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The Hunger Project Bolen Report
Ohm Society
Herbal Therapies for Cancer Print E-mail
by Ron Kennedy, M.D., Santa Rosa, CA

Dr. Kennedy Herbal therapies have been around for thousands of years and were widely prescribed by doctors until the late 1800s when the American Medical Association (AMA), a trade union of doctors committed to partnership with the budding pharmaceutical industry, used its economic and political muscle to suppress the use of natural substances. The use of herbs once was mainstream medicine but, because there is no great profit to be made from these unpatentable wonder drugs, they have lost their status as mainstream therapies.

Nevertheless, although the AMA, NCI (National Cancer Institute) and ACS (American Cancer Society) would prefer that you not know, several herbs produce patentable derivatives which are mainstays in the orthodox treatment of cancer. These herbs are "messed with," biochemically speaking, to produce unique, semi-synthetic compounds which retain some of the activity of the original herb and yet are patentable. Examples are vincristine, vinblastine and eteoposide. Taxol, a new experimental drug for cancer, is derived from the bark of the Pacific yew tree.

The fear of the cancer establishment is, of course, that people themselves would be able to treat their own cancer at least as well as the approved therapies for a tiny fraction of the cost, simply by finding the proper herb and preparing a tea or by eating the plant. For this reason millions of dollars are poured into the creation of synthetics and into the advertising necessary to convince people that laboratories can improve over nature.

We will focus on only a few herbal therapies, because it is not possible in the confines of this website to cover all the herbal treatments which may be effective in cancer. Besides that, only two percent of the herbs in nature have been tested as possible cancer therapies. It is certain that many effective herbs still lie undiscovered.

Essiac Tea

In 1922 Rene Caisse (pronounced as one would pronounce the words "Rin Case"), a nurse in Ontario, Canada, noticed an elderly hospital patient with a scarred and gnarled breast. When Rene Caisse asked about the scarring, she was told that twenty years earlier the woman had her breast cancer healed by an Indian medicine man using an herbal tea. This woman had been told by doctors that her breast must be removed. She refused this advice and decided to take her chances with the herbal tea. This woman handed over the information on this herbal remedy to Rene Caisse.

Rene Caisse put the formula aside, deciding that if she ever developed cancer she would use it. Two years later, one of her aunts developed stomach cancer and was told she had six months to live. Caisse remembered the herbal formula and, in partnership with her aunt's doctor, Dr. R. O. Fisher of Toronto, gave the herbal tea to her aunt. She recovered after two months and lived free from her stomach cancer for 21 years after that. Following this event, Caisse and Fisher began to treat terminal cases of cancer, curing many of them.

Not knowing what to call the stuff Rene Caisse spelled her own last name backward and came up with "Essiac." It seemed as good a name as any, so this is how it has come to be known. Rene Caisse, beginning in the 1920s until her death in 1978, offered this tea to thousands of people, many of whom were restored to health and many whose lives were prolonged and whose pain was lessened.

By 1937, the fame of Essiac had spread to the U.S. and Caisse was commuting to Chicago to treat patients at Northwestern Medical Center. After a two year evaluation the doctors at Northwestern concluded that Essiac tea eased the pain of cancer and prolonged life.

As with all such discoveries, Rene Caisse was forced to battle the medical establishment. This resulted in the formation, in 1938, of the Canadian "Royal Cancer Commission." Showing up to testify for Essiac were 387 of Caisse's patients. Of these, only 49 were allowed to testify. People who free of tumor after using Essiac after the failure of orthodox treatment were interpreted by the Royal Cancer Commission as "recoveries from orthodox therapies." In cases with no previous therapies, the interpretation was "misdiagnosis."

Rene Caisse, after years of harassment, and fearing imprisonment for her work, closed her clinic in 1942. Over the next thirty years she treated patients in great secrecy from her home, even while under surveillance by the Canadian Health Department, I suppose the "Royal" one.

As with most cancer treatments, orthodox, as well as progressive, some people respond and some do not. Undoubtedly, some people have been made free of tumor with Essiac, and others have died from their disease. As I read the literature on Essiac, it appears that its main use is to cause regression of tumor size and to reduce the pain induced by the tumor. It is thus an excellent adjunct to other therapies. If I had cancer I would choose several progressive therapies and not rely on just one. Essiac would be one of them.

Caisse sold the formula to the Resperin Corporation in late 1977 and died at age ninety just over one year later. It is still possible to obtain Essiac. You can buy Essiac Tea at well-stocked organic groceries. Essiac is, after all, a blend of herbal teas not so easy for a government to regulate, although the government of Canada gives it a good try. They forbid the makers of Essiac to use the word "cure," so they simply distribute patient testimonials.

Hoxsey Therapy

Harry Hoxsey, who passed on in 1974 at the age of 73, was not a doctor but rather a self-taught healer who used a combination of herbs which he said was passed on to him by his father. Hoxsey's preparation helped many people with cancer, and his fame spread far and wide. In the 1950s, his clinic in Dallas and its seventeen satellite clinics represented the largest progressive cancer therapy approach in the world.

Naturally, his success drew the attention of the medical establishment and during the McCarthy era in the 1950s, Hoxsey was harassed by the AMA, FDA and NCI. They pronounced his therapy fraudulent without as much as a fact-finding mission to his clinic. (The FDA has not yet gotten the message that the McCarthy era is over.) Hoxsey closed his clinic in 1960 and three years later reopened in a freer country, at least from a medical point of view, Mexico.

Iscador (Mistletoe)

Iscador is derived from the European mistletoe. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant often seen growing on trees. Mistletoe was used by the Celts hundreds of years ago. It was believed to be an aphrodisiac and was used as part of a month-long party when sexual license was given to everyone. Mistletoe was used to release inhibitions. What we have left of this is the custom of hanging mistletoe at Christmas time and kissing the lucky person who is found under it.

Although well-researched and available from doctors and hospitals throughout Europe, Iscador is still listed by the ACS as an "unproven therapy." Iscador both strengthens the immune system and directly inhibits tumor growth. In Europe it is used in conjunction with other treatments, especially before and after surgery and chemotherapy to prevent spread of the cancer from these procedures. Bladder, genital and digestive tract cancers are said to respond best to Iscador.

Doctors who use Iscador in the U.S. order it directly from its European manufacturers. The use of Iscador is associated with a philosophical movement called "anthroposophy."


Chaparral is a hardy desert shrub native to the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico. This plant shows the ability to inhibit the germination of seeds from plants which may be in competition with it. This ability to inhibit plant germination may have something to do with its ability to inhibit tumor growth. Chaparral has been part of Indian folk medicine for centuries for treatment of a variety of illnesses, including cancer. Chaparral contains polysaccharides, which are thought to stimulate the immune system, and nor-dihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA). NDGA inhibits glycolysis, the anaerobic breakdown of sugars on which tumors depend for their energy. So, like pau d'arco, chaparral both strengthens the immune system and directly inhibits tumor growth.

Chaparral is commonly available from health food stores in a variety of forms: tea, tincture, pill and capsule. As regards botanicals, the tea form is ordinarily the most effective. Binders and fillers, which are part of the preparation of pills and capsules, decrease and sometimes interfere with potency.

Pau D'Arco

Also, known as "Ipacho," "ipe rox o" and "taheebo tea," pau d'arco is derived from the inner bark of the Tabebuia tree of Brazil and Argentina. It is used in folk medicine in South America for the treatment of a wide variety of illnesses: colds, flu, malaria, gonorrhea and cancer.

In some cases, cancer remissions have been achieved; however, it is apparently necessary to keep drinking the tea for the rest of one's life to maintain the remission. Fortunately, this preparation is sold widely in health food stores.

The NCI sponsored a study of one of the ingredients of pau d'arco over twenty years ago. This ingredient is called "lapachol." It was found that a good blood level could not be achieved without producing severe side effects such as nausea, vomiting and spontaneous bleeding. The NCI concluded that pau d'arco is was not fit for treatment of cancer.

This narrow-minded approach is typical of the constraints of thinking imposed by the allopathic paradigm of one illness, one cure. The items in God's pharmacy (nature) come allied with each other, not separately. There is no vitamin B6 tree, for example. There are twelve aromatic compounds in pau d'arco, which act synergistically. To isolate one item and test it in this manner therefore is absurd.

Pau d'arco is thought to act by inhibiting the formation of fibrin, which has the effect of preventing the formation of new blood vessels. New blood vessels are necessary for new tumors to form. Fibrin also is necessary for the formation of the protein coats, which surround and protect malignant cells.

When buying pau d'arco, let the buyer beware. There are many imitations on the market, which are ineffective. Read the label, and be sure you see the tree listed to be Tabebuia impetiginosa or Tabebuia heptaphylla. If you do not see one of these listed, do not waste your money. Ask the maker of the tea to supply names and phone numbers of satisfied customers. You also can have the product assayed for its level of lapachol.

When preparing the tea, use only a glass or stainless steel teapot. There should be no plastic in the packaging material. The pill form of pau d'arco is of no value.

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The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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