In herbology, a tonic or tincture is a concentrated herbal extract that uses alcohol, plus or minus water, as a solvent to draw out the active molecules from the plants. This is compared to hot water as the solvent in tea. Some of the reasons why tonic may be preferred over tea include a greater spectrum of possible active compounds that can dissolve in alcohol versus water alone, ease of preparation, no need for refrigeration, and small storage volume. Essiac tonic is commercially available in many health stores, but one can easily save money by making your own.

Instructions for Making Essiac Tonic

  1. The first step is to choose the solvent for the tonic. Ethanol is common, but one can choose a solvent with a different alcohol level. Vodka is most common, but brandy, rum, or whiskey can also be used. For those who are alcohol intolerant or abstinent, other liquids, such as vinegar or glycerites, can be used. Importantly, the alcohol should be high quality, with at least 40% alcohol content (80 proof).

  2. The container that one chooses is also important. The preferred container material is brown glass or ceramic. Notably, one should avoid metal or plastic, as byproducts of chemical reactions between the container and tincture may be dangerous. Darker colored bottles are also preferred, as they prevent sunlight from degrading the active compounds. The container used for preparing the tonic is typically large, but one should also have smaller, sterilized containers of similar material for storage of the finished product.

  3. Next, it is time to prepare the herbs for the tincture. One can used herbs in different forms, including fresh, dry, or powdered. The concentration or ratio of herbs to solvent can differ based on preference, but a general rule is:

  4. 1:5 plant-to-solvent ratio for dried herbs

    These are not strict ratios, though, and one can change the ratio according to one’s preference. Unlike tea, Rene Caisse did not provide a specific recipe for preparing Essiac tonic. Therefore, one can just follow general tonic recipes using the four herbs contained in Essiac.


  5. After the desired amount of alcohol has been added to the herbs, stir the container to remove air bubbles, seal the container, and store it in a dark place. In order to extract the molecules, the herbs should be steeped for anywhere from 8 days to one month; two weeks is typical. One can also shake or stir the mixture once to twice daily to redistribute the herbs.

  6. Once the desired steeping time has passed, the next step is to strain the mixture. One can use a coffee filter, muslin, or cheesecloth to strain. A helpful tip is to strain over a large bowl, and then squeeze the captured herbs to collect all of the liquid. One can then funnel the prepared tonic into one or more sterilized storage containers. To be safe, one should label the container(s) with the date and time of bottling. Generally, tonics can be stored for two years or even longer.

Tonics provide a convenient, cost-effective form of Essiac consumption. It is important to follow preparation instructions carefully and be aware of possible side effects, though, as dosing and concentrations can be less exact compared to other forms. If in doubt, one should consult an herbologist or health practitioner more experienced with Essiac or herbal tonics in general.