How to Grow Essiac Herbs

Written by sharlene young-bolen
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How to Grow Essiac Herbs
Burdock leaves (burdock plant image by Maro...¡ Markovič from

Essiac is a world-renowned herbal blend believed to support the immune system, prevent illness and cure disease. Essiac was introduced to the Canadian public in the 1920s by nurse Rene Caisse (Essiac is Caisse spelt backwards). The recipe is said to originate from traditional native Canadian Ojibwa medicine. Caisse's original Essiac formula comprises four plants: Burdock root, Slippery Elm inner bark, Sheep Sorrel and Indian Rhubarb Root. All four plants adapt well to gardens, are easy to sow and require a minimum of care to grow.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Burdock seeds
  • Slippery Elm seeds
  • Sheep Sorrel seeds
  • Indian Rhubarb seeds
  • Shovel
  • Hoe
  • Water

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  1. 1

    Growing Burdock Root: Normally growing in the wild, Great Burdock (Arctium lappa) is a biennial plant in the Asteraceae family. Burdock likes humus-rich soil and grows well in full sun to partial shade. Sow burdock seeds in the spring in rows two feet apart; germination occurs in four to seven days. After seedlings have grown a few inches, thin to three inches apart to enable good root development. The root is ready to harvest three to four months later; any later and the root is too fibrous for consumption. Some varieties of burdock root can grow to be four feet long.

    How to Grow Essiac Herbs
    Burdock flower burrs (Bush of a burdock 2 image by amlet from
  2. 2

    Growing Slippery Elm: Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva) is a hardy tree that can be grown from seed. The Slippery Elm prefers moist soil and full sun. The seeds mature from April to June and are dispersed by the wind. Plant seeds soon after they are released as they decompose quickly. The seeds will germinate the following spring. It takes a minimum of ten years for the Slippery Elm tree to reach proper bark-harvesting age.

    How to Grow Essiac Herbs
    An Elm leaf (leaf of an elm 3 image by Alexander Oshvintsev from
  3. 3

    Growing Sheep Sorrel: Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella), a perennial herb, prefers pastures and roadsides to cultivated fields. Sheep sorrel likes sandy, gravelly and low-fertility soils. As such, it is easily grown from seed in the home garden. Plant sorrel seeds in the springtime about 15 to 18 inches apart. The leaves are ready for harvest in the middle to late summer. Sheep Sorrel is dioecious, which means male and female parts exist on separate plants.

  4. 4

    Growing Indian Rhubarb Root: Indian Rhubarb Root (Rheum officinale) has been grown for thousands of years for its curative properties. Native to China and Tibet, Indian Rhubarb is a hardy perennial related to the sorrel family. Rhubarb can be grown from seed quite easily. Sow rhubarb seeds in rows in early spring. Indian Rhubarb needs full sun and well-drained soil.

    How to Grow Essiac Herbs
    Indian Rhubarb (rhubarbe 1 image by Nathalie P from

Tips and warnings

  • There is much debate surrounding the exact Essiac formulation. There are other Essiac recipes in existence; according to the majority of sources, however, the four plants described here are the traditional components. An alternative eight-herb Essiac combination (explained at consists of Blessed Thistle, Kelp, Red Clover and Watercress in addition to the plants outlined above.

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