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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Essiac: Could It Cause What It’s Treating??

Updated: November 14th, 2018

For years, Essiac has been touted as an herbal anti-cancer remedy.  It got a lot of publicity and press, and has become entrenched in the minds of the alternative  health community.

It is used to a great extent, and some use it for dog cancer treatment.  Let’s look at this a little closer.

Many are familiar with the old saying, “First, do no harm.”  This is the translation of the original latin, primum non nocere.  Some believe it to be part of the Hippocratic oath, but the saying probably was coined by a French doctor alive during the 1700’s and 1800’s.

When we are coping with a canine cancer diagnosis, primum non nocere takes on a whole new meaning, in particular in the realm of conventional care.  Side effects are more concerning in cancer medicine than in almost any other branch of traditional medicine.

We must remember though that the so-called “natural” treatments also have side effects.  This should be a critical aspect of selecting which are used, and how, and when.

When I was evaluating Apocaps, a big part of the development was safety. Regular blood tests were done investigating 28 dogs over time to make sure all the internal organs were healthy.  This type of consideration is important for a loved family member.

Now, when making the choice to use an intervention, I am hoping that the reader will want information.  Being your dog’s primary health advocate means that you are in the driver’s seat, that you must take an active role with your veterinarian or oncologist in creating a plan for your loved dog.

Now, at the risk of offending some, I feel that we should really look at the use of Essiac before charging into it. I have yet to see an “in vivo” study (in real life bodies, not in test tubes or petri dishes) that really show that Essiac does something real.

Okay, I will admit that not everything that works has an official clinical trial to back it up.  But what if there is a published study suggesting it may do harm?

This is the case with Essiac.  There is actually a study in rats that suggests that Essiac may literally increase the risk (promote growth) of breast cancer. Here is the abstract for you to read yourself.

Ouch!  This is not what I would reach for in treating a dog with cancer, personally speaking.  It just gives me the heebie jeebies that this data exists.  Seriously, it is like giving an antibiotic that may actually be a capsule with germs in it.  Granted, I am sure there are many examples where the patient did not have tumor growth, but non the less I would not want to risk worsening anything without clear, definite advantages to the choice.

So that’s the scoop on Essiac for now. For more information on aspects like this, check out the Dog Cancer Survival Guide.


Dr D

Leave a Comment

  1. Annie Ok on January 17, 2019 at 11:09 am

    Chemotherapy also kills people with cancer. I have two friends whose cancer was “cured” only to die from a weakened immune system. My dog was killed by chemo. I wish I had tried a second-line treatment like essiac tea since it helped my neighbor’s dog. It’s all a crap shoot. Throw the dice and pray for the best.

  2. Gin66 on March 9, 2018 at 10:04 am

    I stumbled upon this researching essiac for my dog. I’d like to point out that the study referenced in the abstract did not use essiac but Flor-Essence. From my research it seems that they are not the same thing. Flor-Essence contains four herbs not found in essiac. One of the additional herbs is red clover. Red clover is often recommended for woman experiencing menopausal issues since it is thought to have estrogen-like effects. I am speculating here, but it may be the red clover in the Flor-Essence that contributed to the mammary tumor growth since breast cancer is very much estrogen sensitive. Essiac does not have red clover so it might not have the same effect on estrogen sensitive cancers like breast cancer.

  3. Be like Mike on January 13, 2018 at 8:06 pm

    Congrats on your success Scott. My dog was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in her right foreleg. I was advised to seek amputation and be advised on chemo and radiation.

    She has bad back legs, loss of muscle, and lower spinal arthritis. I could not see her lasting long as a tripaw for very long on just one front leg. I passed and started researching holistic possibilities.

    There was so much information out there, I didn’t know what way to go. Most advised not to allow amputation, chemo, or radiation.

    I found a few local holistic vets and made an appointment with one. By the time of the appointment it was all she could do to stand and hobble a few steps. I had to carry her (102 lb dog) in and out of the clinic. At home I had to carry her out to the yard and back. The vet had me put her on a raw Ketogenic diet plus Boswelia Complex and a dehydrated mushroom complex.

    I made purchases of flash frozen beef, chicken and rabbit patties with organs and bone from a holistic dog food store. She did not care much for the patties and rarely completed the 4 meals I was advised to feed her each day. Some days I could only get her to eat 2. She dropped 10 lbs in those two weeks, but gained her mobility back and did not need to be carried.

    I went back to the holistic vet with my concerns about her not eating enough. I was advised to add some water to the meat so it would be easier to swallow. The vet also admitted to me that she thought my dog would be dead by then and was surprised to see she was doing better..

    I continued to research and added K9 Immunity and Apocaps. The area where the tumor was seamed to be shrinking. At fist measurement it was 8 1/4”. After a few weeks she was mostly completing her meals, and 6 weeks after diagnosis the measurement was down to 8”. She gained back 1.5 lbs.

    She suddenly stopped completing all her meals again. Her weight dropped. I felt like the tumor area looked larger, so I measured. 8 1/2”. 🙁

    I had reached out to an organization that was researching using raw Ketogenic meals to slow and/or cure cancer in dogs. They have been highly successful. They also do exercise activities and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. They sent me a different raw Keto meal plan using high fat content ground beef and chicken from grocery stores, raw broccoli, probiotics and Chia seeds.

    She gobbles it all down every time and has gained a lb back.

    I found a vet that had HBOT availale and set up 5 sessions. With each session she kept getting better and better. Although she is still lame (she has a fracture below the tumor area), she is much more happy, peaceful and alert.

    I’ve been looking for additional things to do holistically to attack this tumor without hurting her.

    How much did your dog weigh, and how much Essiac tea did you provide? How was it administered?


    • Annie Ok on January 17, 2019 at 11:14 am

      Just putting my Akita on an all-meat diet has vastly improved his hip displaying and other joint issues. The diet does not have to be raw, just carbohydrate -free.

  4. Be like Mike on January 13, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    How much did your dog weigh?

  5. P.M. on November 1, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    I question the government report and don’t believe it because greedy people and people who support and represent their interests infiltrate into the gov to defy inexpensive remedies. They write official looking reports, but we don’t have information readily available to us about who funded the scientists and research. Their goal is to influence the masses and how government creates regulations to make money at the expense of unsuspecting patients. The pharmaceutical industries have a monopoly in healthcare. Beware.

  6. Howard Beale on March 16, 2016 at 4:34 am

    We have a 25 lb dog that was diagnosed at 13 yrs old with mastocytoma after a tumor on the leg. Two separate vets said due to the size of the tumor and thiness of the leg we needed to amputate the leg and then start chemo + radiation. Considering the age, trauma, and prognosis we decided to forgo treatment. Someone told us about essiac and we decided to try it with little to no hope. However, the tumor disappeared over 6 weeks and we still have the dog a year later. I can only share my experience as it was heartbreaking to see the dog in that condition and I hope it helps someone out there.

  7. shauna215 on September 12, 2014 at 6:08 am

    Hi Martine, My 10 1/2 year old bulldog was just given a similar diagnosis- chrmodectoma at the base of the heart. The internist has indicated that she can possibly live another six months to a year with treatment. She is sounding very congested and also has hip dysplasia and other joint/skeletal issues but surprisingly enough is happy, playful and in good spirits. I am curious how old your bulldog was and if you thought it made sense to put her through a chemo pill and radiation given her health issues. My heart is broken and I am very confused as to what I should do. I do not want her to suffer. Thank you.

  8. priya on September 17, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    A dog is not a rat.

    If you want to know how well Essiac or any supplement works or doesn’t work, make it available to caretakers of animals with cancer and see how they do.

    Look at the nutritional content of any supplement to make sure that it’s not creating a predictable imbalance for the species it’s being given to. Also conduct blood tests periodically to be sure nutrient levels are healthful.

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on September 19, 2012 at 3:30 pm

      Dear Priya,
      in the absence of other information we do need to look at what is actually available. This is called comparative oncology, and is why dogs are models for human cancers, although a dog is not a human either of course.
      We would be more than happy to look at ANY science based evidence in real bodies, dog, human, or other, suggesting efficacy. This is called evidence based medicine.
      Please send the links to the literature!!
      Dr D

  9. amy5232 on March 2, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Essiac does work for dogs but for small or very sick dogs you have to start at a very small dose like 1ml and work your way up 1 ml at a time. If you notice bad symptoms back off 2 ml and continue until the recommended dose.

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on March 7, 2012 at 12:20 pm

      Dear Amy,
      I would love to see some actual data to support this idea, as opposed to the link provided. What we would like is a series of dogs, all of whom have a problem, ideally with a control group of some kind, measurements of what is being looked at (these are numbers, not opinions), and then we may have something to look at. If this were done with even five or ten dogs, it would at least lend some actual evidence based support to the claim.
      Numbers is the key here- measure, compare….it does not matter if we are talking about burdock or radiation…we need objectivity. Maybe essiac really is the cure for cancer, in which case it would be very easy get a measurable outcome.
      My two cents..

  10. idn on December 5, 2011 at 8:37 am

    my dog who had/has bone cancer,on top of her skull of all places, had it removed, then radiation and chemo, which I believe gave her an extra happy year. She did very well on radiation and chemo and aside from not wanting to eat for a half a day after the chemos, she had no side effects. Now it is in her lungs and she is getting some odd lumps. She is on prednisone now due to coughing, and you’d not believe she was sick. No more coughing either. I don’t know what to expect in a week when the course is over, so am starting her diet now.
    I tried her on essiac, very low dose after the initial bone cancer (before the surgery and treatments) and it made her very lethargic, sick, gave her diarhea, vomiting. If I stopped, that stopped. I tried it again after the lung cancer diagnosis a little over a week ago (no more treatments or surgery, she is almost 13, and there is nothing more to do they say) and got the same results. She was miserable. I stopped, and she perked up and is eating and running to the yard again. It was the original Canadian stuff too. No more essiac for her. I think it may be the rhubarb in it. Have read dogs are allergic to it.
    I have cooked for both dogs since the diagnosis, and used to cook “stews” and pour on what I thought was a good grade kibble. No more kibble now for a year. They are Shelties, so are small, so I can make big batches and freeze for a few weeks, and I just am now cooking the basic recipe in your E-Book. It is very easy, and I caluclate that it costs about the same or less as dog food, nothing to recycle, no bags to lug either.
    It doesn’t take a lot of time either, and to save time, in chopping and cutting, I go to the large salad bar in the grocery store and can get a great big mix of fresh veggies and berries. They have brocolli, purple cabbage, the peppers, mushrooms, even the cottage cheese and blueberries! That and three pounds of lean chopped beef (we get turkey and chicken too), some flax seed ground, All into the large slow cooker, which never overheats the food. Garlic and ginger in there too, and brown rice. It smells really good! I got also a container of chicken livers and sauteed on low….that smells AWFUL, but I plan to use it instead of dog treats.
    So time will tell, they told me last week the dog was so bad she could go at any time. So we wait. At least she will have gourmet food on her way out, and that’s a huge quality of life issue for a dog. Most dogs can only dream about what my kids eat! Most dogs live to eat! Even if the diet given here maintains her at the state she is in now, I would be thrilled, she just doesn’t seem at all sick. Sometimes people can live with cancers for a very long time, they stay but stop growing, even that would make me happy. I hope so, she’s such a good little dog, and deserves the best.
    Thank you for your e-book. I will get the entire book too.

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