If it works, don’t change it. – Rene Caisse
Making the essiac tea recipe can seem like a lot of work, but after the first time it’s a breeze. It’s much easier to buy the herbs already mixed but if you want to mix the separate ingredients yourself, instructions can be found below.
Rene Caisse’s essiac tea is known worldwide. The formula is no longer secret and the four herbs are easy to obtain. There are many related products available today as a direct result of Rene Caisse’s continuing work. The tea isn’t difficult to make and I’m going to take you through the process step-by-step to show you how simple it really is. It’s like riding a bicycle or driving a car. Once you know how to do it, you never forget.
Mary McPherson, Rene’s life-long friend and helper verified her formula in an affidavit on December 23, 1994 in Bracebridge, Ontario, Rene’s hometown in Canada.
- 120g Burdock chopped root
- 80g Sheep sorrel powdered whole plant including root
- 20g Slippery elm powdered inner bark
- 5g Turkey rhubarb powdered root
All together this makes 225g of dried herb tea mix
The original formula used eight herbs and was created for an English woman living in a mining camp by a Native American medicine man in the 1890s. There were at least six different Native American tribes living in northern Ontario at the time and the English woman never mentioned which tribe he came from but it is widely believed that he belonged to the Ojibwe tribe. She told Rene Caisse about the formula 30 years later in 1922. All eight herbs were either native to the region or had become naturalized as a result of immigration from Europe.
The four main herbs were and still are Sheep sorrel, Greater Burdock, Slippery elm, and Turkey rhubarb. Rene Caisse discovered the other four herbs very early on in her research for the formula in the late 1920s. She only ever revealed three of them water cress, periwinkle, and red clover but an eyewitness report from the 1930s suggested very strongly that the eighth herb was gold thread, now becoming increasingly rare since many of its native habitats have been destroyed. The same witness revealed that Rene Caisse continued to include this herb in the formula for a few of the people who were drinking the tea.
If you are buying the herbs yourself, make sure to always choose certified organic herbs. Rene Caisse always insisted that the whole sheep sorrel herb, leaf, stem and root, be included in the formula. Sheep sorrel is the most important herb. Many of us have it in our gardens and it’s actually classified as a pernicious weed. The best sheep sorrel spends the winter under snow and is harvested in late spring, May to mid-June, before the flowers open. Three plants like this will keep one person in sheep sorrel for one year.
We will only use the root of the burdock plant. It has to be chopped while it is fresh because it will dry very hard and make it difficult to chop. Slippery elm inner bark is best bought already powdered. Turkey rhubarb root is very easy to grind. It can be bought in pieces, smaller pieces or already powdered. This is enough to prepare an herb mixture that will last one person drinking 30ml, one fluid ounce of the tea, every day for just over a year, or around 15 months.
First wash and dry your hands thoroughly making sure to clean under your nails and around any rings. Put 5g of Turkey rhubarb root powder into a clean dry bowl. Add 20g of slippery elm powder and rub the two herbs together with your fingers; rub them in well. This makes the Turkey rhubarb root cling to the bark and insures an even distribution of the smallest ingredients in the final mix.
Next put 80g of Sheep sorrel whole herb – 60 g leaf and stem and 20g root – and mix together with your fingers again. I don’t grind this herb too finely leaf, stem or root. Last, add 120g of Burdock root and mix well. Burdock root is always finely chopped not powdered. This is the herb that is primarily responsible for the variation in color of the tea. The tea should be pale to mid-brown, never a dark brown. It’s the Burdock that occasionally turns it a bright Floridian green. Take care not to stir up too much dust. If you are making a larger quantity of the herb mix, it is a good idea to wear a mask while mixing.
This mixture will store quite well in a clear glass jar with a screw on lid and keep in a cool, dry place. A large Mason jar works perfectly for this purpose.
- Stainless Steel, Enamelware or Glass Pot (Do not use aluminum!)
- Glass measuring cup
- Stainless steel cooking spoon
- Stainless steel sieve
- Bottles or mason jars with lids (enough to hold about 1.4 liters of tea)
You need a cooking pan with a well-fitting lid, one that will hold one and a half liters of water without boiling over. It can be enamel, stainless steel, or glass, but no aluminum or copper and no Teflon coated equipment as the tea can react with these materials. That being said, Rene Caisse used an aluminum pan for so many years that it had holes in it before she was persuaded to use something more user-friendly. I like to use a pan with a glass lid so that I can keep an eye on the tea while it is cooking without having to lift the lid.
You need one heat-proof, glass measuring jug; two if you are not confident about pouring the tea from the pan into the jug. I’m going to use two jugs. You need a stainless steel kitchen sieve and a stainless steel cooking spoon. You will need bottles enough to hold 1 ¼ liters of tea; either three 500ml bottles or five 300ml bottles, or even brown juice bottles if you have them. A funnel is another option for pouring the tea into bottles. I don’t usually bother because it is one more thing you have to sterilize. It’s up to you; do whatever you feel the most comfortable with. A bottle brush is an absolute necessity.
It is best to keep one pan that you use especially for making tea. Any other pan will have to be very well scrubbed and sterilized by filling with warm water and boiling with the lid on for 10 minutes. Don’t forget to pour out this water before you make the tea.
You’re going to make up the tea as a decoction. This means that the herb mixture must be boiled and allowed to stand in the same pan with the lid on for up to 12 hours in order for the active ingredients to be drawn out of the tea.
There has always been some discussion as to whether the Sheep sorrel should be boiled for the same length of time as the other herbs. Well, Rene Caisse boiled the Sheep sorrel along with the rest of the herbs and like she said, “If it works, don’t change it.”
There are several ways to sterilize the utensils and this is important because there are no preservatives in the tea. You can either put everything in the steamer for 20 minutes, or else you can put the bottles and the jugs in the oven, again for 20 minutes, then boil the sieve, the spoon and the bottle tops.
Sterilize all the utensils either in a steamer for 20 minutes or by boiling the tops, sieve, and spoon and heating the jugs and bottles in the oven at 150°C/300°F.
Never, ever use bleach or any other harsh chemicals for sterilizing any of the equipment. If you don’t have an oven or a steamer, you can use one of the cleaning agents like Milton for cleaning baby bottles.
NOTE: If using one of the chemical baby equipment sterilizing solutions, always remember to rinse away any residual chemical at least three times in cooled boiled water before use.
Always Remember … Dirty Tools Make Moldy Tea!
We’re going to work in liters and grams because English and American pints are completely different, and the English don’t use quarts anymore. Most measuring cups or scales on either side of the Atlantic measure liters as well as pints and grams as well as ounces. So we’re going to use the metric system to be as clear as possible.
The proportion of herb mixture to water is very easy to remember. You use 10g of herb mixture to one liter of water. We’re going to mix up 15g of herb mixture to 1 ½ liters of water. This will make enough to have for one person taking 30mg – one fluid ounce – once a day for one month. If you want to make more, you can mix up 20g of herb in two liters of water, or 30g to herb to three liters of water, whichever you wish.
Boil the Herbs
Bring your water to a boil. While your water is heating up, you can measure out the herb mixture. We need 15g of dry herbs for 1.5 liters of water. Add the herb mixture and stir thoroughly just as the water is just beginning to come to the boil. You want to cook the tea at a rolling boil; that’s just above simmering, but not boiling over. You will have to adjust the heat accordingly. Put the lid back on and set a timer for 10 minutes.
You can start preparing the utensils while waiting and give the bottles and the jugs a good scrub. You can use the bottle brush on the sieve as well. Like the pan, it is always good to keep a sieve for the tea. Make sure all the utensils are well rinsed. Leave them to dry on a tea towel until you are ready to pour the tea.
Steep for 12 Hours
Turn off the gas, or remove the pan from the heat as soon as the ten minutes are up. There will probably be some of the herbs stuck to the pan during cooking. Take the clean spoon and pour scolding water from the kettle over it. Now scrape the residual herbs from the side of the pan and stir them well into the tea. Put the lid back on the pan and leave it completely undisturbed for 12 hours. If you have to leave the tea longer, no more than 18 hours. Make sure you put the pan in a cool dark place. Put it in a fridge if you live in a hot climate. Wash the spoon and rinse it thoroughly and leave under the tea towel with the rest of the utensils.
Reheat the Tea
This is where you have to pay attention because you need to heat it to steaming hot, not to boiling. Never re-boil the tea.
Always remember … Never re-boil the tea!!
When you can see the herbs are beginning to bubble, keep watching the pan and get ready. When it is hot and steamy and just beginning to simmer but not boil, remove it from the heat and allow it to stand for a few minutes to allow the herbs to settle. Using oven gloves or a tea towel, take out the bottles and the jugs one by one and stand them on a heat proof surface on the table.
Now lift the lid on the tea. You should see that the herbs are beginning to settle. Using the smaller jug, carefully lift up the tea trying to disturb the sediment as little as possible, then straining it through the sieve. The tea will darken slightly and the sediment will drop to the bottom of the bottle as it cools. Don’t put the scooping jug down on the table until you are through dipping the tea. It can stand in the sterilizing pan in between scoops. The sediment from the herbs can go back onto the garden.
Now pour the prepared tea into the bottles and put the lids on as soon as each bottle is full. Never filter the tea.
Always remember – Never filter the tea!
The sediment at the bottom of each bottle is normal and should not detract from the keeping quality of the tea. You may find the last bottle has more sediment than the others, but this will soon settle down once the bottle is cold. Some people like to shake up the bottle and drink that as well. I don’t, but it is a matter of personal taste. I don’t like the bits between my teeth.
Some settlement is normal in a bottle of Essiac Tea. However, if you don’t pay enough attention to the sterilizing process, or you forget to put the bottle back in the fridge after you’ve been using it, you may notice after four or five days you have a furball of mold on top of the sediment in the bottom of the bottle. It will be quite distinct; you’ll not mistake it. When you take the top of the bottle the smell will be very rancid and it is disgusting. There is only one place to put it and that is the sink.
Dirty tools and forgetting the rules make moldy tea!
- Always store the herbs in a cool, dark place in a screw top jar or airtight container.
- Always sterilize the utensils.
- Always make sure the lids are on the bottles before you put them in the fridge.
- Never leave open bottles out of the fridge.
- Don’t ever microwave the tea! Not at any stage
- Don’t ever freeze it!
The microwave and the freezer completely destroy all the goodness in the tea.
Rene Caisse recommended drinking 30ml of the tea, that is one fluid ounce diluted into two fluid ounces of water, preferably at bedtime, or you can drink it first thing in the morning if it is easier for you. This is a 30ml measure. It tastes good, not bitter or sour. It’s not thick. Don’t add anything else to it, drink it like it is. Even animals like drinking it. If you must though, you can add a bit of honey or stevia.
Drink 1 fluid ounce/3ml of the tea diluted with 2 fluid ounces/60ml of hot water. The tea can also be taken undiluted but has a stronger taste. Many people like to add honey or stevia to sweeten the tea. If taken undiluted, you should drink extra water afterward to avoid side effects caused by toxins being released. Drink once a day at bedtime.