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Ask the Herbalist - Essiac

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ANSWERS FROM AMANDA:
QUESTION
:  I was browsing your site and had some questions. Is it safe to take Essiac for somebody with breast cancer that is hormone recepective and with positive lymph nodes? Also I have read that it helps but one study that says it might increase the growth of cancer cells which I donít think is true have you heard about that?

ANSWER: I don't think there is a shred of solid scientific evidence that Essiac does increase growth of cancer cells. Neither have I seen much proof outside of information from manufacturers that it improves outcomes for cancer patients. The herbs are safe enough, hormone sensitive cancer or otherwise. The herbs are what herbalists call alteratives; that is, they alter long standing conditions of disease through gentle, nonspecific cleansing effects. This happens, we believe, mainly via liver, kidney, and immune function, and it commonly happens over a long time. 
           Here's my opinion: If placebo works in clinical trials 30% of the time, and we have discovered that a positive attitude and confidence improves cancer outcomes, people who have a firm belief in Essiac may indeed do better when they take it.
          I may hear all kinds of passionate rebuttals from Essiac fans. I would prefer to hear from clinical researchers if there is positive evidence from human trials that I have inadvertently missed.