What is Essiac?
Essiac is the commonly known name for a four herb decoction (liquid herbal tea concentrate) comprised of burdock root, cut and dried (arcrium lappa), sheep sorrel, whole herb including root, coarsely powdered (rumex acetosella), slippery elm, inner bark, powdered (ulmus rubra/fulva), and turkey rhubarb root, powdered (rheum palmatum).
Essiac's beginnings go back to a time before the calendars we know. It came to a white woman living with breast cancer in the mining camps of northern Ontario Canada in the 1890s, brought by a Native American medicine man. Some decades later, and still cancer-free, she gave the recipe to nurse Rene Caisse. In the 1920s and 1930s, Nurse Caisse experimented with the herbs individually and refined the formula so that it could be injected. She developed several formulae which she used in her Bracebridge, Ontario Cancer clinic to successfully treat a number of patients referred to her by doctors who said they could do no more (thus a nurse referral).
Her most well-known formula is the "classic" four-herb Essiac tea, which contains burdock, sheep sorrel, slippery elm and turkey rhubarb. The original formula was made up of eight herbs including the above-named four plus red clover, watercress, periwinkle and an eighth herb never revealed by Rene Caisse. Snow and Klein's research points strongly to the likelihood that this eighth herb was goldthread, as there is evidence that Rene Caisse used this herb for some of her patients both during and after the time when she had her Bracebridge cancer clinic. Rene also injected a sheep sorrel decoction and administered the other three herbs as an oral decoction. She occasionally used watercress but with caution, and only for certain patients. She also developed a kidney remedy and a salve.
Rene Caisse kept her formulae secret with very few exceptions. After Rene's death in 1978, her long-time friend and helper Mary McPherson continued to make the tea and supply many of Rene's patients for nearly another 20 years. In the 1990s Dr. Gary Glum purchased the four-herb formula from one of Rene's trusted patients, and released it with his book Calling of An Angel. Lzter, Mary McPherson recorded a sworn affidavit, formally entering the classic four-herb Essiac formula into the public domain.
The preparation of our special blend of Essiac tea herbs is based upon the work of Sheila Snow and Mali Klein. These authors have spent a combined total of over 40 years researching and documenting Rene Caisse's life and the story of Essiac, and have collectively written five books on the subject: The Essence of Essiac (Sheila Snow), Essiac Essentials and Essiac - The Secrets of Rene Caisse's Herbal Pharmacy (Sheila Snow/Mali Klein), and The Essiac Book (Mali Klein). These books are now all out of print. Newly released (March 2011) is the comprehensive volume, The Complete Essiac Essentials (Sheila Snow/Mali Klein). Sheila Snow worked directly with Rene Caisse and was a close friend of Mary McPherson's for over 10 years (Mary died in 2006). Mali also got to become acquainted with Mary when she spent extensive time in Bracebridge with Sheila, co-authoring the books on Essiac. Sheila spent 27 years compiling a priceless Essiac Archive collection of Rene Caisse's personal papers and correspondence, legal documents, the only existing Clinic case records, many hours of tape-recorded conversations, newspaper clippings, memorabilia and other documentation of Essiac history.