Use common sense and talk to your doctor or office nurse before trying any remedy, keep them informed about alternatives and supplements you start taking. If your doctor never heard of essiac, tell him the names of the herbs in it. He may have good reason that you should not take essiac. Then again, a very “conservative doctor” may not know a thing about alternatives, supplements or herbs (and may think you are foolish to ask about them).
Know whether bulk herbs are cut or powdered before you order them. The Rene Caisse recipe directions specify herbs should be powdered except for Burdock root, which should be “cut”. That said, there are several curious things to consider about the recipe, such as the soft-tissue Sheep sorrel. Herbalist say soft-tissue herbs should not be subjected to water temperature over 140º — and sea level boiling point of water is 212º. Well, that means traditional Rene Caisse recipe simmers poor Sheep sorrel to death. Solution: buy separated herbs so the Sheep sorrel can be added after 10-minute simmer (and rhubarb root decreased to control diarrhea).
2 gallons of water per cup of herbs is the traditional Rene Caisse ratio and US/Canadian “cup measure” is expressed in fluid ounces (not weight ounces) — whether it’s a cup of water, cup of flour or cup of herbs. US measuring cups are marked (in metric too) for fluid ounces, like 4 oz. and 8 oz. So one cup of herbs is 8 oz. and 1/2 cup of herbs is 4 oz. (See the Recipe page for approximate number of bottles of tea made using various amounts of water and herbs.) What is confusing about “ounces” is in buying something nonfluid like herbs which by law is expressed in ounces of weight, which has nothing to with fluid ounces.
Reheating to 180º helps prevent bacterial growth and mold after the 10-12 hour steep, but don’t let the tea come to a rolling boil again. Bottle your tea before the temperature drops, using bottles that have just been sterilized. See how to sterilize for several methods, choose the one that is easiest for you. People usually bottle (very carefully) while the tea is steaming hot. But if you prefer adding the Sheep sorrel after the reheat, use a candy thermometer to see when the tea has cooled down to around 140º before adding it.
Use a stainless steel strainer or sieve to catch the herb residue. Do not use cheesecloth to strain, or put the herbs in a “boiling bag” to brew them, because cloth mesh prevents important stuff from ending up in the tea — like the gelatinous mucilage of Burdock root and especially Slippery Elm. One straining is enough, repeated straining just lets the tea cool down more.
TIP: the herb residue (sludge, sediment, whatever you want to call it) all settles nicely on the bottom of the kettle during the 10-12 hour steep. If you slowly and carefully pour off the cooled tea into another kettle before the reheat and then reheat the almost residue-free tea, there may be little or no straining to do while bottling your hot tea (and some people like some residue in their tea anyway). But, buying another Stainless steel kettle is more expense!
Save the residue, which really isn’t “spent”, to use as swell garden compost or as a poultice bandaged on skin areas. The essiac seller at herbalhealer.com has photos showing before-and-after results of using poultices on a fellow’s knee area to allegedly help heal it of a lesion or tumorous something.
Bottles for your tea don’t have to be “Amber Boston Rounds” the bottle page describes “freebies” that will do just fine. Many use clear glass jars with mouths big enough to be sterilized in the dishwasher.
Store unopened bottles in a dark, cool place like a rarely-opened closet or drawer, or put each bottle in a brown paper bag, to protect the tea from prolonged exposure to light (same with the dry herbs). Once a bottle is opened, it has to be refrigerated. The 13 – 14 bottles (16 oz size) from a two-gallon brew batch can all be crammed into refrigerator door shelves, but some people like quart bottles (32 oz) better. If any tea you are using gets moldy or peculiar, dispose of it — “when in doubt throw it out”. But save and re-use the bottle.
Don’t microwave essiac tea to warm it up for drinking, warm it up on the stove, dilute it with hot water or drink it cold right out of the bottle. Reasons and theories that microwaving or freezing essiac tea damages its potency range from “alteration of molecular structure” to “disturbance of spiritual energies and vibrations”.
Increase your daily intake of water (which should be around 8 glasses anyway) if you take essiac, to more than 1/2 gallon per day, the ideal amount being (gulp) a gallon of water per day. Plain water — juice, coffee, tea, beer or soda pop don’t count. Coffee is a diuretic, you lose more water than a cup of coffee provides. Don’t drink coffee or tea within an hour of taking essiac tea, apparently the tannins interfere with absorption of some essiac components like iron. That does make it difficult for early-morning coffee drinkers, breakfast lovers! Well, do you ever wake up at 3:00 am or so to visit the bathroom? Visit the fridge too — for your essiac.
Don’t take your essiac tea at the same time with anything else like medications, vitamins or other supplements because of essiac’s “empty stomach rule”. Take them at different times in the day, at least an hour apart from drinking essiac tea. And, don’t add food products like honey, cream or sugar to essiac to make it taste better, that is the same as violating “empty stomach before-and-after” rule. Most people don’t mind essiac’s boiled-weeds taste, others get used to it and even like it.
All these traditional DO and DON’T rules — are they writ in stone? Nope — a friend of mine gets up, slugs down an ounce of cold essiac tea straight from the bottle and gets the coffee-maker going, in 10 minutes the coffee is ready and it, too, is slugged down. Friend has faithfully taken essiac this way for 12 years, doctor shakes his head at any test results and says, “I don’t know what you’re doing but whatever it is, just keep doing it.”
Essiac is relatively safe to take according to 75 years of anecdotal records. The herbs are used as foods by some cultures and essiac doesn’t interfere with treatments like chemo or radiation. Nevertheless, see “Possible Side Effects and Cautions About Taking Essiac Tea” — possible, not probable.
Tips for Making Essiac Tea
This brewing tip is beautifully simple and logical:
Subject: No Residue To Strain
[quote]After the 12 hour steep, the herb residue or “sludge” is all settled to the bottom. Carefully, slowly pour off the tea into a second stainless steel kettle, leaving the sludge behind. Then do your reheat of the tea in the second kettle and bottle it — it will not need to be strained! I hope people will try this tip and find it helpful. [/quote]
Bob Karjala discovered a swell tip for sterilizing bottles in a microwave oven:
Sterilizing bottles: add about 1 ounce of distilled water to each, putting on plastic caps loosely, and microwave several bottles at a time for about 15 minutes until the steam has sterilized the caps and bottles. Of course, if you have metal caps, don’t put them in the microwave but boil them separately. After cooling, the caps can be tightened and the bottles stored until ready for use or they may be filled immediately with the hot tea.
If your microwave is big enough, you can do 13 – 14 (16 oz size) bottles needed for two-gallon batch at the same time. However, the cautions are important:
- The bottles will blow up if the caps are screwed on so tight that steam can’t escape.
- Put 1 or 2 oz water in each bottle, put in too much and all you have is hot water but not enough steam to do the sterilizing.
- Microwave for 15 to 20 minutes to do the steam sterilizing. Afterward open the microwave door but don’t take the bottles out immediately — they are incredibly hot. Then use a mitt or pot-holders to take the bottles out.
- Metal caps can’t be microwaved but method will probably work with no caps on bottles.
Bob also said: “The only thing I would add is to possibly increase the microwave time when doing a large number of bottles simultaneously. This of course varies with different maximum power levels of individual ovens. You want the water in all bottles brought to a sustained steaming boil.”
This is a step-by-step way to brew and bottle (16 oz. size) using the above tips:
- As your essiac tea is consumed, rinse out and fill each empty bottle with water to keep residue from drying in it.
- Start your brewing sometime in the evening. It takes about 45 minutes for 2 gallons of distilled water to reach a boil. Stir in the herb mix and when it starts to simmer again, put the lid on. After the 10 minute low boil, shut the stove off and let the stainless steel kettle sit on the stove all night (don’t lift the lid).
- In the morning or 10-12 hours later, without stirring or disturbing the sludge that settled in the bottom, carefully pour the tea into another stainless steel or large stovetop-glass kettle.
- Reheat the tea in the second kettle (or emptied, washed first kettle) barely to the boiling point and shut off the stove. During the reheat, prepare your bottles.
- To prepare the bottles, fill them 1/3 full of hot tap water with a squirt of an antibacterial cleaner like “409 Antibacterial”. Dish detergents create bubbles which are too hard to rinse away. Wash the caps with the antibacterial kitchen cleaner too.
- Give each bottle a good shake and swab the insides with a bottle brush. Set each bottle under running hot water faucet until overflow runs clear, then pour water out.
- Then fill each bottle with 1 inch or so of distilled water for the microwave and *loosely* screw the lids on (if some pop off while microwaving, it doesn’t matter).
- Microwave bottles for 15 – 20 minutes to steam sterilize. We microwave all 14 bottles (16 oz size) needed for a so-called 2-gallon batch at the same time.
- Afterward let the microwave door stand open for a few minutes. Use hotpads to take bottles out of microwave, they are incredibly hot. Pour out any remaining water from them.
- Set the hot kettle of tea in the sink and one at a time fill the bottles with tea using a glass measuring cup, in the sink next to the kettle if possible.
- Screw on the lids and let the bottles of tea cool on the kitchen counter, tightening down the lids after an hour or so. Refrigerate or store in a dark, cool place.
Brewing and bottling gets easier every time you do it. If you are intimidated by the recipe directions, Rene Caisse is reported to have “thrown a handful of this and a handful of that” into her kettle. So relax, there’s really not much you can do to screw up the making of your essiac tea.