Essiac with Sheep Sorrel Roots
Why is it more expensive and hard to find?
It is important to understand that sheep sorrel roots are a necessary ingredient in Essiac tea. In other words, if there are no sheep sorrel roots included, it is not Essiac tea. We know this because Sheila Snow obtained documents from the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute regarding Essiac and sheep sorrel roots. These documents were letters written by Rene Caisse herself to Dr. Chester Stock. Here is what she said about sheep sorrel roots in these letters:
"Dear Dr. Stock; I am worried about not receiving any reports on the tests. I thought about the way the lab had been preparing the material for the tests, and why they were not getting better results, so I read over their preparation and found that they were only using the leaves and stems, leaving out the roots, which are very essential in the 'Essiac' for treatments."
"The reason I offered to send you more material was because I know you cannot get the entire plant. You can buy the crushed leaves but they are no good alone. I found this out when I needed so much, when treating three to six hundred people afflicted with cancer every week for eight and a half years. I do know that the whole plant is needed."
"I am very shocked at the way your people are using the materials I sent you. The way they are preparing it for injections is an absolute waste. They might as well inject sterile water....They are just using leaves and stems, leaving out the roots. They are a part of Essiac."
The documents containing the quotes above can be viewed in THE ESSIAC BOOK by Mali Klein.
The problem with harvesting sheep sorrel roots is that it kills the whole plant. It takes three years to plant, grow and harvest one crop of sheep sorrel roots. The sheep sorrel roots must be dug up and thoroughly washed. This can be labor intensive and requires more work and more expense than just mowing the sheep sorrel leaves and stems with modern machinery.
The demand for organic herbs has increased exponentially in the past fifty years resulting in an increase in the number of organic herb farms. Therefore, growing herbs commercially is very competitive. Herb farmers must keep their expenses down and optimize their operations in order to compete and survive financially. Herb farmers only have so much land to grow herbs so they must grow the herbs that pay the most with the least expense.
Sheep sorrel only needs to be planted once when growing sheep sorrel for aerial parts (unless the crop dies on its own, gets crowded out by other plants or is plowed under for crop rotation). "Aerial parts" consists of leaf, stems, flowers and seeds. Herb farmers can harvest the same crop of sheep sorrel aerial parts two to three times every year because the roots send up new leaves and stems after each harvest. If herb farmers grow sheep sorrel for the roots, they only get one harvest every three years and then they have to replant and wait three more years for the next root crop. This is why herb farmers do not want to grow and sell sheep sorrel roots. They can make more money selling just the leaves and stems.
Additionally, roots require washing and specialized machinery or manual labor to dig up the roots, resulting in more expense for the farmer. The roots must then be hand clipped from the tops, which is the most labor intensive part of the process and therefore adds considerably more to the cost.
Unfortunately, the public is not aware of the importance of sheep sorrel roots in the Essiac formula. Therefore, there is not a significant demand for sheep sorrel roots from herb farmers. The demand is for sheep sorrel leaf and stem (tops only), so that is what herb farmers want to grow.
This is why it is so hard to find Essiac tea with sheep sorrel roots included. It is also the reason that Essiac tea with sheep sorrel roots is more expensive. In short, you get what you pay for.
Furthermore, Essiac tea should contain a significant amount of sheep sorrel roots. The bare minimum should be at least 1.6 ounces of sheep sorrel roots in every pound of sheep sorrel--that is, at least 10% roots. However, a higher percentage of sheep sorrel root increases the potency of the tea.
In order to standardize the percentage the roots must be manually cut from the tops. (The roots cannot be cut from the tops in the field since the cutting machinery would become dull immediately from cutting into the soil, sand and gravel.) The process of manually separating the roots from the aerial portion of the plant is very time consuming and tedious and therefore increases the labor costs of processing the roots. It is, however, a vital step because any person or company could claim to have sheep sorrel root in their product and only include a very small, insignificant amount of root.
In one instance a certified organic farm in the US sold "sheep sorrel roots" to a retailer but the herbs that were delivered actually contained mostly aerial parts and soil. Only about 25% was roots and the remaining 75% was useless aerial parts due to the dirt, which indicates that it was not washed or that it was insufficiently washed. Fortunately, the problem was discovered by the retailer and this incorrect harvest did not get made into Essiac tea. Therefore, if there is a farm who attempts to grow sheep sorrel roots, they must be monitored for a correct and appropriate harvest. Current costs of growing and harvesting sheep sorrel roots run between $200 to $400 per pound--much more than the cost of ginseng and goldenseal roots.
Unfortunately, there are retailers falsely claiming they have sheep sorrel roots included in their version of "Essiac" tea. Read more about this problem in the March 2018 Newsletter.
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