observed was that Essiac seemed to restore this function to the body such that the immune system could then “fight” the cancer and restore health to the body.
Although the gland that Nurse Caisse referred to was never found, her theory lines up with other cancer theories that subscribe the immune dysfunction to pancreatic insufficiency. It is interesting to note that the diabetic cases that took Essiac no longer required insulin after treatment.
Essiac is available today in many forms and formulas. It is best made into a tea. Some formulations are sold in liquid form while others are sold in dry form to be brewed as needed. As with any herbal formulation – quality counts. If it’s cheap, the herbs are probably not of the quality that will give you the results you are seeking. I have also learned to watch high prices – particularly on the internet. Know your supplier if you want herbs that work.
Margaret Dursts owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.