4 Effective Ways Essiac Tea Can Help Treat Cancer

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Essiac tea has been the subject of both controversy and excitement in regards to its effects on cancer. The various components of essiac tea are known to stimulate the immune system, reduce free radical activity, eliminate inflammation, prevent tumor growth, reduce cellular mutation, and detoxify the body. Side effects of essiac tea include nausea, vomiting, headaches, frequent urination, skin irritation, muscle aches, weakness, and other allergic reactions. Before taking essiac tea, it is important to ensure that you are not allergic to any of the four primary components.

The origins of essiac tea stretch back thousands of years to the indigenous people of Canada, but it was first used in the 1920s by a nurse named Rene Caisse, who administered it to many of her cancer patients with very promising results. After attempting to introduce it to the mainstream in the rest of North America, there was a great deal of pushback from the medical establishment, and it remains an unregulated treatment, despite hundreds of positive anecdotal reports. Essiac tea is composed of sheep sorrel, burdock root, Indian rhubarb root and the inner bark of the slippery elm. Each of these ingredients contributes to different health benefits and active ingredients, such as flavones, tannins, and anthraquinones, as well as polysaccharides that further boost the immune system.

Essiac Tea & Cancer Treatment

In the treatment and prevention of cancer, essiac tea is potentially more effective when cancer is discovered early and a supportive remedy if cancer has already progressed (Leonard SS et al., 2006). Each of the ingredients provides different nutrients and benefits that synergistically attack cancer cells and strengthen the body’s defenses. Modern medicine hesitates to call essiac tea a “cure” for cancer, but it does show positive effects against tumor growth, cancer cell reproduction, oxidative stress, and tissue inflammation, while also tackling certain secondary symptoms of cancer that can exacerbate or speed the condition. To understand the effect of essiac tea on cancer, individually examining the four ingredients is essential.

Sheep Sorrel

This herb, taxonomically known as Rumex acetosella, is a rich source of beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and other carotenoids; in fact, it is widely praised as one of the most antioxidant-dense herbs available to natural healers and has potent anti-viral properties (Gescher K et al., 2011). Studies on sheep sorrel have found that it does have anti-proliferative effects on cancerous cells, meaning that it can prevent the replication and metastasis of cancerous growths. Furthermore, it is well known as a blood purifier, further cleansing the areas of infection. Rene Caisse claimed that this ingredient was the most powerful cancer-fighting element in essiac tea.

Burdock Root

This element of essiac tea contains anthraquinone, a chemical that is well known to slow tumor growth and prevent cellular mutation, which is what leads to cancer. In fact, anthraquinone is found in a number of mainstream cancer drugs due to its powerful anti-mutagenic effects. Studies conducted by Chan YS et al. have found that burdock root extract has apoptotic effects on cancerous cells, meaning that it stimulates cell death in those malignant cells, without harming healthy cells around it.

Indian Rhubarb Root

A 2018 animal study on Indian rhubarb root by researchers in Egypt showed that it may reduce the progression of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers concluded that the root has the potential to be used in the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma and clinical trials with humans are required. 

Slippery Elm (Inner Bark)

This herbal ingredient contains plant sterols, tannins and essential fatty acids that can reduce inflammation, as well as mucilage and calcium oxalate, which helps this herb detoxify the body. In combination with the other elements of essiac tea, slippery elm protects the health of organs from the effects of mainstream cancer treatments, while simultaneously supporting the immune system.

Essiac Tea Other Benefits

The potential role of essiac tea in cancer prevention and treatment gets most of the attention, but essiac tea can also help to relieve inflammation throughout the body, boost the immune system, treat respiratory conditions, stimulate the metabolism, promotes normal digestion and heals skin conditions.

  • Inflammation: Antioxidant compounds found in sheep sorrel and burdock root also have anti-inflammatory properties that can help people suffering from arthritis, headaches, gout, heart disease, joint disorders, muscle aches, hemorrhoids and a range of other common inflammatory issues.
  • Digestion: The mucilage found in slippery elm is able to promote digestive efficiency and eliminate symptoms of constipation and bloating. Similarly, sheep sorrel is a laxative, which can speed up the digestive process and flush out the digestive tract, which can often eliminate harmful bacteria that have set up residence in the gut.
  • Metabolism: This unique blend of herbs has a stimulating effect on the body, which results in better metabolic function and even passive fat-burning, which is good for hormone and enzyme production, as well as weight-loss efforts.
  • Immune System: Studies have shown that the combined antioxidant effects of essiac tea’s ingredients are greater than that of green tea, meaning that these herbs can give a major boost to the immune system. It can also stimulate white blood cell production and defend against bacterial and viral infections.
  • Respiratory Issues: Slippery elm and Indian rhubarb root, in particular, are known to soothe respiratory infections and cut through phlegm and mucus. These expectorant properties can speed healing and lower inflammation in the respiratory tracts.

Essiac Tea Ingredients

The classic recipe for essiac tea includes sheep sorrel, burdock root, Indian rhubarb root, and slippery elm bark. However, there have been a number of variations on this original formula in recent decades. The most popular “improvement” on Rene Caisse’s formula is called Flor Essence and adds four additional herbs to the mix – watercress, blessed thistle, red clover, and kelp. These additional components are claimed to be able to complement and improve the anti-cancer effects of this herbal health tonic.

Side Effects of Essiac Tea

Some of the side effects of essiac tea include nausea, vomiting, skin irritation, dehydration, excessive urination, and bowel movements and flu-like symptoms. These negative side effects are primarily due to the active ingredients in burdock root and sheep sorrel, or if users are allergic to the herbal ingredients.

  • Laxative and Diuretic: Burdock root is well known as a diuretic substance, which can help to detoxify the body, but might also lead to dehydration if the urination becomes too frequent or constant. Sheep sorrel, on the other hand, is a laxative substance, and when essiac tea is taken in large quantities, it can lead to diarrhea, nausea and an upset stomach.
  • Allergic Reactions: All four of the herbs commonly included in essiac tea are potential allergens, especially burdock root, which is closely related to ragweed and daisies – common allergenic substances. Most of the side effects in the case of an allergic reaction are skin irritation, mild stomach upset and swelling of the tongue, lips, and glands.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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