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Essiac?

Baaa-bs's picture
Baaa-bs
Posts: 50
Joined: Jun 2013

Has anyone tried Essiac tea? A friend of mine insists it helped her father-in-law with his cancer, although not kidney. 

Just wondering if this is yet another way to get me to spend money and not be helpful.

Texas_wedge's picture
Texas_wedge
Posts: 2807
Joined: Nov 2011

So far, there doesn't appear to be any solid scientific evidence that it helps in any way.

You'll always find some people who say that a putative 'remedy' worked for them.  The trouble with such anecdotal testimony is that you don't know whether it's true and you don't know whether the person claim**** it knows either - they may be misattibuting the cause for their improvement.

On the other hand, we're all so different, one from another, biochemically, that something that doesn't work for most people may work like magic for an unidentifiable small proportion of patients.  If it's not known to do any harm, isn't too expensive and doesn't carry the hallmarks of a 'remedy' that's making someone a fortune, why not try it and see if it does you any good.  If it does, be sure to tell the rest of us.

NanoSecond's picture
NanoSecond
Posts: 603
Joined: Oct 2012

Although I generally agree with Tex this is one time I can't.

Please check out this link:

http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/cancer.html

And then scroll down to the entry about Essiac Tea.

I hope that will dissuade you about using this extremely questionable "therapy".

 

 

 

Baaa-bs's picture
Baaa-bs
Posts: 50
Joined: Jun 2013

Seems like another hoax, another way to scam money and make me look desperate and foolish. Wouldn't it be wonderful if something as simple as tea could make a cancer patient feel better?! If I find the miracle cure... I'll pass it along. In the meantime, just hanging in there.

Texas_wedge's picture
Texas_wedge
Posts: 2807
Joined: Nov 2011

Neil, I think you're working too hard at present and stretching yourself too thin  Wink  - the bit you quote from Quackwatch confirms, not contradicts, what I said. 

A few further thoughts - about Essiac in particular and the scientific approach in general. 

For those of us (= most?) who aren't aware, 'Essiac tea' is no more a 'tea' than a peanut is a kind of nut, or a 'sweet potato' is a potato.  Essiac is/was an infusion of several herbs - the mixture was changed a bit by its developer, Rene Caisse, a senior nurse, who named it from her surname spelt backwards.  She died many years ago and the 'formula' was bought by a hard-sell company which won't disclose the components of what they now sell as 'Essiac'. [I wonder how long ago it was that your friend's father-in-law used it - and what the composition was at that time.]

The origin was from an Indian herbal remedy, which Caisse tinkered about with.  There is as good an exposition on it as you're likely to want in the excellent Quackwatch article about unconventional cancer treatments at

http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/OTA/ota04.html#essiac

You might feel that, knowing a little more about the nature of the product as currently available in the US, you don't want to bother to pursue this any further.  However, I hope you won't feel "dissuaded" purely on the grounds Neil has quoted.  After all, you hadn't said that this is being suggested as a 'cure' for cancer, or even as a 'therapy' as such.  (Neil was generalising because we know that there are those who do make such claims about it.)

The fairly weak claim, by your friend, was that the Father-in-Law had found that it "helped ... with his cancer".  We all know that 'A nice cup of tea' is a good example of something that often helps us to feel better and anything that comforts us, calms us, gives us a little more sense of control, shouldn't be derided on the basis that someone else has made ludicrous claims about it as being a cure for cancer!

Who knows how long its herbal precursor had been kicking around for, but we do know that Caisse was administering her 'tea' most of a hundred years ago.  You can find innumerable scraps of information about it via Google.   Here, on CSN, across all of the boards, there have been hundreds of postings about it.   If you find the subject riveting, you can find 16 years of discussions about it in the ACOR KIDNEY-ONC Archive!!  I don't think that it's unreasonable to conclude that if 'Essiac' were 'the cure' for cancer that would have been recognised by now and,by the same token, if it were dangerous, equally we'd know.  I notice that it is supplied to patients "in accordance with a special agreement with Canadian federal health officials"!

Essiac investigations look a bit of a sorry tale, in terms of non-cooperation, aborted studies, reciprocal distrust and so on (the usual suspects).

There is a good conspectus of all of this, with summaries of the research up until fairly recently available, from MD Anderson, here:

http://www.mdanderson.org/education-and-research/resources-for-professionals/clinical-tools-and-resources/cimer/therapies/herbal-plant-biologic-therapies/essiac-scientific.html

There is evidence of benefits to some patients, which leads me to a more general observation.  We have to watch out for the double standards that are wont to present themselves in comparisons of commercially available drugs from the giant pharmacological concerns with folk medicines/ alternative/complementary therapies etc.  The fairly weak indications of merit that are used as a basis for rubbishing the latter are too often accepted as perfectly adequate for approbation of prospectively big-money-spinning products of really dubious quality from the pharma giants.

We are each of us unique in our personal biochemistries so it should come as no surprise that what works for one doesn't for another.  With RCC, most of us would jump at a chance for HD IL2 [personal memo - must look out for latest bulletin from Larry] on the basis that it delivers great results for a small proportion of patients. 

It simply isn't scientific to dismiss as useless some 'folk remedy', or such-like, on the grounds that for a majority of patients it's ineffectual!  If it works for a few patients, whether or not we understand why, it should not be rejected.  This irrational approach was at the heart of the bad decision made the other day by the FDA with regard to tivozanib.  If it works well for some, it should be welcomed, unless there is something better that can be used for ALL OF those patients.

Stepping back from this abstract observation to the concrete and specific personal level, may I ask Phoenix Rising whether she is currently taking Essiac and what her appraisal is of it?

I'm barely functioning cognitivelyat the moment and can't judge whether I'm making sense but I hope the ramble above may be of some value to someone here.

 

NanoSecond's picture
NanoSecond
Posts: 603
Joined: Oct 2012

Hey Tex.  You are right that I choose not to spend too much of my time researching items like Essiac Tea.  So I appreciate your more than thorough (and balanced) review regarding it.

However, my basic point still remains unchallenged.  I look for those "remedies" that have at least some small modicum of scientific basis.  That is why I spend most of my time researching the latest thoughts on proper diet and nutrition.  There is not enough of same to justify spending much time on Essiac.  The links you (and I) provided underscore this point.

Sure, if something "helps", feel free to go for it (assuming it causes no harm - which I understand was your belief).  However, since there is so much diversity in exactly what constitutes the "official" ingredients that make up this particular conconction - I actually do not feel comfortable suggesting it might do no harm at all.  Because that depends - on what is ultimately in the mix.

Anyway, I get more than enough flack for suggesting the use of more "proven" supplements like curcumin and resveratrol or even our good friend Milk Thistle.  So I will no longer spend much time on these other unsubstantiated (and, in this case) rather arbitrary conconctions. 

As you point out - it has been around a long time.  As such, if there really was something to it, I would expect it would be under at least a little investigation by one or more of the researchers who spice up the AACR Annual Meetings.  But it isn't.  For me, that is significant show stopper.

Just my 2 cents, as always.  I try to pursue or suggest only those therapies that I believe might give "the most bang for the buck".  This ain't one of them.

GSRon's picture
GSRon
Posts: 1306
Joined: Jan 2013

I brought this subject up before and got some negative flack...   I also asked my Onc about it and was told "do it if y ou want, seems like it won't harm you".   Not much of an approval but...

So, starting from last year, a pal of mine told me about the "tea"..  of course I was and still am skeptical.. then he sent me the book, with a bunch of medical Doctors giving it the nod..  Then my pal sent me a quantity of the tea... yech.. tastes bad for sure... I only made one batch of it...

The book is interesting.. of course any good wordsmith can make anything sound plausable..  but until there is hard proof yea or nay... I keep an open mind...

Be Well All..!

Ron

Texas_wedge's picture
Texas_wedge
Posts: 2807
Joined: Nov 2011

We agree as to what's worth pursuing (and what you're advocating represents an assumption I've always made).  The thing is, Neil, it wasn't a question of what you wanted to pursue or suggest, or anyone else here - it was a request from Baa-bs for an evaluation of the merits of 'essiac'.  in that regard, there was no basic point of yours under consideration.  I gave a brief assessment and, as I understood it, you presented a link that supposedly represented a different view, whereas, in fact, it confirmed my view.  My smiley related to the fact that you didn't seem to see that.

However, as I've said, I'm very spaced out at present.  In fact, I can't even see where you made the point you referred to - was it, perhaps, on some other thread? I also don't see any question of bangs for the buck. 

The question about potential harm is very much to the point when one doesn't know what's actually in a concoction.  That is true generally, of course, and applies to most food supplements and processed foods.  With Essiac as it now is, it may be covered by the special terms on which the Canadian health officials allow the Resperin Corp. to supply to patients.  The Resperin website details the 4 herbs used in Essiac and also carries the disclaimer:

"These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

which should be enough to silence those making wildly exaggerated claims about the merit of the product.

I suppose it was about a year ago that someone mentioned Essiac to me and invited my opinion.  I wrote back later and said that after investigation I wouldn't be adding it to my dietary repertoire. 

I'd be glad of your thoughts on the additional point I made - about the double standards when it comes to evaluating folk medicines, supplements etc, - that it's unscientific to dismiss x as worthless merely on the basis that x is seen not to confer any benefit on most patients, without investigating evidence regarding those for whom it is claimed that it does have benefit.

{I'm running on a chronic sleep deficit, have had a bit of a fever the last few days, have a C-R P that's going the wrong way and am doped up to the eyeballs with pain-killers.  If I'm coming over as confused or not with it, please let me  know  Embarassed  - not sure what I'd do with the information but I might want to hold off on posting, pending getting the marbles in better order!}

angec's picture
angec
Posts: 663
Joined: Mar 2012

TW, boy i was hoping you would be feeling better at the moment. The Crp can be high due to whatever infection is causing the fever. Don't worry to much about that right now!  I hope the other things are turning around a bit.

 

Now, i just wanted to ask has anyone any information or is anyone using Mistletoe tea!  Uh oh.... why did i have to add this in the mix?  LOL

 

 

NanoSecond's picture
NanoSecond
Posts: 603
Joined: Oct 2012

Hi Tex.

I am far more concerned about what you are going through right now then worrying about this little debate.  But nonetheless I should confess that the problem is probably with me. I have been out of town and away from easy Internet access for the past few days (I am up in Sandwich, NH where at least it is a lot cooler than the rest of the east coast).  So you were correct in that I have not put the proper amount of time into expressing my thoughts on this one.

The bottom line is that I also did not re-read the article I posted - as it was something in my computer that I could link to easily without wasting valuable Internet search time.  However, my recollection was that it fully supported my position (which is why I posted it in the first place, of course) and so I was a bit chagrined when you said it did just the opposite.

But I have no way of checking that claim until I return home on Tuesday.

Anyway, my real point was that "Essiac Tea" comes in many flavors (pun inteneded) so it is difficult, if not impossilbe, to access its effectiveness or if it contains one or more substances that are actually causing the reported favorable results.  It is for the same reason, that I do not take (nor do I advocate one taking) "multiple" vitamins.  You can't control each vitamin individually and, as you well know, I spend a lot of time and effort trying to track and control the exact levels of each of those vitamins that I am interested in.

This thread started by someone asking for advice on this buying this "product".  I advised against it because I still believe there is a lot of evidence (unfortunately, not available right now for me to post here) that suggests the benefits are more due to placebo effects than to anything else.  Nothing wrong with placebos, BTW - but that is topic for a different discussion.

Anyway, the hell with all that stuff.  Please let me know what I can do to help you feel any better.  The last thing needed right now is anything that might provoke even more stress.  We can certainly agree to disagree about this particular supplement.  I am quite happy to be proven wrong (on this or any of my opinions).

Texas_wedge's picture
Texas_wedge
Posts: 2807
Joined: Nov 2011

Neil, Ange, thanks for your concern.  As I write, I'm feeling hyper and agitated and waiting for a window of opportunity to open as a consequence of the liquid morphine I've just taken, in the hope that I can then sleep.

However, today has been a much better day, overall, and I feel that I've turned  a corner.  I know that that's giving hostages to fortune, especially in face of our sneaky disease, but I think it's real - only time will tell.

ClaraW
Posts: 64
Joined: Jun 2012

TW! I've been worried sick about you! I am now sooo happy to hear that you are feeling better. You must know you are a pillar in this community of ours. I left a msg on SP suggesting fentanyl patch for pain control. Also, I understand that you had septic arthritis of your ankle and fluclox may have been the culprit in destabilising your LFT. Is the ankle is a problem? If so, how about other antibiotics? Clindamycin ( with a bit of probiotic to ward off the c.difficile maybe?). I really have not a clue Tex :( I just really really want you to get well soon and get back on course.

ClaraW
Posts: 64
Joined: Jun 2012

Oh and also, I think if pain and infection are a nuisance, have you considered checking into a hospital for a few days to get some good pain relief and intravenous antibiotics to accelerate your recovery?

Baaa-bs's picture
Baaa-bs
Posts: 50
Joined: Jun 2013

I truly didn't mean to get everyone stirred up. Back in the day, my friends mother-in-law went out and purchased the ingredients for this tea separate and brewed them for her husband. Sterilizing brown bottles, and made her essiac tea in small batches. Now you get it already made, and really don't know exactly how it is made.

I was just wondering if anyone had used this product and wondered what you thought of it. I didn't mean for my posting to cause such a debate.

Texas_wedge, I hope you're feeling better. Your posts and those of nanosecond give so many of us encouragement and you both are a wealth of information. Thanks for everything you give to us.

My oncologist advised me not to use any OCD or herbal remedies without her approval first, for fear it might interfere with my treatment. At this time, although her PA doesn't seem to understand what I'm asking for, I guess I'll sit tight and wait for the results of my first scan. She doen't understand that I'm asking if the tea would interfere with my treatment and not if I think the tea will cure me.

Here's hoping you all enjoy the rest of your weekend.

a.oakley
Posts: 32
Joined: Oct 2012

Nano.  I always appreciate the information that you provide.  Please continue to do so.  It's very helpful to me, and I'm sure to others.

 

i do have a friend who drinks this tea.  She feels better.  She is no longer drinking soda, slurpies, milk shakes, Starbucks etc.  She feels so much better.  I think water would have had the same effect!  But, whatever works.

NanoSecond's picture
NanoSecond
Posts: 603
Joined: Oct 2012

Thank you for that endorsement.  And Tex, so relieved to hear you are doing better today!

I feel compelled to add that the fact that your friend has given up drinking soda, slurpies, milk shakes - all loaded down with sugar(s) is likely the major reason she feels so much better.  Nonetheless, if drinking Essiac Tea keeps her off of this "hard stuff" I would encourage her to continue. 

Sugar(s) and liquid carbohydrates (i.e. sodas or fruit juices) are the number one culprit behind all the "diseases of civilization" such as cancer, type II diabetes, cardiovascular issues, etc., etc.

Tex - keep up that great progress!  We have many more substantial "debates" yet to come...  :)

Texas_wedge's picture
Texas_wedge
Posts: 2807
Joined: Nov 2011

You haven't said anything that stirred up the discussion in any negative way, and the question you asked was perfectly reasonable, which is why it comes up regularly on cancer forums!  

Neil and I share a passion for analysis, research and debate and we have a strong enough friendship not to be disturbed by mere differences of perception or opinion.  I believe we both also subscribe to the view that constructive argument is a cornerstone in the building up of knowledge.  It takes all sorts to make up a balanced society and a lot of folks are less academically inclined than Neil and myself and so may not quite 'get' where we're coming from at times.

You've probably appreciated that I've not been in the best shape during the last few weeks and so am not confident that I'm thinking straight or making sense with the few neurons that are firing.  On the Essiac, I'd meant to put its use into a wider context by making the point that a. oakley has added in - that even an item that has no intrinsic therapeutic value can be valuable indirectly.  Here, e.g. if drinking this infusion substitutes for drinking bad things such as colas, or tea/coffee loaded with sugar, you're immediately in credit health-wise. I try to drink more water/weak lime juice and such-like both for their own merit and in avoiding dehydration and as a  substitute for alcohol, which I'm off completely for the foreseeable future, and the huge amounts  of coffee I tend to consume if I'm not extra careful. 

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