Dr. Milano, expert in nutrition, shows us what the Essiac formula consists of, a special blend of herbs to purify our body.

"The study of plants is fascinating and tells a story. In this article I am pleased to present you a blend of herbs, in use since the early years of the last century, which, through numerous events and vicissitudes, has come down to the present day.


The Essiac formula is a blend of herbs that has been used extensively in Canada for over 70 years.

The original recipe contained four herbs and is said to have been formulated by an Ojibwa Healer “to cleanse the body and bring it back into balance with the great spirit.” In the 1920s Essiac was popularized by Rene Caisse, a working nurse. in Bracebridge, Ontario, who reported obtaining the recipe from a woman who claimed to have cured her breast cancer.The herbal blend became known as Essiac (Caisse spelled backwards).

The four main herbs of Essiac are:

The burdock root ( Arctium lappa )

Indian rhubarb ( Rheum palmatum )

Sorrel ( Rumex acetosella )

Inner bark of the elm ( Ulmus fulva or U. rubra )

Proponents of Essiac claim that it strengthens the immune system, improves appetite, is pain reliever, and improves overall quality of life. They also claim that it can reduce the size of the tumor and extend the life of people with many types of cancer.


For 40 years Rene Caisse has given his formula to several hundred cancer patients. He reportedly administered one of the herbs by injection and the others as an herbal tea and changed the formulas several times based on his experience.

Since 1938, concerns and questions about the use of Essiac have led to an investigation by the Cancer Commission, established by the Ontario Cancer Remedies Act (1938). Commission members visited the clinic where Caisse worked, heard testimonies from patients she had treated and expressed concern about her reluctance to provide them with the formula for further analysis and concluded by saying that there was limited evidence of Essiac's effectiveness. [The Oncology Commission has presented reports on various cancer remedies besides Essiac. Their reports are archived in Records Group 10, Series 106, at the Archives of Ontario, Toronto.] However, his clinic continued to operate with public support, albeit without official approval.

Between 1959 and 1978 Caisse worked in partnership with a prominent American physician, Dr. Charles Brusch, to modify the prescription and promote its use. As a result of their clinical and laboratory work, they added four herbs to the original recipe: Watercress, Blessed Thistle, Red Clover, and Kelp which they believed served to enhance action and enhance its taste. Most importantly, the new blend required no injection and could therefore be used at home.

In 1977, a year before his death, Caisse gave one of his Essiac formulas containing the four main herbs to Resperin, a Toronto-based company, in the belief that it would be tested and made available at a reasonable price. In 1978 the Department of National Health and Welfare gave Resperin permission to conduct studies of the safety and efficacy of Essiac, but the permission was withdrawn in 1982 after it became clear that the research was not progressing as planned. There were restrictions on promoting Essiac for use in the treatment of cancer.

Numerous studies and numerous unpublished researches have shown weak evidence of the efficacy of the preparation, although studies on animal models have been shown to induce necrosis in the human tumors with which they were implanted.

The preparation has been shown to be safe, without important side effects, except in rare cases of allergic dermatitis in subjects allergic to one or more plants of the preparation. In my opinion it would be useful to invest in further research to confirm this preliminary evidence, to have updated data and the safety of its use in clinical protocols.

Last but not least, I always invite you to contact your specialist doctor and not to take supplements without informing your doctor, as they could interact with existing therapies, or confuse or delay the diagnosis. "

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