Home remedies

Indian tea - application and effects

Indian tea - application and effects

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Indian tea does not generally refer to tea blends from the “Native Americans”, but rather an herbal tea that is believed to have come from the Ojibwa and which an American nurse regarded as an anti-cancer agent. This tea is now marketed as Flor Essence.

The most important facts

  • Indian tea, Essiac or Flor Essence describe a blend of herbs that is said to date back to the Ojibwa.
  • The mixture consists of red clover, sorrel, elm and rhubarb root as well as later additions.
  • All herbs contained in it are medically effective.
  • René Caisse, who popularized the Essiac, used it against cancer. However, an effect has not been scientifically proven and the product is therefore not recognized as a medicine.

What is "Indian tea" made of?

The remedy consists of a small sorrel, burdock root, the bark of the American elm and rhubarb root. Dr. Brusch later supplemented this with red clover, red algae, watercress and cardobedica herb.

  • Benedict herb is said to strengthen the nerves, has a weak antiseptic and wound healing effect. It stimulates the metabolism, works against diarrhea, drives sweat and promotes menstruation.
  • Brown algae provides minerals, soothes digestion, promotes potency and stimulates the bloodstream.
  • Watercress supplies vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, D, E and K, essential oils, tannins, bitter substances and mustard oil glycosides. Iodine, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, folic acid and niacin.
  • Rhubarb root strengthens appetite and works against bacteria, promotes digestion and bile flow.
  • Red clover provides herbal hormones.
  • Elm bark has an antibacterial and antibiotic effect, drives urine and stops blood flow, regulates the intestinal flora and stimulates cell formation.
  • Sorrel drives urine and sweat and relieves fever.

All substances in Indian tea have a medicinal effect. An effect against cancer has not been scientifically proven. Nor is there any evidence that the Ojibwa ever used any of these plants against cancer.


The tea is usually drunk one to three times a day before eating. There are also capsules and drops. In the use against cancer, the "alternative healers" strongly advise against taking chemotherapy or radiotherapy while taking Essiac.

Medicinal teas of the American Natives

To speak of an "Indian tea" as a collective term for medicinal plants would make as much sense as to speak of a "European tea". Very different plants with medicinal effects grow between Alaska and Tierra del Fuego and the cultures that used them were just as different. The "Indian" was just as little as the "Indian tea".

Today, modern medicine uses substances from more than 600 Indian medicinal plants, from dandelions to witch hazel. Native Americans, for example, brewed tea from Wasserostost for infections and fever, from bearberry to promote urine flow and to accelerate labor, from the root of the comfrey against cough, colds and hemorrhoids and externally applied against arthritis and sprains. They used tea made from coneflower and lapacho tea to fight infections.

The Ojibwa

The Ojibwa belong to the Algonkin language family and historically settled around Lake Hudson and Michigan in what is now the US states of Wisconsin such as Minnesota and Canada. They lived on “wild rice” (water grass), fishing and hunting. They survived the land robbery of European immigrants better than other tribes because their territory was unsuitable for agriculture. Today, Ojibwa live in reserves in Canada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Michigan and Montana.

Ojibwa medicine

The Ojibwa knew four medical specialists, the Jessakid (seer), the Midewiwin (priest), the Wabenos (dawn men, "medicine men") and the Mashki-kike-winini (herbalist). The latter brewed the various teas from the herbs of the region. These were used to fight worms and other parasites inside the body. They also served as natural laxatives or to promote fertility.

Ojibwa tea for breast cancer?

In 1922, René Caisse worked at the Sisters of Providence Hospital in Haileybury, Ontario. There she spoke to a patient whose chest was scarred. She told her that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years ago. An elderly medicine man (presumably Mashi-kike-winini) from the Ojibwa would have given her a healing tea made from herbs, which he had made according to a traditional recipe. She would have gone to Toronto first, where doctors amputated her breast. She would have had no money for a follow-up treatment, which is why she drank the Ojibwa herbal tea twice a day. 20 years later, at the age of 80, she was still healthy and the cancer had disappeared.

Years later, Caisse's aunt fell ill with cancer. She refused chemotherapy and preferred to die. Supposedly, she had terminal cancer. The doctor allowed Caisse to give the drug to her aunt, after which the cancer disappeared after two months and the previously terminally ill person lived for 21 years. So the story.

From Caisse to Essiac

The story got around, whereupon nine doctors wrote a petition to the Canadian Department of Health: “We believe that Sister Caisse's cancer treatment can do no harm, but it does relieve pain and reduce ulcer growth, thereby extending life in hopeless cases. We vouch that she has only been given cases where any other medical or surgical method has failed. But even then she was able to show remarkable healing successes. We wish to be given the opportunity to demonstrate her treatment on a larger basis. As far as we know, she has never taken any money from any patient she has treated in the past two years. ”

Caisse became famous and the tea was given the name Essiac - her name spelled backwards. At times, she supplied 50 patients with her tea every day in an apartment that she rented in Toronto. She did not take a fixed fee, but left the amount of the fee to the person concerned. In 1934 the Bracebridge City Council gave her an old hotel to convert it into a cancer clinic. The hospital was always full.

At the age of 72, Caisse's mother developed liver cancer, after which her daughter injected her Essiac and she recovered and only died 18 years later. Caisse said: “That made up for all the effort. Thanks to Essiac, my mother was still able to live a healthy life for 18 years. It gave me the strength to go through all of the persecutions I've had from many medical professionals. ”

The clinic has to close

Many doctors were skeptical of the "miracle cure", other doctors saw a real effect. Frederick Banting, who discovered the insulin, wrote to her in 1936: "Miss Caisse, I do not want to say that you have a cure for cancer, but you have more evidence of a positive effect on cancer patients than anyone around the world." The pressure from the authorities and medical professionals became so great that Caisse had to close her clinic.

Prominent support

She found an advocate in the personal physician of John F. Kennedy, Dr. Charles Armao Brusch. Caisse was 70 years old and was brought to his institute in Cambridge (USA) by Brusch to research the effects of Essiac. Several doctors at Brusch's clinic were convinced of the effectiveness of the remedy. Brusch and Caisse added four more herbs to the remedy and now thought it was strong enough not to have to inject it anymore, but gave it as tea so that the patients could take it home.

Essiac becomes Flor Essence

As there were no scientifically valid studies on the effects of Essiac, it was not approved as a medicine. Instead, it was sold as an herbal tea under the name Flor Essence. The name Essiac was so well known that the authorities assumed that consumers would buy it under this name because of its unproven effectiveness against cancer.

Colon Cancer Cured?

Brusch himself said in 1990: “I still support Essiac therapy today because I cured my own colon cancer with Essiac alone. My last total examination in August 1989, in which my entire intestinal tract was examined, showed no signs of a malignant ulcer. Medical records prove it. I have been taking Essiac every day since my diagnosis (1984) and my recent check-up has given me good health. ”

A Canadian study found the following in 86 cases treated with Essiac: 47 of them received no benefit from the treatment, eight had no result, 17 died, one experienced a "subjective improvement", five required less analgesics, four spoke “objectively” and four were “stable”. All affected were treated conventionally, which could explain improvements.

Questionable explanations

Caisse believed that Essiac could cause cancer cells to retreat to the original location of the tumor, where they would shrink and disappear. All evidence for such a process is missing. On top of that, it contradicts biological knowledge about cell proliferation. Brusch claimed that Essiac identified poisons, collected them, split them up and made sure that the body excreted them. However, there is no evidence for this, especially since tumors are not toxins, but rather overgrowth cells.

The explanations for an alleged effect of Essiac against cancer are therefore not sufficient and also contradict today's medical knowledge.


Essiac is not approved as a medicine, but is sold as a dietary supplement, which is why it is not paid for by health insurance companies. The blends can cost several hundred euros per month, since the bottle of tea costs between 15 and 24 euros.

Flor Essence - Risks

There are no clinical studies on the effectiveness of Indian tea. Because watercress has a high iodine content, people who cannot tolerate this should not consume such tea. There is a danger that those who are convinced of the anti-cancer effects will explicitly prohibit cancer therapies, while those affected consume Essiac. This delays valid treatment, which can mean death in the case of cancer.

Side effects

Some “alternative doctors” mistakenly market Essiac as “gentle medicine with no side effects”. The following side effects are known from the plants contained in the mixture:

  • Benedictine herb can cause vomiting and stomach pain at more than five grams per cup.
  • Burdock root can cause allergic reactions.
  • Medicinal rhubarb rarely leads to convulsions, watery diarrhea and contractions of the uterus. Potassium loss, dehydration, muscle weakness and edema can also result.
  • Larger amounts of sorrel lead to diarrhea, skin inflammation and nausea.
  • Watercress can lead to intestinal irritation in large quantities, and with continued consumption even kidney pain.
  • Red clover can cause a rash, headache, nausea, and spotting on the vagina.

(Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Miriam Adam, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Boehm, Katja; CAM-Cancer Consortium (ed.): "Essiac", in: Cam Cancer, 2019, cam-cancer.org
  • Hiller, Karl; Melzig, Matthias F .: Lexicon of Medicinal Plants and Drugs, Spectrum Academic Publisher, 2009
  • Striker, Ernst: Indian pharmacy: tips from ethno-medicine, tredition, 2014
  • What is Essiac ?, in: essiacinfo.org (accessed: May 26, 2019), essiacinfo.org

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