Possible (but not common) essiac side effects...
Essiac side effects are almost always benign and mild. Of course, there is the standard caution that pregnant or nursing females should not use it (which also applies to any dietary herbal supplement). People react differently to pharmaceuticals and dietary supplements; while some users experience side effects, most have no problems or adverse reactions at all. Remember that essiac side effects are possible (as with any other supplement), but not highly likely.
Though side effects from taking the tea are uncommon, the one that occurs most often is nausea and/or indigestion, usually caused by eating or drinking too soon before or after drinking the tea. The dose should be taken on an empty stomach.
Here are some possible causes of negative reactions:
1. A full stomach of undigested food, or consuming any beverage just before taking the remedy, but especially tea or coffee.
2. Waste materials built up in the body, which attempts to eliminate them all at once. This could create slight discomfort in the digestive tract.
"When any discomfort occurred, Rene always cautioned her patients to stop taking the decoction for several days until they felt better. Then they were told to begin again with just half an ounce every other day and gradually to increase the dose to one ounce each day. This usually corrected the problem."
Observations by long-term users are that diarrhea or upset stomach may be caused by too high a dose combined with not drinking enough water. Anyone taking essiac should increase their water intake, due to its presumed "detoxification" properties, which are thought to cause the release of toxins from tissues and blood. The toxins are then excreted via the intestinal and urinary tracts. According to this “detox” theory, the toxins must be diluted (by drinking extra water) as they are released from the body tissues or they become too concentrated -- and you end up feeling unwell. Drinking plenty of water should help and probably eliminate this essiac side effect. This effect should be brief and in the unlikely event that it does occur, would be seen only at the beginning of treatment.
Our advice is to drink three of four quarts of plain water daily if you are taking any version of essiac, to avoid or alleviate the toxin-related essiac side effects. Please be aware that soda, juice, tea, coffee (which is a diuretic) and other beverages (besides water) shouldn’t be included in your total liquid intake.
You may be allergic to one (or several) of the herbs in essiac, if you feel itchy, developing some rashy areas on your body, have watery, runny eyes, and/or develop hay fever-like symptoms. Sheep sorrel is thought to be the allergen “culprit”, according to noted researcher and author Mali Klein (who happens to be a bit allergic to it). Try cutting your dosage down or stop taking it for a while if you encounter these side effects.
If you have NO allergy symptoms from taking the tea, in our opinion you should stick to a reasonable dosage ranging from the minimum of one ounce per day as a "tonic" to the aggressive dose maximum of no more than about six ounces tea per day for known health problems.
According to Chris Corpening R.N. (A Nurse's Herbal Tea),
"Diarrhea has been the main side effect I have seen, although it is not a common essiac side effect. Gastrointestinal discomfort has also been reported to me on various occasions. According to herbal literature, turkey rhubarb is a laxative and if the body cannot handle it, diarrhea will result. My advice to those experiencing diarrhea or discomfort is to cut the dosage down to 1 oz a day (or stop entirely) until the problems resolve, then gradually get yourself back to taking the original amount." Diarrhea as a side effect usually diminishes rapidly as the body starts to get accustomed to taking the tea.
Kidney Disease, Kidney Stones
If you have kidney disease or are prone to kidney stones, some experts advise not taking essiac tea because of the oxalic acid contained in sheep sorrel and turkey rhubarb.
"Diabetics who are insulin dependant may need to adjust their dosage, also those on anti-diabetes medications. All diabetics should monitor their blood sugar closely while on this tea. Some of the constituents in this tea can affect the way glucose and insulin are taken up in the cells and utilized. Many people find they need less medication while taking this tea. This is not always the case, but is worthy of mention." [Chris Corpening R.N.]
Read this again.... "When any discomfort occurred, Rene always cautioned her patients to stop taking the decoction for several days until they felt better. Then they were told to begin again with just half an ounce every other day and gradually to increase the dose to one ounce each day. This usually corrected the problem."
So diabetics are well advised to start with a tiny dose and monitor their blood sugar carefully. Close monitoring should reveal whether blood sugar level goes up or down.
Anyone starting this tea should begin with very small doses, follow the product directions, and diminish or discontinue the dose if (in the very unlikely event) unusual discomfort appears.
Essiac side effects are very uncommon but need to be watched for.