The first known origins of Essiac tea were found among the Ojibway, also referred to as Chippewa, Indians. It is thought that in 1922, a Native American healer belonging to the Ojibway Indian tribe in Ontario gave the formula for Essiac tea to a woman with breast cancer. The woman, claiming it had cured her cancer, in turn gave the tea to Canadian nurse by the name of Renée Caisse (1888-1978). Caisse was a nurse at Bracebridge Clinic in Ontario who started giving Essiac (“Caisse” spelled backwards) to her patients to treat cancer. Since then, thousands have used the herbal remedy to treat cancer.
The herbal mix consists of primarily Sheep Sorrel, Slippery Elm Bark, Turkish Rhubarb Root, and Burdock Root. It also contains some Blessed Thistle, red clover, watercress, and other herbs.
There has been no proof that Essiac tea cures cancer, but there are plenty of anecdotal testimonies and some of the individual ingredients have been shown to have anticancer properties.
In several studies, Burdock had anti-tumor effects in animals, while other studies showed none. Also, Burdock contains Benzaldehyde, which has been demonstrated to have anticancer effects in humans. Another Essiac ingredient, Indian rhubarb, has also been shown to have anti-tumor effects in certain studies, and like Burdock, showed no such effects in other studies.
It is important not to get carried away with these individual ingredients, though, especially since several people have reported being poisoned by drinking commercial Burdock root tea, and when Burdock was given to animals in high doses, it proved to be lethal.
Lately, the tea has been growing more and more in popularity and it seems like Essiac companies are popping up everywhere. When shopping for it, it is recommended that you look for tea made with organic, North American herbs.