Essiac tea is a concoction of different ingredients that is touted as an alternative cure for cancer.

Essiac Tea

What is Essiac Tea?

Essiac tea is a herbal tea concoction of different ingredients that is touted as an alternative cure for cancer. Traditionally, it was made of four key ingredients: burdock root, Indian rhubarb root, sheep sorrel, and slippery elm. Other ingredients that may be included in the concoction are watercress, blessed thistle, red clover, and kelp.

  • It is a popular complementary or alternative cancer therapy among many patients.
  • This tea is sold with apparatus such as bottles and infusers, as well as the ingredients used to prepare the tea.

The best tea brands are:

  • Starwest Botanicals Organic Essiac
  • Organa Tea
  • Flora Essence Detox Dry Tea Blend
  • Optimally Organic Tea And Powder
  • Essiac Canada International Supplement Powder

Origin of essiac tea

This tea originated in Canada, and was a traditional medicine of the Ojibwa tribe which lived around Lake Superior. It was appropriated and became famous through a Canadian nurse called Rene Caisse. She got the recipe from a cancer patient who claimed that drinking this tea cured their breast cancer. She named the product Essiac, which is a reversal of her last name. Caisse started her own cancer clinic in 1934 in Ontario, Canada, where she provided free herbal treatment to patients. 

The clinic shut down by 1942 but Caisse continued to distribute the tea to patients. She sold the formula to Respirin Corporation in 1977. A clinical study was conducted, which showed that the tea was not useful in managing cancer and the formula was sold again to Essiac Products Inc., which still holds the rights to produce the tea.


One serving (2oz) of essiac tea contains:

Essiac tea has been marketed as a cancer treatment but research shows that it has little to no effect in limiting or preventing cancerous growth. Some studies have even shown that drinking this tea may result in the growth of malignant cells in cancer patients. However, the main ingredients, taken separately, may have some health benefits. 

Burdock root has anti-inflammatory properties and can help in preventing hypertension, gout, and hepatitis. Indian rhubarb may help deal with diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and fatty liver. Sheep sorrel contains flavonoids and phenolic compounds, which help in keeping the body healthy. Slippery elm has antioxidant properties. 

Commercial production

Essiac tea is commercially available in different forms. It can be bought in the form of a powder, which must be made into a tea or in the form of a liquid that can be mixed with water. It is also available in the form of capsules. Burdock root, Indian rhubarb root, sheep sorrel, and slippery elm are the main ingredients in the product but it also can contain other ingredients, depending on the manufacturer. 

Essiac tea recipes

This tea may also be prepared at home. It is meant to be consumed by itself and manufacturers do not advise you to combine it with other eatables.

Here is a popular recipe for this tea:

FDA recommendations

Essiac tea is not FDA approved. In fact, the FDA has issued warnings to the producers of this tea to stop marketing it as a cancer treatment. These products are considered illegal and not reviewed by the FDA for safety and may prove hazardous to health. 


Essiac, Cancer Research UK 

Michelle Whitmer, Essiac Tea for Mesothelioma, Mesothelomia Center, 

Kaegi, E. “Unconventional therapies for cancer: 1. Essiac. The Task Force on Alternative Therapies of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative.” CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne vol. 158,7 (1998): 897-902.