THE 4-CENTS-A-DAY FOLK REMEDY:
ESSIAC: THE SECRET'S OUT
From The Cancer Chronicles
©1993 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
It is sometimes claimed that alternative treatments are a cruel rip-off that
further impoverishes desperate cancer patients. But what about Essiac (TM),
a Native American remedy popularized by the late Canadian nurse, Rene Caisse
(1889-1978)? While Essiac-type formulas are available at a reasonable cost
in many health food stores, the brew is potentially even less expensive,
since it is derived from weeds found in many backyards.
Essiac's use is growing in both the U.S. and Canada, where it is legal, but
only for terminal cancer patients. Because of its underground popularity,
some entrepreneurs have tried to cash in. Companies have come out with competing
formulas to trademarked Essiac, some with deceptively similar names or claims
to authenticity. Some patients complain about the confusion.
Canadian author Sheila Snow has been studying the question for 20 years.
In a 1993 book*, she writes that "certain groups and individuals have been
flooding the Canadian market with products reputed to be made from [the]
original recipe." Naturally, "each distributor denies the authenticity of
other competitor concoctions."
Yet, according to Snow, there is one way to increase the chances of getting
an authentic version of Essiacmake it yourself, either from wildcrafted
herbs or from those purchased from respectable dealers.
All companies agree that four basic herbs are always present in this Native
American formula; some of these have immune-modulating properties (see R.
W. Moss's Cancer Therapy, pp. 146-148). According to Snow, the authentic
Essiac decoction can be homemade from ingredients obtainable from any good
herb store. The prices we cite below are from one such firm, chosen at random
from the New York phone book: Aphrodisia (The total cost of these dry ingredients
According to Snow, these dried herbs can be used to create enough liquid
brew for a daily one ounce dose for 18 to 24 months. In other words, homemade,
this treatment costs about4 cents per day. No wonder, in the era of $150,000
bone marrow transplants, Essiac is becoming more popular.
Snow gives complete instructions for preparing the brew. One thoroughly mixes
these dry ingredients in a bowl, then pours the dry mixture into a wide-mouth
glass jar and shakes well. One mixes 1 1/2 quarts of distilled water to every
ounce of the dry mixture and boils it up in a stainless steel, lidded pot.
After boiling hard for 10 minutes, turn off the heat, says Snow, scrape down
the sides of the pot, and stir well. The pot then sits for 10-12 hours. To
preserve a supply, one must sterilize the implements and reheat the liquid
until it is steaming hot, but not boiling. One strains the mixture and puts
it in bottles. The caps of the bottle are tightened and then and set aside
to cool. Once the bottles are opened, they should be refrigerated, but not
It is important to question the source and authenticity of the herbs. For
example, there are over 100 species of "sorrel" but it is important to make
sure one is getting real sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella), and not some
substitute, such as ordinary garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa).
The final product looks somewhat like apple cider or light honey and has
a mild, earthy aroma and a flavor that some patients refer to as "punk"a
little like dry, decayed wood. To use, Snow says one should:
Shake the bottle gently to mix any settled sediment.
Take 1 oz. of the decoction in 2 oz. of hot water on an empty stomach, 2
to 3 hours after supper each night.
Refrain from food or drink for 1 hour after taking it.
Allow at least 3 hrs. to elapse between using Essiac and any prescription
drug or treatment.
Some patients complain of nausea and/or indigestion after taking Essiac,
says Snow. This may be because they take it on a full stomach. Large doses
of burdock root tea have also been found toxic in certain cases. For more
information, see the article on Essiac in Cancer
Therapy as well as Snow.
NURSE CAISSE'S HERBAL BREW