Originally created by a native Ojibwa healer and brought to popular attention in the 1920’s, the herbal mixture Essiac has become one of the most widely used forms of alternative medicine in the treatment of various health conditions, most notably cancer. It was popularized by Canadian nurse Rene Caisse throughout the 1920’s until her death in the late 1970’s, and continues to be well-regarded by many users presently.

Formula Variation and Dosing Based on Caisse’s Recipe

Caisse dedicated her life to perfecting the herbal formula.
Unfortunately, though, much controversy surrounded the true formula because Rene Caisse never published the exact recipe during her lifetime. This was due to concern that lay people would make it incorrectly or that it would be commercially exploited. In her last years, Caisse gave the formula to the Resperin Company under the pretense that it would undergo clinical trials and that several Essiac clinics would be opened. However, the trials did not support Essiac’s use in cancer and the clinics were never opened. Essiac therefore did not become a medical therapy and is instead sold as a nutritional or herbal supplement.

And while Resperin, and later Canadian Essiac, sold Essiac from Caisse’s recipe, several individuals also claimed to have the true Caisse formula despite the fact that Caisse reportedly shared the recipe with very few people. This led to confusion regarding the true formula. In 1994, though, Caisse’s best friend and helper, Mary McPherson, signed an affidavit confirming the actual formula used by Caisse. This is generally accepted as the true essiac tea recipe.

Based on Caisse’s formula, the correct dosage of Essiac tea is 1 fluid ounce (30 mL) diluted in 2 fluid ounces (60 mL) of hot water per day. In terms of time of day, the tea should be sipped at bedtime on an empty stomach, with no food eaten both one hour before and one hour after drinking the tea. As a daily tonic for general, preventive health maintenance and for immune system strengthening, the recommended dose is 0.5 fluid ounces (15 mL) diluted in one ounce of hot water per day. It is recommended that water intake be increased while using Essiac.

Caisse was adamant regarding the dosage of Essiac. She reportedly had substantial fear that people would overdose in order to achieve greater benefits. However, one should be careful to avoid this temptation, given the possible side effects of Essiac. These side effects include gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea, dangerously low levels of potassium, kidney stones, and headache/nausea, among others. If side effects occur, Caisse recommended halving the dose or stopping for a few days, in addition to drinking a gallon of water daily to help flush the tea from the body.

[quote author=” – Rene Caisse”] “People will not stick to the dose I give. They’ll decide on their own, if a little’s good, a lot’s better. That’s the way they think.”[/quote]

Considerations Regarding Different Dosing Instructions from Various Manufacturers

As a health supplement, Essiac does not fall under the regulation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authority, and there is no standardization for Essiac sold by different companies. Some companies follow Caisse’s exact recipe, as sworn to by McPherson. Others may make either a weaker or stronger version. Therefore, different manufacturers may provide other instructions on dosage based on their particular recipe. Due to this variation, it is important to follow the directions given by the particular manufacturer. Consumers also have the option of making their own tea from scratch, as Caisse’s formula, as confirmed by McPherson, is now widely available.

Failure to use the correct dose may result in either inadequate results due to under-dosing or potential side effects from overdosing, as discussed earlier.

Contraindication to Essiac Tea Use

While Essiac is generally believed to be safe, there are a few conditions/health states in which it should be avoided. These include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Breast-feeding
  • Bowel obstruction or diarrhea
  • Ulcers or colitis
  • Increased blood iron levels
  • History or kidney stones
  • Children under 12 years of age

Even in the absence of one of these conditions, though, one must exercise caution when self-treating with Essiac tea or any alternative therapy.

Essiac tea has a long history regarding its fight for approval as a medical therapy and controversy regarding the true formula. However, with Caisse’s formula and recommended dose now confirmed, the public can consume Essiac tea with relative confidence that they are taking it as Caisse intended. One must always be careful with this or any alternative treatment, though, as lack of regulation and standardization can cause confusion regarding dosage and lead to possible side effects.