Essiac – Nature’s Cancer Treatment
Nurse Rene M Caisse wanted only to ease human suffering, to help people afflicted by a terrible disease, and to prove the efficacy of the discovery she had made. She had no thoughts of personal gain. Yet she was continually harassed by Canadian health authorities and threatened with arrest and imprisonment for treating people with an herbal remedy she called “Essiac”. Essiac was, and is, a successful treatment, and in many cases, a cure for cancer. From the 1920s until her death in 1978 at the age of 90, the Canadian born nurse from Bracebridge, Ontario successfully treated and cured thousands of cancer patients who had been given up on by the medical profession as being incurable or untreatable.
She modified an old Canadian Indian herbal remedy, and named it Essiac (Caisse spelled backwards). The formula, a combination of four natural ingredients, was administered both orally and by injection to certified terminally ill cancer patients by Caisse under the supervision of qualified physicians. Many of these patients lived a further 35 to 40 years, totally free from cancer.
Caisse’s involvement began in 1922; when, working as a surgical nurse, she came across an 80 year old patient with a badly scarred, but healed breast. The patient had been cured nearly 30 years previously of breast cancer by an Indian herbal drink. Caisse asked the woman for the formula, thinking she would use it herself if ever she developed cancer. Her life was never to be the same after that.
In 1924, Rene’s aunt was diagnosed as having advanced, inoperable stomach cancer. She was given only six months to live. Caisse obtained permission from her aunt’s physician, Dr. R.O. Fisher, to try out the Essiac formula on her. Caisse gathered the herbs and prepared the tea which her aunt drank daily for a period of two months. She experienced a full recovery and lived a further 21 years. The cancer never came back.
Dr. Fisher was impressed with this success and he teamed up with Caisse. Together they treated cancer patients who had been given up on by their doctors. Many of their patients improved to a great extent. They also conducted laboratory experiments on mice, testing and modifying the formula to improve its effectiveness.
Other doctors heard of Rene from Dr. Fisher and had patients treated by Rene that they had failed to cure with conventional methods. Several of these doctors were so impressed with the results she obtained that in 1926, nine of them signed a petition to the Department of National Health and Welfare in Ottawa, attesting to the effectiveness they had witnessed Essiac to have in the reduction of tumour size, relief from pain, prolonging of life in hopeless cases, and the “remarkably beneficial results” Essiac showed. The petition urged that Caisse be “given an opportunity to prove her work in a large way.” The action the petition provoked was unexpected.
The Ottawa Department of Health and Welfare sent two doctors to investigate, armed with powers to have Rene Caisse arrested for practising medicine without a licence. This was the beginning of the persecution by government officials and those in the medical profession which was to follow Caisse for nearly 50 years as she attempted to render help to those in need.
Caisse was able to make these first two investigating doctors back down when she explained how she operated under the supervision of qualified physicians, only at their request, and only on those terminally ill patients who had been failed by orthodox treatments. She also made no charge for her services, and accepted only voluntary contributions. She was able to escape arrest.
Caisse’s set up was impressive to Dr. W.C. Arnold who was one of the investigators, and he urged her to continue testing Essiac on mice at the Christie Street Hospital in Toronto. She did so from 1928 to 1930, and her experiments went well. Mice which had been inoculated with human cancer were injected with Essiac, and the treatment regressed their tumours.
Rene gave up nursing so that she could devote more time to her Essiac research, and the treatment of patients which doctors continued to send to her. She saw roughly 30 patients per day in her apartment.
She was convinced of the genuine merit of the Essiac treatment as she continued to treat more and more people, making case notes as she went. She decided that her evidence would be persuasive to the medical profession, and she arranged to meet with Dr. Fredrick Banting, famous co-discoverer of insulin, and present him with her case notes.
Dr. Banting was impressed, and offered her a share in his laboratory at the Banting Institute. He also expressed an interest in working with her. Caisse declined his offer because she wanted to continue to treat cancer patients.
The Bracebridge Clinic
In 1935, a Dr. A.F. Bastedo who was impressed with Caisse’s work, arranged for her to open a cancer clinic in her home of Bracebridge. This clinic operated for seven years, and in that time Caisse treated thousands of cancer sufferers, achieving impressive results.
Just after the clinic opened, Rene’s 72 year old mother, Friselde was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer, and given only days to live. Caisse began treating her mother with Essiac injections, and she made a full recovery. She lived a further 18 years, dying of heart failure aged 90.
For Rene, this made all her work, and all the harassment she endured worthwhile. Essiac had given her mother 18 years of life when orthodox medical science said she had only days.
In 1937, Caisse was invited to Chicago to treat 30 terminally ill cancer patients under the supervision of five doctors. So impressed were these doctors by her results that they offered to set up a clinic in Chicago for her if she would move to the US. She preferred to remain in her home of Canada though, and so declined the offer.
Other doctors heard about and visited the clinic at Bracebridge. One of these was Dr. Emma Carson who stayed at the clinic for 24 days in 1937. Dr. Carson had come as a skeptic, intending at first to stay only a day or two at Bracebridge. She ended up examining over 400 patients, both in the clinic, and at their homes where they were getting on with their lives after having been cured by Essiac. As she examined and talked to these people, her skepticism melted away.
In a report Dr. Carson later wrote on the clinic, she stated, “Really, the progress obtainable and the rapidity of repair was absolutely marvellous, and must be seen to convincingly confirm belief.”
In 1938, a bill was presented to the Ontario Parliament accompanied by over 55,000 signatures on a petition which supported its proposal that Rene Caisse be legally allowed to treat cancer sufferers with Essiac. The petition was signed by many notable physicians, past patients of Caisse’s and their families. The bill failed to pass by just three votes.
Instead, a Royal Cancer Commission was set up to determine the possible merit of Essiac as a cancer treatment. This Commission, consisting of six orthodox doctors headed up by an Ontario Supreme Court Justice was a total farce, a blatant attempt to discredit Essiac.
Of the 387 of Caisse’s patients who arrived to testify before this Commission in 1939, only 49 were permitted to speak.
In consideration of these 49 cases, the Commission would not accept x-ray reports as diagnoses. It stated that the doctors in these cases had made wrong diagnoses, even when some of these patients had been separately diagnosed by up to four different qualified physicians.
When the Commission did recognise that a patient had been cured of cancer, it attributed this to previous treatments the patient had received such as radiation therapy or surgery. In some cases it was quite clear that conventional treatments had had no effect on the disease. Nowhere would the Commission acknowledge that any patient had been cured or even benefited from Essiac treatments.
It concluded, “The Commission is of the opinion that the evidence adduced does not justify any favourable conclusion as to the merits of Essiac as a remedy for cancer.”
Caisse felt beaten, and feared arrest and imprisonment for practising medicine without a licence, and in 1942 she closed the Bracebridge Clinic, and went into seclusion. She would thereafter treat patients in her home in secret.
In 1959, Caisse went to the Brusch Medical Centre in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she had been invited to treat terminal cancer patients and do further laboratory experiments on mice under the supervision of 18 physicians. She worked with Dr. Charles A. Brusch, director of the clinic, and physician to former US President John F. Kennedy.
Dr. Brusch was convinced of Essiac’s efficacy in treating cancer, and even made a notarised statement in April of 1990 in which he said, “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 alone.”
In 1977, just before Caisse died, she turned the rights of the formula over to Dr. Brusch and to the Resperin Corporation who were to test and manufacture it.
This was exactly what Rene had always wanted – for Essiac to be clinically tested through properly documented trials where there would be no allegations of misdiagnoses after the fact, and where patients’ progress would be observed and authenticated through reports drawn up by qualified people.
But it never came to pass. Resperin’s trials, which began in 1978, showed promise at first, but were halted in 1982 because of allegedly substandard procedures and documentation as well as poor results. A report was issued by the Canadian Health and Welfare Department which stated, “No clinical evidence exists to support claims that Essiac is an effective treatment for cancer.”
Dr. Gary Glum, a chiropractor from California, who published a biography of Rene Caisse in 1988 titled” Calling of an Ange”l alleges that this 1982 report was a deception.
Dr. Glum says that the Resperin Corporation worked closely with the Canadian Ministry of Health and Welfare. He says that documents were falsified in the course of the Resperin tests, and notes a specific case of a man who had come to Rene Caisse to thank her for Essiac, and for being part of the trial program. This man had been listed as dead in the Resperin case reports.
Glum further alleges that after Caisse’s death in 1978, the Canadian Ministry of Health and Welfare burned all of her case notes which she had collected since she had began treating people with Essiac.
Glum’s involvement with Essiac has put him to great personal and financial strain. He states that US government officials confiscated copies of “Calling of an Angel” (which he published himself) that he had stored at his medical practice. Thousands of copies of the book were also confiscated by Canadian border authorities who said that it was “advertising” an unapproved drug. He never received these copies back.
Dr. Glum received the Essiac formula from a personal friend who had been cured from cancer by Essiac, and he was subsequently able to verify the authenticity of this formula with a woman named Mary McPherson who worked very closely with Rene Caisse for quite some time, and whose own mother had been cured of cancer in the 1930s at the Bracebridge Clinic.
In 1988, Dr. Brusch turned over his rights on Essiac to Elaine Alexander, a broadcaster and radio producer from Vancouver. Alexander interviewed many patients who had been cured of cancer by Essiac, and kept well up on events surrounding the treatment for some 20 years. She arranged for Essiac to be manufactured and distributed.
Essiac consists of four common herbs: sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella), burdock root (Arctium lappa), slippery elm bark (Ulmus fulva), and turkey rhubarb root (Rheum palmatum).
At least three of these herbs – sheep sorrel, burdock root, and turkey rhubarb have been found in various modern studies to display antitumour activity.
As well as acting to shrink tumour masses, it was Caisse’s theory that the ingredients in Essiac served to purify the blood. It has been known in folk medicine for many years that burdock root acts to cleanse the blood.
Caisse’s theory would seem to be supported by many Essiac patients afflicted with internal cancers who reported hardening of their tumours, followed by distinct softening of the mass. Many would then report discharging of fleshy matter along with pus. This would seem to indicate diseased tissue being carried out of the body as tumours would disappear after the discharges had taken place.
Caisse never wanted the public to know the ingredients of her formula. Her fear was that people suffering from cancer, involved in a life or death situation, would obtain the wrong ingredients, or prepare the formula incorrectly. She knew that proper preparation with very exacting measurements of the ingredients was vital to Essiac’s ability to treat cancer.
Today, Essiac may be obtained from various private distributors and vendors. it is sold as a “food supplement”, and no claims may be made concerning its possible merit as a treatment for cancer. Doing so is illegal as it is unapproved as a medicine, and anyone selling it, making such claims, is open to prosecution.
Because it is so vital that Essiac be prepared properly, using the correct ingredients in the right ratios, those wishing to use it should carefully examine the background of the source from where they intend to purchase it. There are many bogus copies of Essiac on the market which have no value as treatments, and can even be dangerous.
Rene Caisse never claimed that Essiac is a cure for cancer, even though many of her patients did, as did many of the doctors she worked with over the years. She sought to relieve her patients of pain, and to control the disease. But it is undeniable that many of her patients were given many more years of life – free from pain or free from cancer – that they would not have had without Essiac