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Essiac Tea- Is it beneficial for the treatment of cancer?

During my journey to fight breast cancer, I searched high and low to believe that food is divinely medicinal. I still think this to be true today, but more on that later. Nightly, I scoured books and found several teas that I chose to use as supplements to my traditional chemotherapy treatments. That was when I was introduced to Essiac tea. It popped up in several of the cure cancer naturally books that touted it as a curative tool to cure cancer. I was desperate for a solution, so I missed the part where Essiac tea is the black sheep among teas. If there were an outcast in the tea family, Essiac would be it!

Drinking tea each night served two purposes. First, I was activating positive changes from within, or at least I thought I was, which might be just as powerful. Additionally, I was giving myself the much-needed time outs at the end of each day. Treatment is challenging, and self-care is of the utmost importance during this time. So, each night, I would brew my tea and spend time meditating on healing throughout my entire body. I would focus on how amazing the human body is and how capable it is in curing itself. This mini tradition helped restore and revitalize me during my treatment months. It gave me a sense of control during a time when you can often feel completely out of control.

But let’s get back to our black sheep, Essiac. Essiac tea is a proprietary blend of burdock root (Arctium lappa L.), Indian rhubarb root (Rheum palmatum L., sometimes known as Turkish rhubarb), sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella L.), and slippery elm (Ulmus fulva Michx. [synonym Ulmus rubra]) created by Rene Caisse in the 1920s. She was a nurse who claimed the formula was given to her by an Ojibwa medicine man.1 Ever since its introduction, the tea has developed a full set of friends and foes. If you did a quick scan of the internet right now, I do not doubt that this glaring discrepancy will be as evident to you as it was to me.

Proponents of this tea claim it will detoxify the body, boost immune, and help cure numerous diseases, including cancer. But significant medical outlets contend that there is not enough evidence to support these claims. The FDA has even gone as far as to say this is a “fake” cure, including the tea on its list of 187 fake cancer cures.2 Thus far, the evidence seems mostly anecdotal, and more testing is needed in humans to be considered a cancer treatment.

Still, something keeps nagging me about this one. So, I did some digging into the ingredients separately, and here is what I found. Sorrel has been found effective at fighting inflammation.3 According to WebMD, Slippery Elm is used for treating ulcers.4 The Cherokee Indians used Burdock root to treat rheumatism.5 Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, studies have found that Rheum Palmatum L. can kill tumors. It has antiproliferative qualities and has shown to effectively inhibit glucose uptake in tumor cells, leading to their death. 6

I don’t know about you, but those ingredients sound powerful! In my book, the case against this black sheep of the tea family is still unsettled. Perhaps it’s merely our desire for it to work that makes it so, but I am not ready to count it out just yet.

Remember to always consult with your doctor. I am not a doctor, and I am not here to offer medical advice. I am only here to provide you with something to think about along your journey.


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