The Origin of Essiac Tea and Its Effect Upon Cancer

Essiac tea is one of those underappreciated remedies that warrant a second look. Why? For one reason, Dr. Charles A. Brusch, personal physician to President John F. Kennedy, not only worked with the originator of this tea to study its effect on cancer, but made this statement: “I will not say you have a cure for cancer. But you have more evidence of a beneficial treatment for cancer than anyone in the world” (Boston Globe, May 8, 1984, “The Tea That Heals”).

So exactly what is Essiac tea and who was its originator? The story is fascinating. A Canadian nurse named Rene Caisse reportedly learned about the herbal blend of tea from an Ojibwa Indian healer in the 1920s. The recipe had been handed down from generation to generation and was used to treat a variety of health conditions.

Caisse reportedly used the tea blend to treat her aunt who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. After finding that the concoction helped to not only improve the overall health of her aunt, but shrank the tumor as well, word spread fast.

Caisse named the tea blend after herself, spelling her name backwards – Essiac. She went on the treat thousands of patients with her Essiac tea. The results were so encouraging that a group of doctors helped her to set up both a testing laboratory and a clinic in Toronto.

She lobbied the Canadian government in an attempt to attain approval for her Essiac tea blend as a cancer treatment, but her efforts were unsuccessful. Nevertheless, Essiac tea remains a widely-used natural remedy for a variety of health conditions, including cancer.

The Powerful, Potent Ingredients of Essiac Tea

This blend of four natural herbs is really quite simple. Yet it is extremely powerful in both detoxing the body and boosting the body’s immune system. The ingredients work synergistically and can have a powerful effect on cancer.

  • Burdock Root. Burdock, often considered a weed, is native to both sunflowers and daisies. It is very rich in antioxidants which explains its ability to protect the body against DNA damage. In addition, burdock contains compounds such as lignans and arctigenin, which, in some laboratory settings, have been shown to have anti-cancer properties. In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers found that burdock root extract inhibited the growth of human breast cancer cells (Yarnell & Abascal, 2007).
  • Sheep Sorrel: This “weed” has been used for centuries to treat not only cancer, but other more common afflictions such as scurvy and diarrhea. What makes it so special? Sheep sorrel is unexpectedly rich in a variety of nutrients and antioxidants that help to prevent cellular damage. In a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers found that sheep sorrel extract inhibited the growth of human colon cancer cells vitro (Zhang et al., 2015).
  • Slippery Elm Bark. The bark of the Slippery Elm tree, native to North America, contains a type of fiber known as mucilage that helps to promote both digestion and detoxification. In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers found that slippery elm extract inhibited the growth of human prostate cancer cells (Yarnell & Abascal, 2007).
  • Turkey Rhubarb Root. Used for centuries as an herbal remedy to treat a variety of health conditions, modern research is also revealing this powerful herb’s anti-cancer properties. For example, in a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers found that it inhibited the growth of human breast cancer cells (Zhang et al., 2015).


Recipe for Traditional Essiac Tea

The original recipe for Essiac tea, as passed down by Rene Caisse, was long regarded as a closely guarded secret. It was Mary McPherson, Rene’s life-long friend and helper, who verified Rene’s formula in an affidavit on December 23, 1994 in Bracebridge, Ontario, Rene’s hometown in Canada (sources: Essiacrecipe and

“Rene Caisse always insisted that the whole sheep sorrel herb, leaf, stem and root, be included in the formula. Sheep sorrel is the most important herb. Many of us have it in our gardens and it’s actually classified as a pernicious weed. The best sheep sorrel spends the winter under snow and is harvested in late spring, May to mid-June, before the flowers open. Three plants like this will keep one person in sheep sorrel for one year.

“We will only use the root of the burdock plant. It has to be chopped while it is fresh because it will dry very hard and make it difficult to chop. Slippery elm inner bark is best bought already powdered. Turkey rhubarb root is very easy to grind. It can be bought in pieces, smaller pieces or already powdered. This is enough to prepare an herb mixture that will last one person drinking 30ml, one fluid ounce of the tea, every day for just over a year, or around 15 months.”

NOTE: When buying herbs, do yourself a favor and make sure to always choose certified organic herbs.


  • 1 pound of burdock root (cut or shredded)
  • 1 pound of sheep sorrel herb (powdered)
  • 4 ounces of slippery elm bark (powdered)
  • 1 ounce of Turkish rhubarb root (powdered)


  • Combine all ingredients in a large stainless steel pot.
  • Add 2 gallons of filtered water and stir well.
  • Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 4 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove pot from heat and allow mixture to cool to room temperature.
  • Strain tea through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to remove solids.
  • Store tea in glass jars in refrigerator.

How much Essiac tea should you enjoy? Typically, this tea blend is consumed two to three times a day, preferably on an empty stomach or at least two hours after a meal. How much should you drink? The recommended dosage varies according to weight, but according to EssiacFacts, Rene Caisse recommended drinking one fluid ounce diluted into two fluid ounces of hot water, preferably at bedtime, or you can drink it first thing in the morning if it is easier for you. Some people like to add honey or stevia to sweeten the tea. If taken undiluted, you should drink extra water afterward to avoid unpleasant side effects caused by the release of toxins.

NOTE: If you prefer to buy this tea blend already mixed, check out these two recommended sources listed on As they state, “Rene Caisse always wanted Essiac tea to be affordable and accessible to everyone. Although there are many options for buying Essiac tea, these two suppliers are the best balance between price and quality that we have found over the years.”

One last thing: always remember to first discuss dietary changes with your healthcare provider to be sure it’s right for you.


The Origin of Essiac Tea and Its Effect Upon Cancer



The History of Essiac & Nurse Rene M. Caisse,

Bridge, Ann Lovell. “The Tea That Heals.” Boston Globe, May 8, 1984, p. 1.

Yarnell, E., & Abascal, K. (2007). Botanical medicines for the urinary tract. World Journal of Urology, 25(5), 465-468. doi: 10.1007/s00345-007-0184-1

Zhang, L., Li, H., Zhao, X., Liu, H., Guo, Y., & Ren, F. (2015). Anticancer activities and mechanisms of heat-clearing and detoxicating traditional Chinese herbal medicine. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 174, 49-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2015.07.008

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