In the 1920’s, Rene Caisse and Dr. Fisher found it was very dangerous to inject Essiac. However, she worked out a safe solution for injecting sheep sorrel with the other herbs being given orally.

The newspaper article below reports a death caused by injecting essiac tea, all 4 essiac herbs.
Thanks to Dave Farrell, Editor-in-Chief of Michigan Live, for permission to copy the original article.

Doctor’s license suspended;
some patients still support him

Friday, April 18, 1997

By Chris Meehan and John Agar
The Grand Rapids Press

Judee Mehaffey was diagnosed last week with cancer in her lungs and adrenal glands.

Her prognosis isn’t good, but Mehaffey said her physician, Dr. Sandor Olah, has lifted her spirits and given her hope.

“Do you know how robbed I feel that Dr. Olah can’t take care of me? Do you know how unfair this is?” she said Thursday at Olah’s office on M-40 in Hamilton.

The state has suspended Olah’s license to practice after the death last year of one of his patients following a procedure in which he infused a herbal tea mixture into her veins.

An autopsy determined that Petra Hall, a 54-year-old Grand Haven area woman suffering from leukemia, died on Feb. 6, 1996 of a toxic reaction to the tea.

Her husband, Archie, an engineer, died a month before of malignant melanoma. Archie Hall had also been infused with tea, but stopped the procedures a few weeks before he died. The couple is survived by a married daughter and two teen-age sons.

Olah, 51, awaits a hearing on his license suspension in Lansing May 9 Monday. The complaint alleging negligence and incompetence was filed by the state Department of Consumer and Industry Services, which regulates doctors in Michigan.

A 1977 graduate of Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri, Olah has practiced in Hamilton for at least 18 years, according to Dr. Donald Wickstra, a dentist who owns the building where Olah rents office space.

“Dr. Olah is a very fine, caring person,” said Richard Leonard, the physician’s attorney. “He is a well-trained physician. We believe his suspension will be a temporary thing.”

But state licensing officials said he used an unproven therapy that was a “departure from, or failure to conform to, minimal standards of acceptable and prevailing practice for the health profession.”

Medical experts in Grand Rapids and elsewhere said that Olah was using a well-known, ancient herbal concoction that has never been proven to cure cancer. They also said they have never heard of it being given in an intravenous solution.

Known commonly as Essiac, the all-natural brew also goes by “cancer tea,” “Flora Essence,” “Native Legend Tea” or just the “brown bottle tonic” because of how it is packaged in some health food stores. It sells for $10 to $30 a package or in bottles.

“This concoction might be widely known in the alternative community, but it is not something that is a conventional treatment,” said Dr. Allen Campbell, medical director of the Lettinga Cancer Center at Butterworth Hospital.

Bill Kapla, a clerk at a health food store in Grand Rapids, said he gets several requests every week for the ancient Native American herbal remedy.

“Using this tea as a treatment for cancer is an unproven, underground thing,” said Kapla, who works at Harvest Health. “There’s been a lot of interest in this for the last few years. But from what I can tell there’s no scientific evidence that it cures any type of disease.”

According to state licensing officials, Olah obtained his medicinal brew from a pharmacy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Employees of the pharmacy told Michigan investigators that the mixture of four herbs was not intended for intravenous use.

What especially bothers doctors and health investigators is how the herbs were used.

“This tea was never meant to be given intravenously,” state officials said in their report. “It had been stored for over two months, and to administer such a preparation was blatantly medically unsound.”

The state report said her Muskegon oncologist, Dr. Hikment Sipahi, said Mrs. Hall had been doing well during treatment at the Hackley Hospital Cancer Center in Muskegon.

“I was her cancer doctor… (and) I didn’t know she was taking (the tea),” Sipahi said. “I would never have recommended it to her if she had asked me. The treatment she was getting (at Hackley) was beneficial for her.”

Essiac tea is a mixture of turkey rhubarb, sheep sorrel, slippery elm
and cress [sic]. It is sold under various names. Each product likely contains varying amounts of each herb, said Rob McCaleb, president of the Colorado-based Herb Research Foundation.

Some of the herbs do contain chemical components that have been shown to fight cancer, said McCaleb. They also help to clean the system of certain toxins, which can be helpful.

But there is no evidence that taken together they work to destroy tumors, he said.

Canadian nurse Rene Caisse learned the secret of the Essiac brew from a breast cancer patient who was given the secret by an Ontario Indian medicine man. Caisse used the tea to treat cancer patients in the 1920s until her death in 1978 at age 90. The word Essiac is Caisse spelled backwards.

Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, pain management specialist at Saint Mary’s Hospital, said patients should ask to see studies that show a given alternative treatment works.

“These are not easy issues to wade through. You have to look at what is reasonable,” he said.

State officials said one of Olah’s employees prepared the IV filled with the tea for the patient. But the doctor is the one who administered the solution.

“He checked to make sure it was working, and within 5 to 10 minutes after starting the IV drip, he left the room,” state officials said in their report.

Almost immediately after getting the infusion, Hall’s blood pressure dropped. She had a hard time breathing. She grew nauseated and felt weak. The doctor stopped the IV and sent her home.

When her symptoms grew worse, she was taken to the emergency room at Hackley on Jan. 26, 1996. She died less than two weeks later.


Petra Hall, the woman in the article, died from toxic reaction to Essiac tea, anaphylactic shock, which is the potentially fatal state of collapse resulting from the injection of a foriegn substance.

Rene Caisse first tried the remedy on her aunt’s cancer in 1924, Dr. Fisher was her aunt’s doctor. The Essiac Report by Richard Thomas (Alternative Treatment Information Network 1993) page 13 tells how Rene and Dr. Fisher discovered injection of original herb formula caused anaphylaxis.

The first person to receive an injection was man from Lyons, New York, who had cancer of the throat and tongue. The immediate reaction was somewhat unsettling. The patient began to shake uncontrollably, his tongue swelling to the point where it had to flattened with a spatula to allow him the opportunity to breathe. But after approximately twenty minutes, the shaking and swelling subsided. The patient, who never received another injection, reported that the cancer did stop growing, and he was able “to enjoy a pleasant life for sometime thereafter.”

Rene and Dr. Fisher were encouraged by the results but knew more study should be done on the herbal remedy before they injected their next patient. “

Rene learned that a solution of only one of the herbs could be safely injected. For the rest of her life she kept secret the name of that one herb and how to make the solution. Rene finally quit giving injections around 1938 and after that used only her oral 4 herb Essiac to treat patients.

ESSIAC ~ The Secrets of Rene Caisse’s Herbal Pharmacy by Sheila Snow/Mali Klein reveals the injection was composed of Rene’s Sheep Sorrel Solution, that was the identity of the herb. But Rene Caisse also used her Sheep Sorrel Solution topically as a douche, enema and mouthwash. You can grow your own Sheep sorrel (a weed) and make your own Solution very inexpensively.