Hi, Rita, glad you joined us. I have been working on a project describing and
rating the various alternative treatments. Here is the piece on Essiac. By the
way, the way the rating system works is this:
A for promising treatment that shows evidence that it can be useful for
lymphoma (or in case of complemenary treatments, evidence for the particular
B interesting, can even be promising, and some indirect research is available,
but there is as yet no convincing evidence that this will work for lymphoma
(or the condition in question)
C maybe; some persuasive anecdotal reports exist, but no research or trials
D I don�t think so; no persuasive evidence
Essiac is a herbal treatment used by a Canadian nurse, Rene Caisse. She ran a
clinic in Ontario between the wars, where people with cancer and other
diseases came to be treated (by injection). The remedy is said to have come
from an Ojibwa healer.
Caisse never made the recipe public, but it is widely assumed to consist of
burdock root, indian (or turkish) rhubarb root, sheep sorrel, and slippery
elm. (Some current preparations add other herbs as well.) Essiac is sold by 2
Canadian companies (one product is called Flor-Essence), each claiming to be
Caisse�s true heir. Both are rather expensive. These preparations are
available in health food stores. It is also available as a mixture from many
herbalists and herbal catalogs, and also as a tincture (sometimes called
Ojibwa drops). The user can make their own tea which is then taken once or
twice a day. Flor-Essence is also available as a liquid, ready to use.
Research evidence: Burdock has shown anti-tumor activity in some studies, and
none in others. (It is also part of the Hoxsey formula.) Rhubarb has some
chemicals in it that have shown some anticancer activity, and so does sorrel
(eg, aloe emodin). In addition, rhubarb showed anti-tumor activity at NCI
against a sarcoma cell line. Essiac was tested by the NCI in the 70s and
showed no activity.
It is said that the mixture is a powerful liver protector, a blood purifier,
and detoxifier. Does experimental evidence bear the lesser claims out? Burdock
has been found in Germany to contain chemicals that are anti-bacterial and
anti-fungal. A published study indicated that burdock decreases mutations in
cells exposed to mutagenic chemicals. And it seems to have an anti-poisoning
effect in animals. (A couple of cases of burdock poisoning have been reported;
one was the result of adulteration of burdock with belladonna; I am not sure
what the details are on the other.) Some sources say it has been shown to be
diuretic and hypoglycemic, and a smooth muscle relaxant.
Sorrel has a diuretic and mildly laxative effect. It contains oxalates, and
should be avoided by people prone to kidney stones.
Rhubarb is a powerful laxative in larger amounts(also used in small amounts
against diarrhea). Has been used successfully against dysentery and other
bacterial infections. Some animal studies suggest that it stimulates uterine
contractions. Possibly an appetite stimulant. (Never use rhubarb leaves --
Slippery elm is very non-toxic. Still listed in the National Formulary, it
soothes the throat and digestive tract, and it is thought that it stimulates
nerve endings in the stomach and intestinal tract. Very little research has
been done on it.
Patient experience: I used Essiac, mostly as Flor-Essence liquid, for 3 months
during the first year after my diagnosis. At first, I brewed my own, but was
unable to keep it all sufficicently sterile, and it started to spoil. So I
switched to the bottled product (at about $19 a bottle at my co-op). The taste
is not great, but not terrible either. I took 2 ozs twice daily.
There was no effect on my tumors, which were stable when I started, and
continued stable after I quit. I did note a gradual increase in energy and
well-being (I had been very weak and unwell.) I was also trying other things,
and so do not have a clear sense whether it could have been the Essiac. I have
come across no evidence that Essiac has minimized anyone�s lymphoma. I spoke
with one NHL person who felt that Essiac was beneficial during chemo -- helped
her stay well. (Another similar case badly reported, as well as other articles
on Essiac, can be found at http://www.wbj.com.
Look for Well Being Journal
Jan-Feb 96.) If the time comes for me to undergo chemo or radiation, I may
consider the use of Essiac as adjuvant therapy.
If I were to do it again, I would buy fresh (and cheap) herbal mixture from a
reputable local herbal farm, or use an alcohol-based tincture (tinctures stay
potent much longer than bulk herbs which tend to go stale rather quickly).
Suggested research: Does Essiac help people undergo standard chemotherapy in
better shape? Do people who take it suffer from milder side effects, and fewer
long term effects? Do they recover faster afterwards? What is the optimal
dose? Will it protect from the development of chemo-caused secondary cancers?
Rating: A as an adjuvant d