Essiac, a harmless herbal tea, was used by Canadian
nurse Rene Caisse to successfully treat thousands of cancer patients from the
1920s until her death in 1978 at the age of ninety. Refusing payment for her
services, instead accepting only voluntary contributions, the Bracebridge,
Ontario, nurse brought remissions to hundreds of documented cases, many
abandoned as "hopeless" or "terminal" by orthodox medicine.
She aided countless more in prolonging life and relieving pain. Caisse obtained
remarkable results against a wide variety of cancers, treating persons by
administering Essiac through hypodermic injection or oral ingestion.
The formula for the herbal remedy was given to Caisse in 1922 by a hospital
patient whose breast cancer had been healed by an Ontario Indian medicine man.
Essiac came within just three votes of being legalized by the Canadian
parliament in 1938. Over the years, many prominent physicians voiced their
support for the efficacy of Caisse's medicine. For example, Dr. Charles Brusch-a
founder of the prestigious Brusch Medical Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
and a former physician to President John F. Kennedy-declared that "Essiac
has merit in the treatment of cancer" and revealed that he cured his own
cancer with it. In a notarized statement made on April 6, 1990, Dr. Brusch
testified, "I endorse this therapy even today for I have in fact cured my
own cancer, the original site of which was the lower bowels, through Essiac
Despite such support, Rene Caisse lived under the constant threat of
persecution and harassment by Canadian authorities. Today, Essiac is unapproved
for marketing in the United States and Canada. However, Resperin Corporation of
Ontario provides Essiac to patients in Canada under a special agreement with the
Canadian Health and Welfare department, which permits "emergency releases
of Essiac on compassionate grounds" while still deeming it "an
ineffective cancer treatment." Another company reportedly has the authentic
formula for the herbal remedy in Caisse's handwriting, plus eight of her formula
variations for specific cancers, including cancer of the prostate. It recently
made Essiac available through various distributors. A number of herbal
distributors claim to sell the original Essiac tea. Prospective users should
carefully weigh the background of all vendors and examine all claims with
Rene Caisse refused to publicly divulge the precise Essiac formula during her
lifetime, fearing that a monopolistic medical establishment would either try to
discredit the formula or use it to reap enormous profits. Also, she wanted
Essiac safe for immediate use on suffering cancer patients, but medical experts
demanded prior testing on lab mice. Caisse repeatedly offered to reveal the
exact formula and method of preparation if the Canadian medical authorities
would first admit that Essiac had merit in the treatment of cancer. But the
doctors and politicians argued that they realistically couldn't give any such
endorsement until they first knew what was in the herbal mixture. The result was
The principal herbs in Essiac include burdock root, turkey rhubarb root
(Indian rhubarb), sheep sorrel, and slippery elm bark. Burdock root, a key
active ingredient, is also a major ingredient of the Hoxsey herbal remedy. As
discussed in the chapter on the Hoxsey therapy, two Hungarian scientists in 1966
reported "considerable antitumor activity. in a purified fraction of
burdock.1 In addition, as also discussed, Japanese scientists at Nagoya
University in 1984 discovered burdock contains a new type of desmutagen, a
substance uniquely capable of reducing cell mutation either in the absence or in
the presence of metabolic activation. So important is this property, the
Japanese researchers named it the B-factor, for "burdock factor."2
Another herb in Essiac, turkey rhubarb root, was demonstrated to have antitumor
activity in the sarcoma-37 animal test system. Herbalists, however, believe that
the synergistic interaction of herbal ingredients contributes to their
therapeutic effects. They point out that laboratory tests on a single, isolated
compound from one herbal formula fail to address this synergistic potency.
Through her work with cancer patients, Caisse observed that Essiac broke down
nodular masses to a more normal tissue, while greatly alleviating pain. Many
patients would report an enlarging and hardening of the tumor after a few
treatments. Then the tumor would start to soften. People also frequently
reported a discharge of large amounts of pus and fleshy material. Masses of
diseased tissue were sloughed off in persons with breast, rectum, and internal
cancers. After this process, the tumor would be gone.3
Caisse theorized that one of the herbs in Essiac reduced tumor growth while
other herbs acted as blood purifiers, carrying away destroyed tissue as well as
infections related to the malignancy. She also speculated that Essiac
strengthened the body's innate defense mechanisms, enabling normal cells to
destroy abnormal ones as Nature intended.
Even if a tumor didn't disappear, Caisse maintained, it could be forced to
regress, then surgically removed after six to eight Essiac treatments, with much
less risk of metastasizing and causing new outbreaks. "If there is any
suspicion that any malignant cells are left after the operation," she
stated, "then Essiac should be given once a week for at least three months,
supplying the body with the resistance to a recurrence that is needed."
She wrote, "In the case of cancer of the breast, the primary growth will
usually invade the mammary gland of the opposite breast or the auxilla, or both.
If Essiac is administered either orally or by hypodermic injection, into the
forearm, the secondary growth will regress into the primary mass, enlarging it
for a time, but when it is all localized it will loosen and soften and can then
be removed without the danger of recurrence."4 Caisse spoke from personal
experience, having administered thousands of Essiac injections to gravely ill
patients, always under the supervision of a physician.
In 1983, Dr. E. Bruce Hendrick, chief of neurosurgery at the University of
Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, urged Canada's highest health officials to
launch "a scientific clinical trial" of Essiac. In a letter to the
Canadian Minister of Health and Welfare, Dr. Hendrick reported that eight of ten
patients with surgically treated tumors of the central nervous system, after
following an Essiac regimen, had "escaped from the conventional methods of
therapy including both radiation and chemotherapy."5 Yet today, patients in
Canada must go through a bureaucratic maze that makes it difficult or impossible
for them to receive Essiac therapy.
The story of Essiac began in 1922, when Caisse, a surgical nurse working in a
Haileybury, Ontario, hospital, noticed an elderly patient with a strangely
scarred, gnarled breast. When Rene asked the woman, who was nearly eighty, what
had happened, the woman replied that some thirty years earlier, she had
developed a growth on her breast and an Indian friend had offered to heal it
with herbal medicine. This woman and her husband then went to Ontario, where
doctors confirmed the diagnosis of advanced cancer and told her the breast would
have to be surgically removed. Opting instead to take her chances with the
Indian herbal healer, the woman returned to his mining camp and drank the brew
daily. Her tumors gradually shrank, then disappeared. Over two decades later,
when Caisse stumbled across her in the hospital, she was still totally
Caisse asked the woman for the herbal recipe. "My thought was that if I
should ever develop cancer, I would use it," Caisse later wrote.
In 1924, Caisse's aunt, Mireza Potvin, was diagnosed with advanced cancer of
the stomach and was told she had six months at the most to live. Remembering the
Indian brew, Rene asked her aunt's physician, Dr. R. O. Fisher of Toronto, for
permission to try it on her dying relative. Dr. Fisher consented, and Rene
gathered the herbs to brew the tea. After drinking the herbal concoction daily
for two months, Mireza Potvin rallied, got well, and went on to live another
Soon Caisse and Dr. Fisher teamed to treat cancer patients who had been
written off by their doctors as terminal. Many of these patients, too, showed
dramatic improvement. Working nights and weekends in Toronto in her mother's
basement, which Rene had converted into a laboratory, she and Dr. Fisher
experimented on mice inoculated with human cancer. They modified the combination
of herbs to maximize efficacy. It was at this point that Rene named the herbal
treatment Essiac (her name spelled backwards).
One of Rene's first cases was a woman who had cancer of the bowel complicated
by diabetes. In order to avoid further problems, the patient stopped taking
insulin in 1925. Under Essiac therapy, the woman's tumor at first became larger
and harder, almost obstructing her bowel. Then, as she continued her Essiac
injections, the tumor softened, got smaller, and disappeared. Oddly enough, the
woman's diabetes also disappeared during the course of Essiac treatment.
Dr. Frederick Banting, world-famous as the codiscoverer of insulin, reviewed
this case in 1926. According to Caisse, Dr. Banting concluded that Essiac must
have somehow stimulated the pancreatic gland into normal functioning, thus
clearing up the diabetic condition. If this reported result is true, Essiac
would appear to have potential in the treatment of diabetes.
Nine doctors petitioned the Canadian federal health department in 1926,
urging that Caisse be allowed to test her cancer remedy on a broad scale. In
their signed petition, they testified that Essiac reduced tumor size, prolonged
life in hopeless cases, and showed "remarkably beneficial results,"
even where "everything else had been tried without effect."
In response, Ottawa's Department of Health and Welfare sent two investigating
doctors armed with official papers to arrest Nurse Caisse or restrain her from
practicing medicine without a license. When Rene explained to them that she was
treating only terminal cases and accepting only voluntary contributions, the two
interrogators backed off. One of them, Dr. W. C. Arnold, was so impressed by
Caisse's clinical reports that he persuaded her to continue her experiments with
mice at the Christie Street Hospital in Toronto. In that series of tests, mice
implanted with human cancer responded to Essiac injections by living longer,
their tumors regressing.
In 1935, the Town Council of Bracebridge turned over to Rene Caisse-for one
dollar-per-month rent-the old British Lion Hotel for use as a cancer clinic.
Over the next seven years, Caisse treated thousands of patients in this
building, which had been repossessed by the village for back taxes. This unique
arrangement came about after Dr. A. F. Bastedo of Bracebridge referred a
terminally ill patient with bowel cancer to Caisse. Dr. Bastedo was so impressed
by the patient's recovery, he persuaded the town council to make the hotel
building available to Rene.
Shortly after the clinic opened, Caisse's seventy-two-year-old mother,
Friselde, was diagnosed with cancer of the liver, inoperable because of her weak
heart. One of Ontario's top specialists, Dr. Roscoe Graham, said she had only
days to live. Rene began giving daily injections of Essiac to her mother, who
had not been told she had cancer. After ten days of treatment, Friselde Caisse
began to recover. She regained her full health, with diminishing doses of
Essiac, and lived another eighteen years before passing away quietly from heart
"This repaid me for all of my work," Rene reflected years later,
"having given my mother 18 years of life which she would not have had. [It]
made up for a great deal of the persecution I had endured at the hands of the
After word of Caisse's impressive results spread to the United States, a
leading diagnostician in Chicago introduced her to Dr. John Wolfer, director of
the tumor clinic at Northwestern University Medical School. In 1937, Wolfer
arranged for Rene to treat thirty terminal cancer patients under the direction
of five doctors. Rene commuted across the border to Chicago, carrying her
bottles of freshly prepared herbal brew. After supervising one and a half years
of Essiac therapy, the Chicago doctors concluded that the herbal mixture
prolonged life, shrank tumors, and relieved pain.
Dr. Emma Carson, a Los Angeles physician, spent twenty-four days inspecting
the Bracebridge clinic in 1937. A skeptical investigator who originally intended
to stay in Bracebridge for just a couple of days, she scrutinized the clinical
records and examined over 400 patients. In her detailed report, Dr. Carson
Several prominent physicians and surgeons who are quite familiar with the
indisputable results obtained in response to "Essiac" treatments . . .
conceded to me that the Rene M. Caisse "Essiac Treatment" for Cancer
is the most humane, satisfactory and frequently successful remedy for the
annihilation of Cancer "that they had found at that time" . . .
I also visited, examined and obtained data at patients' homes where they were
pursuing their business vocations as ably as if they had never experienced the
afflictions of Cancer. They declared their restoration to normalcy was
indisputably due to Miss Caisse's "Essiac" treatments.... They
emphatically declared "were it not for Miss Caisse's Essiac remedy for
Cancer, they would have departed from this earth" . . .
As I examined each patient regarding intervening progress during the
preceding week and recorded notes of indisputable improvements . . . I could
scarcely believe my brain and eyes were not deceiving me, on some of the most
seriously afflicted cases....
The vast majority of Miss Caisse's patients are brought to her for treatment
after Surgery, Radium, X-Rays, Emplastrums, etc., has failed to be helpful, and
the patients are pronounced incurable. Really the progress obtainable and the
actual results from "Essiac" treatments and the rapidity of repair was
absolutely marvelous and must be seen to convincingly confirm belief.
Another independent investigator of the Bracebridge clinic was Dr. Benjamin
Guyatt, a University of Toronto curator and anatomy professor. After making
dozens of inspections of the clinic during the 1930s, Dr. Cuyatt summarized his
findings as follows:
The relief from pain is a noticeable feature, as pain in these cases is very
difficult to control. On checking authentic cancer cases, it was found that
hemorrhage was readily brought under control in many difficult cases. Open
lesions of lip and breast responded to treatment. Cancers of the cervix, rectum,
and bladder had been caused to disappear. Patients with cancer of the stomach,
diagnosed by reputable physicians and surgeons, have returned to normal
. . . The number responding wholly or in part, I do not know. But I do know
that I have witnessed in this clinic a treatment which brings about restoration,
through destroying the tumour tissue, and supplying that something which
improves the mental outlook of life and facilitates reestablishment of
Supporters of the Bracebridge nurse presented a bill to the Ontario
parliament in 1938 to allow Caisse to treat cancer patients with Essiac free
from the constant threat of arrest to which she had been subjected. Over 55,000
people signed a petition supporting the bill, including patients, their
families, and many doctors. The bill failed to pass by three votes.
This set the stage for the creation of the Royal Cancer Commission, which
many believed was a judicial farce. Comprised of six orthodox physicians with
expertise in surgery, radiation, and diagnostics and led by an Ontario Supreme
Court justice, the commission was charged with an impartial investigation of
alternative cancer therapies. Public hearings opened in March 1939.
Even though 387 of Caisse's patients showed up to testify, only 49 were
allowed to be heard. One after another, patients and ex-patients testified that
Rene Caisse had restored them to health and saved their lives after they had
been given up as dead by their orthodox doctors.
Annie Bonar testified that her diagnosed uterine and bowel cancer had spread
after radium treatments until her arm had swelled to double its size and turned
black. Weighing ninety pounds the night before she was to have the arm
amputated, she opted for Essiac therapy instead. After four months of the herbal
treatment, her arm was back to normal and she had gained sixty pounds. A series
of X-ray exams revealed she was cancer-free. The Royal Commission, however,
listed Annie Bonar's case as "recovery due to radiation."
Walter Hampson, another patient of Caisse who testified, had cancer of the
lip, diagnosed by a pathologist. Refusing radium, he underwent Essiac therapy
and was restored to normal. Despite the fact that he had never had an operation
(other than the removal of a tiny nodule for analysis), the commission
classified his case as "recovery due to surgery." These examples could
be multiplied many times.
In addition to misattributing recoveries, the Royal Commission also labeled
numerous cases as "misdiagnoses," even though the patients had been
diagnosed as definitely having cancer by two or more qualified physicians. Using
duplicitous tactics like these, the commission was able to conclude that
"the evidence adduced does not justify any favourable conclusion as to the
merits of 'Essiac' as a remedy for cancer...."
In 1942, a disheartened Rene Caisse, fearing imprisonment due to her medical
work, closed her clinic. Over the next thirty-odd years, she continued to treat
cancer patients in great secrecy from her home. Documents indicate that she was
under surveillance by Canada's Health Department during the 1950s.
At the age of seventy, in 1959, Caisse was invited to the Brusch Medical
Center in Massachusetts, where she treated terminal cancer patients and
laboratory mice with Essiac under the supervision of eighteen doctors. After
three months, Dr. Charles Brusch, eminent physician to the New England elite,
and his research director, Dr. Charles McClure, concluded that Essiac "has
been shown to cause a decided recession of the mass, and a definite change in
cell formation" in mice. "Clinically, on patients suffering from
pathologically proven cancer, it reduces pain and causes a recession in the
growth; patients have gained weight and shown an improvement in their general
health.... Remarkably beneficial results were obtained even on those cases at
the 'end of the road' where it proved to prolong life and the quality of that
life.... The doctors do not say that Essiac is a cure, but they do say it is of
The Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research tested one of the herbs in
Essiac, sheep sorrel, between 1973 and 1976. Caisse sent a quantity of the herb
to Sloan-Kettering, along with detailed instructions on how to prepare it as an
injectable solution. On June 10,1975, Dr. Chester Stock, a Sloan-Kettering vice
president, wrote to Rene: "Enclosed are test data in two experiments
indicating some regressions in sarcoma 180 of mice treated with Essiac"
(emphasis added).8 Despite these promising results, the tests ground to a halt
when Rene was horrified to learn that instead of boiling the herb, as she had
instructed, the scientists were freezing it.
In 1977, Rene sold the formula for Essiac to the Resperin Corporation, a
Canadian company. Resperin's tests on Essiac, though initially encouraging,
dragged on for years. Patients in Canada seeking Essiac through the government
must first find a physician who will sponsor them and submit the appropriate
official form. The physician should contact the Health Protection Branch of the
Canadian Health and Welfare department to arrange to purchase the product from
Resperin Corporation. The physician's request should roughly read: "I have
a patient who has (type of cancer) affecting (body parts or organs). I request
permission to treat the patient with Essiac on an emergency basis." The
physician should mail the request to the Health Protection Branch, Bureau of
Human Prescription Drugs, Director's Office, c/o Emergency Drug Division, Tower
B- Second Floor, 355 River Road, Place Vanier, Vanier, Ontario K1A 1B8. Many
doctors are reluctant to do this, however, fearing establishment pressure or
ridicule. Even if the necessary forms are submitted, permission to use Essiac is
not always granted.
A report issued in 1982 by the Health Protection Branch of the Canadian
Health and Welfare department finds that "no clinical evidence exists to
support claims that Essiac is an effective treatment for cancer." This
blanket condemnation ignores sixty years of clinical documentation and
observational evidence as well as laboratory studies. The report says:
In 1982, 112 physicians who had received Essiac under these circumstances,
were asked to submit case reports. Seventy-four responded on 87 cancer patients.
Of these, 78 showed no benefit.
Investigation of the nine remaining cases revealed that the cancer was
progressing (four cases), the patient had died (two cases) or that the disease
had stabilized (three cases).
Of this last group, all the patients had previously undergone some form of
cancer treatment which could have stabilized the disease.
The report does not explain why only 74 of the 112 physicians responded. Were
the other 38 doctors perhaps afraid to submit responses favorable towards
Essiac, fearing orthodox ridicule and peer pressure?
It is also not clear whether the 78 patients that "showed no
benefit" experienced a reduction in pain or an improvement in appetite.
These important components of cancer care are generally not counted as a benefit
in such studies.
Were any of the 87 patients, all severely ill, given intramuscular injections
of Essiac, as Rene Caisse so often administered in advanced cases? Critics of
the report say that no patients were given intramuscular injections.
Was the herbal mixture prepared correctly, or were the herbs possibly frozen
and damaged, as was done at Sloan-Kettering? Were the oral doses given
frequently enough? Neither answer is known.
In three cases, "the disease had stabilized." What does this mean?
Had the cancer stopped growing? If so, that is highly significant.
What about the four cases where the "cancer was progressing," plus
the two cases where the "patient had died"? Why are these counted
among the "remainder" rather than among those that "showed no
benefit"? Doesn't that mean they did show some benefit, and if so, what
were the benefits? The report does not say.
Even a casual analysis of these poorly run trials illustrates the bias that
pervades much of the research purporting to be objective and scientific.
Gary Glum, biographer of Rene Caisse, calls the Canadian government report an
outright deception. He says that some of the people listed in the report as
"dead" were actually alive and well and that a number of them showed
up on Caisse's doorstep in 1978, the first year of the study, to thank her
profusely for having saved their lives. Glum views the report as one more
attempt by Canada's medical orthodoxy to discredit Essiac.
A Los Angeles chiropractor, Glum spent three years researching Caisse's
story. In his biography of the nurse, Calling of an Angel (see Resources),9
published in 1988, Glum says he obtained the formula for Essiac from a woman who
had achieved total remission of her cancer after treatment by Rene. This woman,
according to Glum, was given the Essiac formula in writing by Caisse. The
unidentified woman, as Glum tells it, tried to alert the world to the efficacy
of Essiac in treating cancer, and in the late 1970s, she took her case as far as
the Michigan Superior Court but was then constantly harassed by FBI (Federal
Bureau of Investigation) and FDA officials.
Glum says that he later verified the authenticity of the Michigan woman's
formula with Mary McPherson, an Ontario woman who was Caisse's close friend.
McPherson lived and worked alongside Caisse for many years, after the
Bracebridge nurse cured McPherson's mother of cancer in the 1930s. McPherson
confirmed by telephone that she did in fact meet with Glum and that his formula
was indeed correct, although there were variations that Rene occasionally used.
Glum's critics contend that the formula Glum gives in an instruction sheet
accompanying his book is inaccurate. They charge that it is missing at least one
key ingredient and is drastically off in the ratios of the various herbs. The
critics allege that Glum's version of Essiac is not the true Essiac and that it
is potentially harmful to patients.
Glum steadfastly denies this. He points out that he put himself at great
personal and legal risk to divulge what he maintains is the correct formula. He
asserts that he is the only person in the alternative cancer field who has
openly publicized the exact details of a purported cancer cure, unlike others
who keep the details of their therapy secret, or proprietary. Thousands of
copies of Glum's book were seized and held at the United States-Canada border by
Canadian authorities, who say the book is advertising of an unapproved drug. The
book was finally allowed into Canada through the strenuous efforts of a
high-ranking Canadian politician, yet thousands of confiscated books have still
never been released, according to Glum.
Glum says he paid the unidentified woman $120,000 for the Essiac formula and
insists that he will never recover the money. He claims that his formula is
identical to the Essiac tested by medical researchers in the Soviet Union and
China when Resperin officials were attempting to interest the medical
establishments there in a cancer cure.
According to Glum, the herbal potion prepared by following the instructions
supplied in his book has helped many cancer and AIDS patients get well. Some
AIDS patients taking the herbal tea report that drastically low T-cell counts
have risen to normal.
Sheila Snow, who coauthored a pivotal 1977 article on Caisse for Canada's
Homemaker's magazine, believes that Glum's version of Essiac "is the recipe
Rene used in the 1930s when she prepared the remedy in her Bracebridge clinic
for hundreds of patients, and quite conceivably the one passed along to the
Resperin Corporation for its clinical studies." In a July 1991 article on
Essiac in the Canadian Journal of Herbal Medicine, Snow gives the exact recipe
and preparation instructions presented by Glum. In her opinion, "We owe a
large debt of gratitude to Dr. Glum for having the courage to take on this
enormous responsibility-no small task!-at great personal financial expense, time
Dr. Charles Brusch, cofounder of the Brusch Medical Center where Rene worked
in 1959, reported in a letter dated August 3, 1991, "I have been taking
this [Essiac] myself since 1984 when I had several cancer operations, and I have
every faith in it. Of course, each person's case is different as well as each
person's own individual health history.... Someone may respond in a week;
someone else may take longer, and whether or not someone is cured of cancer, the
Essiac has been found to at least prolong life by simply strengthening the
Brusch went on to note that "I was given the true original formula by
Rene when she worked with me in my clinic." He added that he passed along
this authentic formula to Canadian radio producer-broadcaster Elaine Alexander
of Vancouver, who had been following the Essiac story for twenty years and had
interviewed on her program many cancer patients who had been cured through
Essiac. Documents indicate that in November 1988, Brusch transferred Caisse's
herbal formula to Alexander, who then arranged to have the product manufactured
and sold through a distributor. Alexander's Essiac is offered strictly as a
nutritional product, under a different brand name, with the manufacturer making
no claims regarding its reputed value in treating cancer.
Alexander points out that the method of preparation, the precise ratios of
the ingredients, and the correct dosages are all crucial to Essiac's efficacy.
She says that Caisse continually improved on Essiac over the years through
experimentation and that she believes Glum's version of Essiac may be "an
early, primitive version" of a formula Caisse later strengthened and
perfected. Alexander further claims that the various "specious
facsimiles" of Essiac on the market can be quite dangerous.
Testimonials from cancer patients who achieved complete remission or
considerable improvement using Essiac are obtainable from Elaine Alexander.
These remarkable letters document cases of the last fifteen years and encompass
many types of cancer, including pancreatic, breast, and ovarian cancer; cancers
of the esophagus, bile ducts, bladder, and bones; and lymphoma and metastatic
Muriel Peters of Creston, British Columbia, one of the people who wrote to
Elaine Alexander to describe her experience with Essiac, was diagnosed in 1981
with a malignant tumor the size of an orange on her coccyx, the triangular bone
at the base of the spine. She underwent surgery a week later. The surgeons told
her, "We got it all," but according to Muriel, "By the time they
had found the tumor, it had begun to flare up the spine among the nerve endings,
so they could not cut there." She had twenty-nine radiation treatments
following the surgery. In September 1982, sensing numbness in her lower
abdominal area, she went to the Cancer Clinic in Vancouver and was told by a
head surgeon that the tumor had spread to her spine and was inoperable, and
nothing more could be done.
When her brother-in-law mentioned a man with cancer who had been given three
months to live but was cured "somewhere down South," Muriel Peters
followed up the lead. One month later, she visited the Bio-Medical Center in
Tijuana, Mexico, and began the Hoxsey herbal therapy. Within three months,
sensation returned to her lower abdomen, but this was followed by "three
months of excruciating pain which no pills could relieve." She then began
taking Essiac in liquid form, which she obtained from the Resperin Corporation
through her doctor. After twelve days, the pain subsided. "From then on I
was on my way up."
For the next year and a half, Muriel took Essiac daily. She also remained on
the Hoxsey regimen, which consisted of an herbal tonic, vitamin supplements, and
a special diet stressing fresh vegetables, greens, and fruits. "I felt the
two complemented each other," Muriel explains. "Without the diet and
the vitamins, I really doubt if either of the tonics would have been quite
enough. The body has to rebuild what the cancer has broken down, therefore
healthy foods are needed by the body to reconstruct itself."
About a year after she started her dual program, Muriel returned for tests to
the Vancouver Cancer Clinic. Incredulous, the attending doctor told her,
"For reasons unknown there have been notable changes in your body."
"When the doctor left the room," recalls Muriel, "the
attending nurse asked me what I was doing to bring about these changes, and I
only said, 'I'm on a diet and vitamins.' The nurse asked, 'On your own?' I
replied, 'No, by doctors directing.' She then said, 'Well, as long as you're not
going to Mexican quacks, as many are doing.'"
A complete medical checkup in September 1989 found Muriel Peters cancer-free
and in excellent health. At sixty-eight, she reported, "I'm the healthiest
person in British Columbia. I love life and living.... I have learned what life
is all about." X-rays and blood tests in January 1991 confirmed her to be
in complete remission, nine years after she was diagnosed with inoperable,
Elaine Alexander says she met a Vancouver physician who, in 1990, had spoken
with an oncologist at Canada's Health Protection Branch in Ottawa. This
physician, according to Alexander, was told by the government oncologist,
"It is known, at this office, that Essiac is effective against brain
tumors, especially brain stem tumors." Critics of Essiac will no doubt
dismiss this story as a self-serving fabrication. Yet Gary Glum has a remarkably
similar story. He recalls a man who telephoned him to say that his two-year-old
daughter had been diagnosed with an inoperable, advanced brain tumor and was
given just weeks to live. The man, according to Glum, was calling to thank him
for writing Caisse's biography, through which he had learned about Essiac. His
daughter had been saved by the herbal remedy and, at age five, was in perfect
Are these stories just a singular coincidence? Glum and Alexander do not
speak to each other. Their relationship, if anything, is one of rivalry, each
party feeling that he or she possesses the "correct" Essiac formula.
So it is ridiculous to suggest that they "compared notes" in order to
concoct similar accounts of Essiac's reported efficacy in treating cancer.
It is more likely that Caisse experimented with her basic recipe over the
years and that some of the contemporary products purporting to be Essiac
reproduce major variants of her formula. Confirming this theory would require
exhaustive detective work beyond the scope of this book. Readers are urged to
thoughtfully evaluate any and all claims. Caution is advised since a number of
the purported versions of Essiac on the market today do not even contain the
principal herbs, instead substituting one or more incorrect ingredients.
The Canadian herbal remedy developed by Rene Caisse is not being recommended
in this chapter as a "magic bullet" for all cancers. There is no hard
evidence on what percentage of Caisse's patients survived five years or more.
Nor is there any reliable statistical evidence on the efficacy of contemporary
Essiac or Essiac-like herbal formulas. Despite the dramatic, near-miraculous
cures Caisse undoubtedly achieved, an unknown percentage of patients under her
care succumbed to their disease, perhaps too severely ill to be treated.
The world has become an infinitely more polluted place since the 1920s and
'30s, when Caisse did her pioneering work. Carcinogenic, toxic chemicals and
radioactive isotopes that pollute our water, air, and food also reside
permanently in the cells of our bodies, weakening our natural immunity and
possibly making the remission of cancer more difficult. For these reasons,
combining Essiac with nutritional and other approaches may make the most sense.
1. C.A. Dombradi and S. Foldeak, "Screening Report on the Antitumor
Activity of Purified Arctium Lappa Extracts," Tumori, vol. 52, 1966, p.
173, cited in Patricia Spain Ward, "History of Hoxsey Treatment,"
contract report for the U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, May
2. Kazuyoshi Morita, Tsuneo Kada, and Mitsuo Namiki, "A Desmutagenic Factor
Isolated From Burdock (Arctium Lappa Linne)," Mutation Research, vol. 129,
1984, pp. 25-31, cited in Patricia Spain Ward, "History of Hoxsey
Treatment," contract report for the U.S. Congress, Office of Technology
Assessment, May 1988.
3. Sheila Snow Fraser and Carroll Allen, "Could Essiac Halt Cancer?"
Homemaker's, June-JulyAugust 1977, p. 19.
4. "Essiac as an Aid in Surgery," Bracebridge Examiner, 13 March 1991.
5. Gary L. Glum, Calling of an Angel (Los Angeles: Silent Walker Publishing,
1988), p. i.
"Essiac Added 18 Years to Her Mother's Life," Bracebridge Examiner, 6
7. "Cancer Commission Was Nothing But a Farce," Bracebridge Examiner,
9 January 1991.
8. Glum, op. cit., p. 136.
Ready Mixed available in small packages
Calling of an Angel, by Gary L. Glum, Silent Walker Publishing (P.O. Box
92856, Los Angeles, CA 90009; no phone number), 1988. Can also be ordered
directly from the author at P.O. Box 80098, Los Angeles, CA 90080; 213-271-9931
Includes an instruction sheet for a purported recipe for Essiac.
The Treatment of Cancer With Herbs, by John Heinerman, BiWorld Publishers
(Orem, Utah), 1984. Out of print; order photocopies directly from the author at
P.O. Box 11471, Salt Lake City, UT 84147; 801-521-8824.
"Could Essiac Halt Cancer?" by Sheila Snow Fraser and Carroll
Allen, Homemaker's, June-July-August 1977.
"Old Ontario Remedies-1922: Rene Caisse ESSIAC," Sheila Snow,
Canadian Journal of Herbalism, July 1991.