This article appeared in the Bracebridge Examiner on March 29, 1995. It is an interview with Mary Mcpherson, Rene Caisse’s close friend and assistant. An easier to read transcription of the article can be found below the image.


Essiac Recipe Depends on Using the Right Plants

by Ted Britton

Mary McPherson, of Bracebridge, who was a friend and colleague of Essiac nurse Rene Caisse for over 40 years wants to make sure that the public knows that the true Essiac recipe depends on using the right plants.

“I want people to know exactly what Rene’s Essiac is like”, Mary said this week, “because there is a lot of misleading information and questionable things going on with respect to essiac.”

Mary knows true Essiac is a cure for cancer. She first met Rene Caisse in 1935 when Mary’s mother, Sarah Tibbel, was suffering from cancer. Sarah received Essiac treatment at Rene’s clinic in the British Lion Hotel (now the offices of Lee, Roche and Kelly).

The treatment worked and Sarah Tibbel, a resident of Raymond, lived a healthy, happy life. She died of old age (86 years) in 1965.

“Mother and I worked hard on the petition to get the government to license Rene’s treatment”, Mary recalls, “but it never happened and the Ontario government closed the clinic in 1942.”

Nevertheless, Mary worked with Rene and helped her prepare Essiac. In 1945 Mary’s own husband, Clifford, was stricken with cancer. Rene’s Essiac treatment cured him and he only passed away last year at the age of 81 — 36 years after being cured of cancer.

Although Mary worked with Rene for over 20 years, helping her prepare Essiac, she never knew the recipe’s ingredients until after Rene’s death in 1978.

“Rene always told me that there was an envelope with my name on it in a dresser drawer in her house on Hiram Street.” Mary remembers, “and I was to have it once she passed away. The envelope contained the recipe for Rene’s cancer cure.”

“What troubles me,” says Mary, “is that people think they are getting Essiac when they may not be. For example, I have seen a fine powder called Essiac. In fact, true Essiac is full of burdock root chunks.”

Here are some important factors about the four ingredients in Essiac:

  1. Sheep Sorrel: This herb is not readily available commercially. It’s distribution was restricted after Rene’s death. This plant is common in Muskoka and harvesting it yourself will ensure you have the right ingredient. here is a picture of sheep sorrel as shown in Sheila Snow’s “The Essence of Essiac.” The bitter taste will assure you that it is Sheep Sorrel.
  2. Burdock:This is regarded by most of us as a nuisance — especially the prickly seed cases in the fall, which we call burrs. The root must be harvested in October and it must be from a first year plant (there should be no center stock.) The roots look like carrots and can be cut into slices to dry — then pulverized in a blender. The dried product has a sweet taste
  3. Slippery Elm Bark:This herb is available at any reputable health food store and it must be a light brown powder. It tastes much like flour.
  4. Turkish Rhubarb Root: This product may be purchased in health food stores, as a powder, or in root form. The plants are native to China and Tibet. Our native rhubarb may be substituted, but the plant must be at least three years old.

Of the four herbs, Mary is most concerned about the availability of real Sheep Sorrel. “I have seen products called Sheep sorrel,” she says, “but it clearly is not what we know as Sheep Sorrel.”

Below is Rene Caisse’s recipe as transmitted to her friend and colleague, Mary McPherson:


  • 6 1/2 cups of burdock root (cut
  • 1 pound of sheep sorrel herb (powdered)
  • 1/4 pound of slippery elm bark (powdered)
  • 1 ounce of turkish rhubarb root (powdered)

Mix these ingredients thoroughly and store in glass jar in dark dry cupboard.

Take a measuring cup, use 1 ounce of herb mixture to 32 ounces of water depending on the amount you want to make.

I use 1 cup of mixture to 8 x 32 = 256 ounces of water. Boil hard for 10 minutes (covered) then turn off heat but leave sitting on warm plate over night (covered).

In the morning heat steaming hot and let settle a few minutes, then strain through fine strainer into hot sterilized bottles and sit to cool. Store in dark cool cupboard. Must be refrigerated when opened. When near the last when its thick pour in a large jar and sit in frig overnight then pour off all you [can] without sediment.

This recipe must be followed exactly as written.

I use a granite preserving kettle (10 – 12 qts), 8 ounce measuring cup, small funnel and fine strainer to fill bottles.