Respected author and researcher Mali Klein has always recommended that consumers grow their own Sheep sorrel. The only herb Rene Caisse always harvested herself was Sheep sorrel, buying the other herbs whenever possible. She dried the Sheep sorrel on the floor of her house. According to Mali Klein’s research, Rene used an electric grinder as soon as it became available, which might have been in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Her electric grinder was named the “Total Nutrition Center” manufactured by the USA Vitamix Corporation. Rene is shown using the grinder in a home video.

Rene Caisse harvested whole Sheep sorrel plants, pulling them out of the ground to obtain the roots too, which she considered a very vital part of the plant. Sheep sorrel ROOT is a below-ground hard tissue herb, like the other two herb roots in the formula. According to Mali Klein’s research, the best essiac would use Sheep sorrel that is 25% root and 75% arial parts like Rene used in her Essiac decoction. Unfortunately, Mali knows of no commercial growers in North America or Europe who harvest whole-plant Sheep sorrel. They cut off and harvest the arial plant parts, leaving the root in the ground. That is why it is always recommended that consumers grow their own Sheep sorrel so they can harvest the roots too.

This has been substantiated by a California essiac marketer who found that growers aren’t interested in harvesting the roots. “Despite my discussion with major reputable herb growers and brokers about the need to utilize the whole plant and make it available to the public, none seemed eager to provide me with more than the above ground plant. There was one exception but the grower wanted minimum of $10,000 to grow it for me, citing the need to buy some big equipment to harvest it, and so on.” Although their are some suppliers of essiac tea with sheep sorrel roots included, they are are very costly.

Sheep sorrel is a weed that emigrated all over the world with the settlers from Europe, establishing itself wherever the soil was neutral to acidic — on sand, good loam and in clay. Rene Caisse discovered it was the only herb which could be safely injected, as a Sheep Sorrel Solution. The other 3 herbs (Burdock root, Slippery Elm bark and Turkey rhubarb) had to be given orally. Rene finally quit using Sheep Sorrel Solution injections and gave patients the oral 4 herb Essiac.

But Rene continued using Sheep Sorrel Solution as a douche, enema, and skin application according to ESSIAC ~ The Secrets of Rene Caisse’s Herbal Pharmacy by Sheila Snow and Mali Klein. The 4 herb formula can be taken orally at same time, but the authors advise that Sheep Sorrel Solution not be consumed, only used topically. An enema of Sheep Sorrel Solution may be very beneficial because of rectal absorption, perhaps as much as 80% effective as Rene’s original administration by injection. The enema is given once every three days, using 1/2 fluid ounce Solution (10 ml) diluted with 1 fluid ounce (20ml) lukewarm water. That is such a small amount (1.5 ounces) it doesn’t leak out of your body.

Sheep Sorrel Seeds

Mountain Rose has sheep sorrel seeds 300 for $3.00. The seeds are tiny, 300 = about 3 Tbsp.

From their site:

Sheep Sorrel Seeds (Rumex acetosella)
Perennial grassland herb with rust colored flowers. Easy to cultivate and vigorous. Sow seeds in Spring. Prefers full sun and good garden soil. This is the species called for in the formula “Essiac”.
300 seeds/pkt


It is not hard to plant and grow Sheep sorrel — you are dealing with a weed. According to Sheila Snow and Mali Klein, a plot 1 meter square (about a square yard) will supply 3 cuttings during the year for total of about 427g or 4.2 lbs. of dried herb weight, or enough for use in essiac tea for a minimum of five people for a year to fifteen months (4.2 lbs. dried is a lot of herb!).

You won’t get that much the first year. The book says, “During the first year after planting, bearing in mind that you want the plants to thicken and spread while they are in the initial process of establishing, it is better to harvest them lightly and not allow the plants to flower and go to seed.”

You might want to grow it in a raised bed, tubs or big pots. The book Essiac Essentials says:

“If you do not have a garden or it has been heavily treated with chemical fertilizer or weed-killer, in may be worth investing in either a specialist grow bag to keep on the patio or balcony, or filling a large, well-drained plant trough with lime-free potting compost. Avoid using peat, it can no longer be considered an organic growing medium. Never fertilize the plants as this will encourage too much leaf production and perhaps an inbalance of nitrogen. Sheep sorrel is a plant that thrives naturally in light, well-drained soil as long as it has enough water.”

Sheep sorrel is easily identified by distinctive little “tails” where the narrow leaf joins stem.

Sheep sorrel is easily identified by distinctive little “tails” where the narrow leaf joins stem.

“The stubbornly tenacious root system, once established, can survive forest and moorland fire, periods of drought and deep frost and is sufficiently invasive to eradicate many other species. That said, sheep sorrel will not tolerate either alkaline soil or being closely overshadowed by larger plants. The whole plant goes into hibernation during drought. Under stress, the chlorophyll content becomes significantly depleted and the leaves and stems turn red.”

“Native American Indians have been recorded as using all parts of the plant, leaves, stems, roots and seeds, for both medicinal and culinary purposes. The root contains four more elements to those found in the aerial part [leaves and stems] of the plant and should be included in a small quantity.”

Information about growing, how and when to make the cuttings, how to dry, store and prepare Sheep sorrel for use, and cutting and storing the root, are in the book ESSIAC ESSENTIALS by Sheila Snow & Mali Klein. More about making the cuttings and the Sheep Sorrel Solution recipe are in ESSIAC ~ The Secrets of Rene Caisse’s Herbal Pharmacy, which is unfortunately out of print but can be found used for reasonable price.