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Sue Reynolds, Master Herbalist
Sue Reynolds, M.S.W.
Lifestyle and Health Coach
Master Herbalist

Updated August 2, 2020
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The Story of Essiac Tea

1994 Michael Reynolds

In 1922, a Canadian nurse named Rene Caisse met an 80-year-old woman who claimed she had been cured of advanced breast cancer. The woman credited the cure to an ancient Native American recipe of herbs and roots that had been given to her by a medicine man 30 years before.

Rene asked the elderly lady to tell her what the herbs were and how to take them. She did, and Rene filed the information away to be used one day, if needed. Two years later, her aunt was diagnosed with cancer of the stomach and liver and was considered terminal. The aunt's doctor agreed to let the patient take the brew. Rene located the herbs, with some difficulty, brewed the tea, and successfully treated her aunt with it. She lived another 21 years with no recurrence. The doctor was so impressed with the result of the herbs that he asked her to treat his other "hopeless" cancer patients! That was the beginning of Rene's new career.

Rene called her remedy, "Essiac", which is her own last name, spelled backwards. Together, she and her aunt’s doctor treated terminally-ill cancer patients. The doctor considered Nurse Caisse a worthy colleague. He spread the word about her treatment and by 1926, she was well enough known that a group of eight medical doctors consulted her in the case of an old man whose face was almost eaten away by a malignant growth. They said, "If your treatment can help him in this stage, we will know you have discovered a successful remedy for cancer." Rene Caisse recorded, "My treatment stopped the bleeding in less than 24 hours. The old man’s face healed and he lived for six more months, with very little discomfort."

The eight physicians were convinced. They submitted a petition to the Department of National Health and Welfare in Ottawa, Canada, requesting that Nurse Caisse be given facilities to do independent research with her herbal remedy. But the petition back-fired. Health and Welfare’s own investigating physicians showed up at her front door without warning, carrying papers that authorized Rene’s arrest, but because she charged no fees for her services, she was not jailed. Because of this event, she decided never to disclose the herbal formula or the brewing instructions, though for the next 50 years she continued to treat anyone who came to her.

In 1936, Dr. Frederick Banting, the discoverer of insulin, invited her to apply for continuing her research at Toronto University and offered to share his own laboratory facilities with her. But after "... much soul-searching a prayer," she turned it down. She would have had to give them the formula. Rene rationalized that Essiac would be in danger of being mis-used, or filed in the archives and forgotten.

Rene Caisse died at the age of 90 in 1988, the famous herbal formula was threatened to die with her. But Essiac kept appearing in the media, notably on a phone-in radio show. Elaine Alexander was the producer of the program in Vancouver, British Columbia, and she gave air time to controversial topics, interviewing people from all over the world. One of the stories that captured her interest was Essiac. Elaine never talked to Rene herself, but after Nurse Caisse died, she contacted Dr. Brusch, the physician whom the nurse trusted more than any other. He was Rene’s long-time partner in the development (and an equal owner) of the treatment. Elaine asked him for an interview.

As a result, the radio station was swamped with telephone calls, Elaine found herself talking to desperate people seeking help. Elaine told the Canadian Health Food Association, "My street was lined with cars. Men and women, one after the other. Most of them sobbing with pain. For 34 days and nights, thousands of people fell on my daughter and myself to learn about the formula. We kept trying to help these hurting people. They had done everything their medical doctors had said, to no avail."

Dr. Brusch legally passed on the rights to the Essiac herbal formula to Elaine and, since then, the formula for Essiac has been released into the public domain. This means that anyone can produce it, provided them have the means, and patience, to do all the work involved. The recipe for Essiac Tea may appear simple, but its preparation is complex. The ingredients are 6 cups of chopped burdock root, 16 oz. Sheep Sorrel herb powder, 1 oz. Turkey Rhubarb Root powder, and 4 oz. Slippery Elm Bark powder. Bring 2 gallons of distilled water to a boil in a stainless steel kettle. Stir in 8 ounces of the formula and boil briskly for 10 minutes. Cool for 6 hours. Stir thoroughly with a wooden or stainless steel utensil and leave for another 6 hours. Bring to a boil again, remove from heat, and pour through a stainless steel strainer into a second stainless steel kettle. Clean the first kettle and strain the contents of the second kettle back into the first. Bottle immediately into dark glass bottles and seal while still hot. When cool, store in the refrigerator. Each prepared batch remains fresh for only a few days, after which it is very prone to mold growth.

Fortunately, there is an easier way to enjoy the benefits of Essaic Tea. By preparing the formula according to the recipe, and then evaporating the water within a vacuum, a fine powder can be obtained which can be placed into capsules. Each capsule can contain the equivalent of 1 ounce of Essaic Tea and can be easily mixed with hot water. Our encapsulated formula is called E-Tea.

There are, of course, no claims made for this formula. Claims for cure by herbal formulas are against the law, despite the evidence. Rene Caisse once said, "It is my honest opinion that if apple cider vinegar were found to benefit cancer patients, it would be banned from the public." Elaine Alexander says, "The people who make claims are those who take it."

Read more about Essiac Tea.

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