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What is Essiac Tea?

Essiac tea is a herbal formulation used to treat cancer and is sold by a variety of companies under various names derived from a formula invented by a Canadian nurse in the 1920s. It is believed that nurse Rene Caisse based her herbal formula on an elderly man's botanical recipe for the treatment of cancer. Although different companies in Europe, Canada, the United States, and Australia use different formulations, most Essiac teas and products are made up of four main ingredients: burdock, elm bark, sorrel, and rhubarb root. Some companies add milk thistle, seaweed, red clover, watercress, or other herbs in varying amounts. While there has been isolated evidence of the effectiveness of essiac tea in treating cancer, there is no scientific evidence of its effectiveness.

Rene Caisse first encountered the herbal mixture in 1922 when he was treating a woman who claimed to have been cured of breast cancer by drinking a herbal tea made by a tribal healer in the late 19th century. Caisse named the herbal formula by reversing the letters in her last name. From 1922 until her death in 1978, Caisse used her formula to help cancer patients at her clinic in Ontario, Canada, and elsewhere in North America. She is said to have been constantly experimenting with the formula, changing the herbal proportions, and using additional herbs to find the best mix, but she hasn't revealed her formula.

In addition to the treatment of cancer, Essiac tea is used by herbalists and the general population for a variety of foods and to promote general health. Many use it as a general tonic to help detoxify the body and improve its function. It has been used to treat diseases ranging from diabetes to Lyme disease. Personal testimonials report its effectiveness in treating illness, but there is no scientific evidence that Essiac tea is effective.

Of the four original herbs in Essiac tea, only one comes from North America. Research studies have shown that the burdock root or Arctium lappa Traditionally used by herbalists to detoxify the blood, has antibacterial properties. Sorrel or Rumex acetosella is another detox herb that also acts as a diuretic. Smooth elm bark or Ulmus rubra is the only plant in the formula that is native to North America, and it's a detoxifying herb that also has anti-inflammatory properties. Turkey rhubarb, also Chinese, Indian or Turkish rhubarb, Rheum palmatum or Called Rheum officinale , is an Asian plant that is used for its laxative effects and anti-inflammatory properties.

Individual herbs in the formula have been scientifically tested and have shown promise in treating diseases such as cancer. Herbalists and makers of Essiac tea claim that it boosts the immune system, detoxifies the body, and prevents and cures many diseases. The mixture has been used as an alternative cancer treatment in the past. It is generally accepted that Essiac has minor side effects when used as directed.