Tea of the Ojibwe Indians (AKA: Ojibway, Ojibwa, Chippewa, or Saulteaux)
For millennia, America's native cultures have utilized the health promoting power of herbs. One such example is a tea the Ojibwa Indians of Cobalt, Ontario, Canada, typically prepared from native herbs, particularly sheep sorrel, burdock root, slippery elm, and Turkish rhubarb. Additional herbs, watercress, red clover, kelp, and blessed thistle, potentiate these primary ones. The medicine people of their tribe, the Midewiwan or The Grand Medicine Society of the Ojibwa, who underwent as many as four levels of initiation over a lifetime, thought of this tea as a holy drink that purified the body and aligned one with the Great Spirit.
This is the story of how this amazing health remedy was first discovered and made its long journey all the way from the wilds of Canada. The story is almost as amazing as the product itself. There are heroes and villains, twist and turns, government intrigue, ancient knowledge of an indigenous people—dismissed because it threatened the status quo and also because it was revealed by a woman. There’s more than enough for a full movie. Before you invest the time to read the history you might want to know the current evidence for why this is one of the greatest natural remedies ever discovered. Before the “Then” here’s the “Now”.
Many studies now support use of this eight-herb tea as a proactive preventative health support among health challenged individuals and it has become an acclaimed product for detoxification purposes at the cell level. In fact, FlorEssence Tea is approved for use in Mexico, and clinical trials conducted by the Russian Ministry of Health among victims of the Chernobyl nuclear accident have led to its recommended use as a basic remedy for chronic non-healing lesions of the gastric mucosa. In a study done by the University of Texas Center for Alternative Medicine Research, among some 4,708 users of the product, over 72 percent found the results of the tea's ingredients to be "very good" to "excellent. 44.1 percent of patients were found to have no evidence of abnormal cell growth at their last check-up with another 14 percent showing significant regression.
Genesis 1:29, KJV: "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat."
The true origin of the tea's discovery is lost to the mists of time. We know only that it had been
used for generations by the Ojibwe peoples of Canada, before a heroic nurse brought it to the attention of “Western Medicine”. Nurse Rene Caisse never tried to take credit for its creation or discovery. She only wanted to help people, but in order to get the tea out of unawareness and into the light, she would have to convince the medical community—this was the 1920’s.
It was not an easy sell to be sure. This new information came not only from a people suffering under systemic racism…it was coming from a woman. Barely one election cycle had gone by since women had been able to vote, and for that very reason the women of this time faced even more than the usual amount of prejudice. They were in the midst of the cultural blowback that inevitably occurs after any major paradigm shift in society—good or bad. Nurses of that time were often treated by many doctors as glorified maids and janitors, despite the fact that they had only slightly less (sometimes more) training than the male physicians.
All professions of the time had their ingrained biases and prejudice, but the medical community literally coined the phrase used to describe any situation where new information contradicts established norms. “The Semmelweis” effect was named after the poor fellow that suggested washing your hands might be a good idea after handling corpses and before delivering babies, who received ten years in a mental institution for his troubles. It’s still taught to every medical student to this day. This was the setting for our story. Now let’s hear Rene’s own words, and remember without the persistent, selfless efforts of Canada's famous nurse, Rene Caisse, R.N., this herbal formula might never have reached the vast number of users that it has to date.
Caisse’s own words:
"In the mid-twenties I was head nurse at the Sisters of Providence Hospital in a northern Ontario town. One day one of my nurses was bathing an elderly lady patient. I noticed that one breast was a mass of scar tissue and asked about it.
The elderly gal told me, "I came out from England nearly 30 years ago. I joined my husband, who was prospecting in the wilds of Northern Ontario. My right breast became sore and swollen, and very painful. My husband brought me to Toronto, and the doctors told me I had advanced abnormal cell growth, and my breast must be removed at once. Before we left camp a very old Indian medicine man had told me I had this problem, but also said he could get rid of it. I decided I'd just as soon try his remedy. One of my friends had died from breast surgery. Besides we had no money!”
She continued to recount her story, "She and her husband returned to the mining camp, and the old Indian showed her certain herbs growing in the area, told her to make a tea from these herbs, and to drink it every day.”
She was nearly 80 years old when I saw her, and there had been no recurrence of her cell problem. I was very much interested and wrote down all the herbs she had used.
A few months later, I received word that my mother's only sister had been operated on in Brockville, Ontario. The doctors had found she had bad cell growth in her stomach with liver involvement, and gave her, at the most, six months to live. I hastened to her and talked to her doctor. He was Dr. R.O. Fisher of Toronto, whom I knew well, for I'd nursed patients for him many times. I told him about the herb tea and asked his permission to try it under his observation, since there apparently was nothing more medical science could do for my aunt. He consented quickly. I obtained the necessary herbs, with some difficulty, and made the tea. My aunt lived for another 21 years, after being given up by the medical profession. There was no recurrence of her problem."
~ Rene Caisse, R.N.
Doctors seek help for their severely ill patients
Dr. Fisher was so impressed that he asked Rene to use her herbal tea on some of his other hopeless cases. Other doctors heard about Rene from Dr. Fisher, and asked her to take patients for them after everything medical science had to offer had been used and failed. They, too, were impressed with the results. Can we even imagine how amazing this discovery was to impress doctors at that time in history and coming from these sources? She had impressed the people around her, an amazing task in and of itself, now she would have to impress strangers and politicians. Could she do it?
The short answer is “no”, at least not right away. In spite of strong support from members of the medical profession who had seen their own patients improve with the herbal tea, Canadian medical authorities alternatively tolerated and persecuted Rene, nearly arresting her twice.
In March 1938, a private bill to authorize Rene to administer the tea in Ontario was introduced to the legislature. The rules of the House were suspended to allow this private bill to be presented without customary notice, and the debate before the Private Bills Committee was fierce. A petition signed by 55,000 citizens (many of whom were doctors) accompanied the bill. Unfortunately, legislation that would have provided legal support for her to continue to help patients failed to pass by a mere three votes. Even so, later, one town offered her the use of space in a public building where Rene administered the tea under doctor's supervision, sometimes seeing as many as 30 people daily, until 1942, when Rene halted her work for fear of persecution.
Prominent Physician Supports Herbal Tea
The story might have ended there if not for the efforts of Ralph Daigh, vice president and editorial director of Fawcett Publications in New York. In 1959, he was given a mysterious cachet of scientific papers pertaining to Rene's tea which by then had become known as essiac (Caisse spelled backwards). The mysterious fellow who gave Daigh the papers told him that, as the publisher of some of America's leading magazines, he could help to introduce this important health support formula to millions who needed it desperately.
Daigh introduced Rene to doctors at the Brusch Medical Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There, under the supervision of 18 doctors, she began her work with patients. Her mentor there was Dr. Charles Brusch, a highly respected physician who, in 1955, administered the first polio vaccine in Cambridge. Dr. Brusch, who was very much interested in alternative treatments like acupuncture and traditional remedies, took a great interest in the ancient tonic.
Nurse Caisse and Dr. Brusch eventually did years of extensive research on the teas she had developed. Rene had used multiple formulas (all were known as essiac at that time), and although many of the formulas they used were helpful, they determined that the eight-herb version of the tea was the most effective.
In 1977, Rene released one four-herb version of the tea to a company that was supposed to open clinics and conduct further research on the tea. When that agreement was not fulfilled, Dr. Brusch disconnected his relationship with that company.
When Rene passed on in 1978 without any heirs, her partner, Dr. Brusch, was left with the formula of the eight-herb version of the tea. He continued to administer it and even successfully used it himself to correct a serious health problem.
In 1984 a health researcher and radio host, Elaine Alexander, contacted Dr. Brusch and invited him to be interviewed on her new radio program, "Stayin' Alive." He accepted and there was such a profound response from the audience that he returned for three or four more interviews over the next few years. Eventually, Elaine did at least seven radio shows about Rene's tea.
She and Dr. Brusch became friends and later, business associates. They decided to offer the tea to the public in a different way, as an herbal tea sold through health food stores. After a three-year search for a manufacturer they selected a manufacturer that met their requirements. An official name was needed to differentiate this most effective, eight-herb version of the tea from all the other variations. (By this time, besides the four-herb version Rene had released in 1977, which had been subsequently trademarked, many 'knock-off' teas were showing up on the market, with many claiming to be based on Rene's 'authentic' formula.)
And thus the name "FlorEssence" became the name of Rene Caisse's most effective, perfected tea blend.
Herbs in FlorEssence (Phytotherapy)
According to a February 2000 issue of Phytotherapy Research, "Individual case reports suggest that the tea improves quality of life, and in some cases, impacts progression among individuals with abnormal cell growth. Experimental studies with individual herbs have shown evidence of biological activity including antioxidant, antiestrogenic, immuno-stimulant, and anti-colorectal actions”.
A summary of the herbs used in FlorEssence Tea
Burdock Root (Arctium lappa)--commonly known as burdock, is used to cleanse and detoxify and is used/recommended as a healthy and nutritive food in Chinese societies. Burdock has been used therapeutically in Europe, North America, and Asia for hundreds of years. The roots, seeds and leaves of burdock have been investigated in view of its popular uses in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). In this review, the reported therapeutic effects of the active compounds present in the different botanical parts of burdock are summarized. In the root, the active ingredients have been found to "detoxify" blood in terms of TCM and promote blood circulation to the skin surface, improving the skin quality/texture. Antioxidants and antidiabetic compounds have also been found in the root. In the leaf extract, the active compounds isolated can inhibit the growth of micro-organisms in the oral cavity. However, it is also essential to be aware of the side effects of burdock including contact dermatitis and other allergic/inflammatory responses that might be evoked by burdock.
Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra Muhl)--has soothing qualities with large amounts of mucilage for inflammatory conditions.
Turkish Rhubarb Root (Rheum palmatum)--used to promote healthy elimination processes.
Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus)--both British and German, pharmacopoeias note that 'bitters' such as blessed thistle stimulate bile flow and cleanse the liver.
Red Clover Blossom (Trifolium pratense)--this herb has profound benefits in supporting many patients.
Kelp (Laminaria digitata)--rich in immune supportive polysaccharides and algin (Alginic acid), this herb greatly aids in Detoxification and health support.
Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)--a member of the Brassicaceae family (including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, bok choy and turnips), watercress contains specific indoles that activate enzymes in the body that deactivate and dispose of excess estrogen and other toxins, thereby reducing the risk of serious issues.
Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella)--at least ten Native tribes of Canada and the United States have used this herb, also known as sour grass or sour weed, as a food and medicine, notes herbal expert Suzanne Diamond, B.Sc., M.Sc. Botany. "Sheep sorrel is a popular ingredient of many folk remedies and the tea was used traditionally as a diuretic and to address fevers, inflammation and scurvy." in FlorEssence, sheep sorrel is considered the most active herb for stimulating cellular regeneration, detoxification and cleansing, based on reports by Rene Caisse and her doctor colleague who did studies on the eight-herb formula with mice bearing abnormal growths.
The way FlorEssence Tea can be used:
FlorEssence is an important formula for use by individuals as a means of health support because it is both a detoxifier and purifier. Consult with your health provider or physician and use this tea to enhance other treatment protocol's results. It should also be used routinely as a means of detoxifying and reducing risk of serious cell conditions.
FlorEssence can be purchased ready-made or be prepared at home. Take as a tea by diluting the amount listed below with an equal or double amount of hot or warm pure water.
FlorEssence Tea amount to use: Adults can start with one to two ounces of FlorEssence twice daily; or use more for therapy. Children consume one ounce, twice daily. Take on an empty stomach, at least 1 hour before any meal, and at bedtime. Use purified, distilled, or spring water when preparing.
FlorEssence Tea may also be taken daily for its antioxidant benefits: use one ounce once or twice daily with with an equal or double amount of hot or warm clean water.
Bakhuis, Paula, "Feeling Good and Getting Better." Parole Publishing, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1999.
Thomas, Richard, "The Essiac Report," Third Ed. The Alternative Treatment Information Network, Los Angeles,California,1993.
Interview with Rene Caisse, "Keeping Hope Alive," Compact Disc.
Richardson, M.A., et al. "Flor-Essence herbal tonic use in North America: a profile of general consumers and cancer patients." Herbal Gram 2000(50):40-46.
Healthy Living Magazine, Volume 7, number 8.