DISCERNMENT BEAT: A LOOK AT HERBAL TEA SOME SAY HAS POTENT EFFECT ON SERIOUS ILLNESS
There seem to be two extremes at work in the area of health and specifically the treatment of cancer: those in "mainstream" medicine who believe the only course of action is surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy (which sometimes help and other times do not, minus nutritional approaches), and those who promote solely natural or alternative means that show success in certain cases, sometimes reputedly startling success, but then may be overly promoted as cure-alls for all malignancies.
There is no real evidence as yet that anyone has come up with the long-sought-after "silver bullet." Thus far we have not found a failsafe cure. There are certainly natural means that have high success rates, if cancer is caught early (and sometimes even if not). It starts with diet (dispensing with white sugar; heaping on the dark greens; getting the body more alkaline; buying a juicer). There are things that work.
Even the Holy Father said this week (8/18/14) that he uses a tea-like drink called Mate for nerve problems.
Many are the alternative approaches, from use of baking soda and vitamin C to enzymes and radiotherapy. Is there legitimacy? Are some not far-out?
Recently we reported on the fascinating case of a remedy called Protocel, which, it is said, came about due to a series of dreams and causes some remarkable effects in some instances.
Certainly interesting. But regular medical professionals should always be consulted. More than that, so should God through prayer.
What about one of the most highly touted alternative treatments: "Essiac tea"?
If you haven't heard of this, Essiac is a herbal concoction derived from Native American remedies in Canada, and it certainly has a long history of those who proclaim success with it. It is used in every state along with Mexico, Australia, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Burdock, sheep sorrel, burdock root, slippery elm bark, blood root and turkey rhubarb root are chief among the arcane ingredients.
It gained certain cachet when the personal physician to President John Kennedy proclaimed it as a legitimate treatment for malignancies.
"Essiac is a cure for cancer, period," he once said. "All studies done at laboratories in the U.S. and Canada support this conclusion." More on that in a moment. The Royal Cancer Commission in Canada held hearings on it in 1937 and labeled it a cure. Others label it hokum.
According to Cynthia Olsen (with Dr. Jim Chan and Christopher Gussa) in Essiac: A Native Herbal Cancer Remedy), the mixture originated with the Ojibwa (Chippewa) Indians around the northern edges of the Great Lakes and was popularized by a Canadian nurse named Rene Caisse in Ontario.
There is mystery attached to it. Essiac is her name spelled backwards.
"A holy drink that would purify her body and place it back in balance with the Great Spirit," was Caisse's rendition of how a "medicine man" described it to an English woman who then gave it to Caisse in 1922. Pretty esoteric stuff.
Caisse was extremely secretive about the exact ingredients, says Olsen, protecting it from the hands of large corporations and "apparently concerned that it would be made available immediately and inexpensively to any who needed it.
"She struggled for years against a medical establishment intensely jealous of its lucrative turf as well as a governmental bureaucracy intent on their red-tape-riddled procedures," claims Olsen. "It seems her only desire was that the people who need help would get it."
The nurse claimed a "recovery rate" of more than eighty percent.
We have no idea how well documented that claim was.
When finally she sold the formula, it was to a natural outfit called the Resperin Corporation of Ontario, for one dollar. Today it is also sold as "Flor-Essence" (developed by Kennedy's physician) and several additional brand names.
Two years after she was given the formula, in 1924, it is said, Caisse treated an aunt who had stomach and liver cancer and was told she had six months to live. After treatment with the concoction, says Olsen, she lived for twenty-one years, with no recurrence. This led the nurse to begin using it for treatments in a makeshift lab.
In 1926, as sort of a test and last-ditch effort a group of eight doctors asked Rene to treat an old man who was expected to live just ten more days. After treatment with Essiac he lasted six months -- not a cure, but better at the time than what standard medicine could offer. The doctors sent a petition to Ottawa asking the government to provide Caisse with treatment facilities.
Instead she was threatened with arrest.
Another doctor performed an experiment in which mice were injected with a sarcoma and then treated with Essiac. They lived fifty-two days longer than those treated any other way.
Again, it wasn't exactly a cure, in many cases, but, allegedly, an improvement. When Rene's mother was diagnosed with liver cancer, Caisse treated her with Essiac and her mom lived another eighteen years. Or so we are told.
Some tried to pass legislation giving her the right to treat patients. Others, such as the society of physicians and surgeons, wanted her behind bars. The legislative proposal for the right to treat patients garnered 55,000 signatures (but failed due to opposition by the Canadian Medical Association and the new Cancer Commission in that nation).
No doubt, there are two sides to this story -- reason for the opposition, in addition simple antagonism, and for the support, besides simple wishful thinking.
On April 6, 1990, Dr. Charles A. Brusch, MD, the personal physician to Kennedy, wrote a letter saying: "Many years have gone by since I first experienced the use of Essiac with my patients who were suffering from many varied form of cancer. I personally monitored the use of this old therapy along with Rene Caisee, R .N., whose many successes were widely reported.
"Rene worked with me at my medical clinic in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where, under the supervision of eighteen of my many medical doctors on staff, she proceeded with a series of treatment on terminal cancer patients and laboratory mice and together we refined and perfected her formula (which became Flor-Essence).
"On mice it has been shown to cause a decided recession of the mass and a definite change in cell formation.
"Clinically, on patients suffering from pathologically proven cancer, it reduces pain and causes a recession in growth. Patients gained weight and showed a great improvement in their general health. Remarkable beneficial results were obtained even on those cases at the 'end of the road' where it proved to prolong life and the 'quality' of that life. In some cases, if the tumor didn't disappear, it could be surgically removed after Essiac with less risk of matastases resulting in new outbreaks.
"I endorse this therapy even today for I have in fact cured my own cancer, the original site of which was the lower bowel, through Essiac alone. I have taken Essiac every day since my diagnosis (1984) and my recent examination has given me a clear bill of health."
Is it, as he believed, a "cure for cancer"?
Answering that question is beyond our competence. Others more cautiously refer to it as a supplement that improves the quality of life for cancer patients and eases pain, in a number of instances causing tumors to dissipate. One should pray before relying on any form of treatment.
Every body is different -- which is why there is no herbal "cure all."
"I made this formula available to my herbology students and before long we had incredible testimonies pouring in," says a blogger is this arcane realm.
Are herbs like those in Essiac in line with faith? The Bible is not clear. God created herbs. We believe there are natural remedies for many illnesses. Herbs include commonly used items such as basil, mint, thyme, and parsley. Medical use of herbs goes back to Hippocratic (Greek) healing systems. But we are also aware that you can argue this both ways. Some say that the practice of "pharmaceia" (as delineated in Scripture, a form of witchery) refer to man-made chemicals that "cure" through poison. Others say it refers to herbs.
Is there an occult element?
Perhaps that is too strong a word. Not sure. The activities of the Midewiwin involved ceremonies that were complex and included the tribe's Creation legends, the "vision quest," and herbal medicine. They used more than four hundred plants for healing, claiming spiritual inspiration. It can stray into totem stuff.
"Perhaps there are other herbs used for different types of cancer," says Olsen. "The Midewiwin no doubt use herbs that are indigenous to their region and call upon spirit guides and intuition as well as their training and experience to assist them in deciding which particular plants would benefit each person being treated."
We get very cautious when we hear terms like "spirit guides." There is one Reiki therapist mentioned in line with Essiac in the book. (We certainly consider Reiki occultic.)
Yet, herbs historically have also been there for those who are holy. Because witches use fire does not mean that fire itself (or earth, or air, or wind) is evil.
Is it a matter of who and how they are used?
The version of this tea called Flor-Essence (developed by Kennedy's doctor) may have less of a mystical burden (if there is any such burden).
We won't exclude stuff, but if any such thing is tried, it should be blessed (and discerned) first. Add this ingredient: Holy Water.
Has God provided us with natural cures?
We're pretty sure He has.
We certainly would not want to impugn a treatment that may help (perhaps even cure) some.
This is a tightrope.
Nor does one want to give false hope -- or worse, diversion from regular therapy that may help more.
"A full-blooded Ojibwa who is professor of Native American Studies at a western university informed me that the tribal medicine society, which calls itself the Midewiwin, is extremely secretive," says Olsen. "Perhaps there are other herbs that are used for different types of cancer. Maybe the formula Rene Caisse learned of was a specific remedy for a particular patient."
Perhaps. For your discernment. Admits an Essiac website in a disclaimer: "No extensive clinical studies have been performed as yet which would provide conclusive evidence that Rene Caisse's herbal formula will alleviate, cure or prevent any disease or condition." We'll be reporting more on such things, as the cancer epidemic expands and as our concern about the pharmaceutical industry continues to grow.
As far as the natural route: for now we have no doubt that things like cutting down on sugar and increasing the consumption of dark greens and good water (and carrots and green tea, etcetera) are of substantial benefit, with prayer and exercise; there are too many who demonstrate that much. Also, too many who have claimed alternative cures. Enzymes. Hemp seed. Flax oil. Alkaline foods.
As far as potential occult components: perhaps staying away from concoctions and using herbs separately (with Essiac, sheep sorrel seems most important) would strip away any spiritual aspect. Whatever the "benefits," nothing from an occult source (if it is indeed occult, which we're not sure of) is good.
Is there hope for those with cancer?
When God wills it, we find the cures out there. And natural remedies exist. More so do spiritual ones (under the guidance of Jesus).
Never accept a verdict of "terminal."
We're all terminal.
There is always hope where there is energy for prayer.
(To be continued....)
[Note also: Michael Brown retreats: Connecticut! and Announcing two retreats in California]
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[Feedback: "I have read with interest your recent articles on cancer. I was diagnosed this past May with pancreatic cancer. My doctors were totally baffled as they claim I don't fit the cancer profile. I do not drink, or smoke, and I eat healthy and exercise and have been healthy all of my 62 years. I was a kindergarten teacher for 38 years, loving my job and blessing the children I taught. Why did God allow this disease to enter my body? I have never questioned His reason for He knows better than I what is good for me. My cancer has ,in reality, been a blessing. Amazingly wonderful events have taken place because of it. It has lead my four children to a deeper life of prayer, a miracle in itself! People that I barely know have offered many prayers for me. In fact, most days I feel as if I am totally sustained by their prayers. I united my suffering with Jesus on the cross for all who are battling this horrific disease and He has given me great comfort. My children organized a cancer walk they titled the 'Walk of Hope.' The people (including our priest and parish) in my small community (population 5,000) came together and the results were amazing! We raised over $6,000, which we donated to the hospital where I receive treatments. This money will help people who have lost their jobs due to cancer. It will provide them with money for bills, groceries, and gas to get to their treatments. This fund was actually started by my oncologist. Who by the way has told me several time to 'pray always because prayer works better than chemo.' I know this is long but I wanted to share. My outlook is good -- the cancer never spread, and surgery may 'cure' me in the near future. If I may impose, I am asking for a prayer for all who suffer from this disease ( and myself, also). Peace and blessings always," Kathy Tylka]
[see also skeptical views: Quackwatch]
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