Scientists and doctors have come a long way over the years in determining potential causes – and cures – for cancer. Remember when it was considered okay for pregnant women to smoke cigarettes? Even developments as simple as determining that smoking is harmful to the gestational process are progress. Truths which may seem obvious now weren’t so obvious fewer than a hundred years ago.
Ever since humans have actually identified cancer as cancer, we’ve been looking for a cure. That’s why, back in 1920s Canada, Essaic tea was created.
What is Essaic Tea?
In the 1920s, a nurse by the name of Rene Caisse was practicing in the Ontario region of Canada. Now and again, cancer patients would come to her, and she’d prescribe a tea to cure them of their disease. The tea contained burdock, turkey rhubarb, Indian rhubarb, sheep sorrel and slippery elm bark at the very least. Caisse’s actual formulation can’t be known for sure.
Caisse claimed that, upon meeting with an Ontario Ojibwa patient with breast cancer, she was granted this recipe. Caisse claimed the patient told her of its healing properties – that, in short, the tea could cure cancer. It was, Caisse claimed, a Native recipe which had been used for generations, and she was thrilled to be sharing this cure with her patients.
Essiac, if you haven’t figured it out by now, is merely Caisse spelled in reverse, as the original blend was ultimately credited to Caisse. From the 1920s to the 1970s, Caisse prescribed the tea to her patients. There’s no exact record of how many patients may have been treated, or helped, with the tea.
Finally, in the 1970s, Caisse sold the recipe to Respirin Company, a Canadian company, who began to research the tea and its benefits against cancer. Was Essiac tea truly a cure for cancer?
Can Essiac Tea Cure Cancer?
In a word, no. Essiac tea is not a cure for cancer, nor is it a treatment. In fact, studies have shown that ingesting Essiac tea can actually worsen some types of cancer. For instance, the tea causes prostate cancer cells to grow.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration, normally responsible for testing the safety of medications and foods, does not handle testing of products labelled “supplements.” However, they made an exception in the case of Essiac tea.
Many studies have been conducted on laboratory animals, and the results of those tests haven’t been in favor of Essiac tea. High doses of Essiac tea actually kills laboratory rats, and, as mentioned, the tea can worsen some types of cancer.
The FDA, as well as numerous other government organizations, has deemed Essiac tea to be “an illegal cancer treatment” as well as a “cruel deception.” Those are harsh words from government entities, but only go to show that, while the product has been marketed as a treatment for cancer, it’s more likely either a placebo or a source of false hope for cancer patients.
Health Benefits of Essiac Tea
We mentioned the ingredients found in most formulations of Essiac tea. Of these, most aren’t toxic to humans. Sheep sorrel is wonderfully edible, and burdock can be eaten as well. Slippery elm bark is safe as well and has even been used by midwives to alleviate the everyday pains of pregnancy.
Both Turkey and Indian rhubarbs, however, are toxic. Some parts of the plant are highly toxic to both humans and animals and should not be ingested. The leaves, in particular, contain oxalic acid, which can cause the death of liver and kidney cells.
To put it simply, three fifths of the ingredients in Essiac tea are non-toxic, and may even provide some health benefits. But two ingredients in the tea are toxic to humans, and shouldn’t be ingested without a doctor’s supervision.
Is Essiac Tea Illegal?
At time of writing, it’s not illegal to consume, possess or sell any of the ingredients of Essiac tea. You can find each of the ingredients in aural food stores, or online at sites like Amazon. You can also purchase pre-formulated boxes of dried Essiac tea which need only to be steeped as you would a normal cup.
What is illegal in some countries, however, is the marketing of Essiac tea as a cancer remedy, treatment, or preventative. The tea does not cure or prevent cancer, and companies which claim it will may get in some serious regulatory trouble.
Rene Caisse first doled out Essiac tea to her patients, free of charge. She was either convinced that this tea was a Native recipe, or was a very good salesperson. However, people who have taken the time to look into the teas ingredients will tell you that several of the herbs in the tea aren’t even indigenous to the Ontario area.
So is Essiac tea illegal? No. Is it, most often, a scam? Oh yes. Absolutely.
Can Tea Cure Cancer?
We’ve mentioned elsewhere on Tea Reviews that teas like green tea are often lauded for their cancer-fighting properties. Unfortunately, though, it’s just not that simple. Tea does not cure cancer, as far as science has proven.
With the knowledge in mind that no one tea will treat or prevent cancer, some teas have been shown to have positive effects on the body. Green tea is one of these. The antioxidants and other natural chemicals in green tea have been linked with a lesser instance of cancer and the recurrence of cancer. Similar studies have shown promise for Sideritis tea and Matcha.
Some herbs, too, may help cancer patients fight the disease. Many of those herbs are often added to teas, and may be something you’d like to discuss with your doctor.
Plain and simple, it would be nice if it could, but tea can’t treat cancer. Not directly, not quickly, and probably not at all. If you’re looking for a way to prevent or treat cancer, we recommend that you have an honest conversation with your primary medical care provider. Together, you and your doctor can discuss the benefits and drawbacks of incorporating an herbal routine into your daily schedule.