Essiac is the name of its discoverer spelled
backwards. Rene Caisse was a Canadian nurse who as fate would
have it met the husband of a breast cancer patient who attributed
her survival to four herbs used by the Ojibwa Indians to treat
malignant conditions. Ms. Caisse took a serious interest in
the treatment and observed that the herbs seemed to have a
direct effect on the pancreas, reducing or eliminating the
need for insulin among diabetic patients. Caisse theorized
that some sort of deficiency caused abnormal glandular functioning
that was corrected by her hypodermic use of the Ojibwa herbs.
Since Essiac is now a very well known treatment,
it is important to point out that while Caisse did provide
the herbs for oral use, most of her greatest success would
seem to have involved the injectible form of the herbs. They
would obviously be more potent and fast-acting if administered
in this way. Caisse actually felt quite strongly that this
method of delivery was the only way to assure that the body
could resist malignancy.
As with many who experience the frontiers
of knowledge, Caisse speculated about what many to this day
do not understand. She felt there was an undiscovered gland
that was affected by Essiac, one that acts to inhibit the supply
of the substances that nourish cancer cells. Everyone, even
her strongest defenders, are quick to point out that while
no one has disproved her theory, no one has corroborated it
either. This said, the four herbs that everyone agrees are
the cornerstones of the Essiac formula are fairly well understood.
According to the providers of the best-known
version of the formula, "all four herbs normalize body
systems by purifying the blood, promoting cell repair, and
aiding effective assimilation and elimination. When combined,
their separate beneficial effects are synergistically enhanced."
Burdock Root (Arctium
Burdock is the main herb in the formula adapted
from the Ojibwa tradition. Interestingly, it is also a key
herb in Hildegard
of Bingen's 12th century internal tonic for cancer. It
is discussed in the appendix of my book where
I point out that it remains to this day a highly controversial
herb, prized by many as a diuretic and even as the main herb
to prevent angiogenesis, the formation of auxiliary arteries
that feed tumors. If it is effective for this, it is a reasonable
alternative to shark cartilade and the overharvesting of a
species. Others disregard the herb to such an extent that it
is omitted from some textbooks.
Burdock is actually a member of the daisy
family. It is native to Europe but grows almost anywhere, obviously
in the Great Lakes area where the nurse's and the Ojibwa's
paths met. The Japanese, who call burdock "gobo" eat
it as a sort of Zen austerity. The root is long and thin, sort
of like a carrot without pigmentation. It is definitely Zen
and bland tasting. The French prepare burdock like asparagus
and some people prepare it as a potato substitute in soups,
pancakes, and cutlets. It is one of the main ingredients in
most grain coffees, certainly a reason for cancer patients
who are concerned about caffeine and its effect on the pancreas
and cancer to switch to grain coffee.
Burdock is easy to grow. I had lots of it
in my garden in Cundiyo and ate the leaves and roots. It is
the first year's growth of the roots that is used both for
culinary and medicinal purposes. The root is harvested before
the purple flowers open. Herbalists, who consider burdock to
be a tumor resolvent, use burdock primarily for uterine complaints
and as a poultice to reduce swelling. The leaves, being quite
bitter, have a stronger hypoglycemic action than the roots
which are more mucilaginous.
Scientific studies in Germany (1967)
and Japan (1986) concluded that burdock has powerful antifungal
and antibacterial actions. It is such a good blood purifier
that it can even be used with venomous bites. Unlike the
Ojibwas and Caisse, most herbalists combine burdock with
yellow dock and sarsaparilla . . . in which case it would
have extremely valuable blood purifying actions. Even by
itself, it is highly regarded as the herb of choice for conditions
such as eczema.
I found a web site that
sells the seeds of the Takinogawa variety which it states
is the one that showed the antitumor effects in Japanese
Research on burdock is sparse but consistent.
Hungarians found anti-tumor actions and the Japanese, who truly
love this plant, have identified a desmutagen that they named
B-factor in honor of burdock. It is so powerful that it prevents
cellular mutation in the absence of as well as presence metabolic
So, we have at least 800 years of herbal medicine
supporting the use of burdock. Burdock is in the Hoxsey
formula that we have re-created . . . and I would like
to go on record saying that I personally believe this formula
to be significantly superior to Essiac, but it is also much
more concentrated than a tea could ever be.
Elm (Ulmus fulva)
Slippery elm must be one of the most nourishing
and protective herbs Nature has to offer. It is highly mucilaginous
and soothing and is the primary ingredient in many Native American
poultices, including the one used by Dr.
Eli G. Jones, one of history's greatest cancer specialists.
I have given a little slippery elm to dogs
with gastrointestinal distress and recommended it for people
who are convalescing and wish to enrich a hot porridge with
something that is mildly medicinal and nourishing. It gives
very fast relief for hyperacidic conditions and is truly remarkable
in the manner in which it confers ease.
Though sheep's sorrel can be found in most
temperate zones, its medicinal uses were first learned from
Native Americans. Like burdock, it is a diuretic and detoxifier.
Also, as with other docks, it is has laxative properties, quite
gentle, but nevertheless useful for detoxification of
the gastrointestinal tract. In it contraindicated for people
prone to forming kidney stones, perhaps because it is a rich
source of trace minerals.
Rhubarb is an astringent herb with a major
purging effect that is tolerable to most people though I personally
far prefer other herbs. Nevertheless, it has a long history
in China and many other parts of the world as a laxative and
effective treatment for many gastrointestinal problems. Due
to the tannins (which cause the astringency), this herb is
constipating in small doses and laxative in higher doses. Therefore,
a proper formula is needed to bring about the intended purging
of the colon without cramping. It has been used extensively
for the treatment of Candida albicans as
well as bacterial infections, especially Staphylococcus
aureus. Studies suggest that one of its primary constituents,
rhein, safely reduces infections in the eliminatory system
that contribute to inflammation.
When using Essiac, Caisse noted that tumors
often become harder at first and then they soften and disappear.
My own experience with this formula is quite limited. I know
many people who have used it, but I feel that while it makes
an entirely reasonable adjunctive support to an adequate cancer
treatment program, it is very far from constituting a standalone
For more information on Essiac,
see the web pages devoted to this product: