Science doesn’t support the anecdotal benefits of Essiac

Essiac Herbal Tonics are commercially available complex mixtures of herbal extracts sold as dietary supplements and used by cancer patients based on anecdotal evidence that they can treat or prevent disease.

Let’s look look at the evidence since 2005.

October 2005

  • Physicians from Toronto report a “case of a 64-year-old man whose hormone-refractory prostate cancer responded well to Essiac tea.”

August 2006

  • Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California report, “Essiac Herbal Tonics can stimulate the growth of human breast cancer cells through estrogen receptor mediated as well as estrogen receptor independent mechanisms of action.”

August 2006

  • Researchers from the University of Toronto report that Essiac “did not significantly demonstrate its purported physiological modifying effects.”

December 2006

  • Researchers from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor report, “Essiac does not appear to improve health-related quality of life or mood states. Future studies are needed to determine whether other clinical outcomes, such as cancer reoccurrence, are affected by Essiac.”

The bottom line?

February 2007

  • A study from the Vancouver General Hospital concludes, “Essiac has no marked antiproliferative [prevent spread of cancer cells to surrounding tissue] effect on the models tested.”

8/9/07 18:13 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.