Who Owns Essiac?

Type “Essiac” into any search engine and you will find a great deal of controversy and confusion over who owns and sells the original Essiac formula and who owns the word “Essiac” as a trademark.  For example, two competing websites offering two different Essiac formulas both claim to have the "original" Essiac formula.  One of these companies has been aggressively challenging other websites over who owns the word "Essiac" in internet domain names and who has the trademark rights.  To answer the question “Who Owns Essiac?” we must first look at the history of Essiac.

To begin with we must understand that Rene Caisse did not use just one “Essiac” formula—there were several.  The original formula was created by an “Indian medicine man” and it consisted of eight herbs.  Rene Caisse never revealed what that entire formula was, even to her best friend Mary McPherson who made up Essiac tea for Rene Caisse’s patients.  In spite of the speculations, there is no evidence that provides indisputable proof of what the "medicine man's" eighth herb was. 

In the 1890s the "Indian medicine man" freely gave the original eight-herb formula to a woman in northern Ontario for her breast cancer.  In 1922 this woman gave the recipe to Nurse Rene Caisse free of charge.  Rene did nothing with the tea until her aunt was diagnosed with inoperable stomach cancer in 1924.1

Rene Caisse gave the tea to relatives and cancer patients and tested it on mice.  Early on in her research Rene weeded out two of the original herbs, periwinkle and red clover.2  She then continued using various combinations of sheep sorrel root & leaf, burdock root, slippery elm bark, rhubarb root, goldthread and watercress until her death in 1978.  She also used others herbs topically such as bloodroot, an herb that is used in the Hoxsey treatments.

Rene Caisse began using the word “Essiac”, her last name spelled backwards, in the 1930s or perhaps as early as the latter half of the 1920s.  She even used the word “Essiac” to describe sheep sorrel decoction.  She provided the tea free of charge15 so she never established "Essiac" even as a common law trademark.  A trademark, by definition, is a legal term associated with proprietary words used in commerce.  The word "trademark" is applicable only to vendable (marketable) commodities, a term identifying and distinguishing a business' products.3  A common law trademark can be established merely through the marketing of a product.  Trademarks do not have to be registered with a government to be a trademark. 

Rene Caisse did patent her kidney pills in 1942 but the patent was officially withdrawn in 1976.  However, Rene never obtained a patent or trademark for Essiac.4

"Essiac" became a household word (not a trademark name) in 1935 in Bracebridge, Ontario when Rene Caisse opened up her Cancer Clinic.  Years later in the summer of 1977 interest in Essiac exploded and Essiac became a household word in Canada and the United States with the publishing of the article "Could Essiac Halt Cancer" by Homemaker's Magazine, based upon the research of Sheila Snow.  In 1988 "Essiac" became a household word worldwide when Dr. Gary Glum published CALLING OF AN ANGEL.

"Essiac" didn't become a trademark name until the fall of 1977 when Rene Caisse sold the formula for $1.00 to David Fingard of the Resperin company on the understanding that they would conduct clinical trials on human patients to demonstrate the efficacy of Essiac tea.  However, the clinical trials never happened and Rene did not receive any of her contractual royalties.  Once Resperin got the formula they ceased all contact with Rene and never consulted or cooperated with Rene in promoting Essiac, in further breach of their contract.  Also, they never even consulted with Rene Caisse on how to prepare the tea (when Rene was alive), so Rene's best friend, Mary McPherson, had to show them how to make up the tea after Rene died.5  It therefore appears that Rene only gave Resperin the ingredients to one version of the tea but not the recipe to make it.  Two decades later in 2000 Mary McPherson stated that the company that was allegedly continuing the Resperin corporation work was not making up the tea like Rene Caisse did.6

Dr. Gary Glum, a California chiropractor, claimed that he bought a four-herb version of the Essiac formula in 1985 from Mrs. Pat Judson of Deering, Michigan.  He made this announcement at Andre's Restaurant in Bracebridge in the fall of 1988 with several witnesses present including Mary McPherson and her husband.7  

Pat Judson first visited Rene in 1977 to obtain Essiac tea for herself and another person.7  Mrs. Judson was president of the Detroit chapter of the Foundation for Alternative Cancer Therapy, or "FACT".  She was involved in a class action suit in Detroit demanding the right to have access to Essiac in the United States.  Rene Caisse traveled to Detroit to receive an award at the FACT convention in September of 1978.8  Pat Judson and her husband traveled to Bracebridge, Ontario in August of 1978 for Rene's 90th birthday. 

Dr. Glum did not keep the Essiac formula secret as others have done.  He freely gave the formula and recipe to anyone who requested it, thereby releasing the Essiac formula into the public domain.  In 1988 Dr. Glum released CALLING OF AN ANGEL and promoted the sale of his video tape showing people how to make Essiac tea in their own homes.  The video also exposed the pharmaceutical cartels and their control over the politics of modern medicine.

Rene Caisse gave a 7-herb version of the Essiac formula to her best friend, Mary McPherson.9  Mary knew the 4-herb version because she was the only person that Rene allowed to brew Essiac tea for her cancer patients.  In 1994 Mary McPherson recorded and filed a sworn affidavit in the Town of Bracebridge, Ontario which confirmed that Dr. Glum's version of the Essiac formula was correct.  This officially placed this version of Essiac formula and recipe in the public domain.  Researcher Mali Klein refers to this formula as the "classic" Essiac formula.10

Rene Caisse briefly joined forces with Dr. Charles Brusch to research Essiac at the Brusch Medical Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1959-1960.  However, Rene Caisse did not give Dr. Brusch the Essiac formula.11  Dr. Brusch's formula, which was also called Flor•Essence®, was technically not Essiac tea because he used two herbs in the tea that Rene Caisse never used, blessed thistle and kelp.  The book ESSIAC, The Secrets of Rene Caisse's Herbal Pharmacy reveals all the herbs that Rene used.

It also appears that Rene Caisse gave a version of the Essiac formula to Gilbert Blondin of Hull, Quebec.  However, this may have been a different Essiac formula.4  Mr. Blondin later took on a partner, Pierre Gaulin, in 1985.12  Mr. Gaulin obtained a trademark, "ESSIAC®" (all capital letters), on Dec. 4, 1990 for "ESSIAC International" and "ESSIAC Products Services", a Florida corporation.  Dr. Gary Glum had already released his version of the Essiac formula and recipe into the public domain for anyone to use two years before Pierre Gaulin registered a trademark.  Mr. Gaulin's trademark states that the word Essiac was first used in commerce in 1922.  According to the research of Sheila Snow and Mali Klein, this could not be a true statement because Rene Caisse didn't even try to use the "Indian medicine man's" eight-herb formula until 1924.  Apparently, Rene Caisse did not begin using the word "Essiac" until the latter half of the 1920s at the earliest.  More importantly, Rene Caisse never used the word Essiac in commerce (unless one counts the time that she sold one version of the formula to David Fingard of the now defunct Resperin corporation for one dollar in 1977.) 

Pierre Gaulin attempted to obtain Essiac domain names such as, and from a Canadian company in a 2009 National Arbitration Forum under UDRP, which stands for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy.  UDRP is the procedure for resolving disputes concerning the registration of internet domain names.  People contractually agree to this arbitration procedure when purchasing a domain name.  Under UDRP the complainant must prove each of the following three elements to obtain an order that a domain name should be cancelled or transferred:

(1)  the domain name registered by the Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights;

(2)  the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and

(3)  the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

Under this UDRP decision the arbitration panel found that Pierre Gaulin failed to prove that the Respondent had no rights or legitimate interests in the Essiac domain names.  Gaulin's complaint was therefore dismissed.  This decision is interesting because the Respondents, Altramed, Canadian Health Products, Living Proof Health Products and Faith Jennings, claimed that they had rights to use Essiac as a domain name because "Resperin assigned to Essiac Products, Inc. all rights and interest in the Essiac business" in 1995.  "In 2002, Essiac Canada International Inc., a Canadian corporation, acquired all rights from Essiac Products, Inc."  They further claimed that "Essiac" was registered by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office in 1980.  In other words, both the Claimant and Respondent had registered Essiac as a trademark in typed capital letters, "ESSIAC®", and both companies use identical artistic logos on their products (except one is green and the other is red). 

Anyone can visit the United States Trademark and Patent Office website,, and type in "essiac" and see that the US recognizes multiple users of the word "ESSIAC" (all capital letters) including both the Canadian corporation and the Florida corporation.  Also, numerous books have been copyrighted in the US, UK and Canadian governments using the word "Essiac" in their titles and text.

It is important to note that the dueling trademarks case mentioned above did not cover copyrights, which would apply to UDRP element 2.  People who have written books about Essiac also have the right to use the word "essiac" in their domain names as well as the websites that sell these books.  "Essiac" was a word used under copyright before it became a trademark.  Sheila Snow researched and co-wrote the the Homemaker's Magazine article, which was published by Comac Communications in June 1977.  (I have an original copy of this issue of Homemaker's Magazine on my desk as I write this.)  Rene did not sell one of her Essiac formulas to the Resperin corporation until several months later.

Of course, the word "Essiac" was a household word (common law, not a trademark) and was used in a variety of publications (under copyright) for over fifty years before it was ever registered as a trademark (in all capital letters). Words used in everyday parlance can be registered as a trademark if the words used are used in a unique manner.  For example, a well-known computer company used the word "Apple" as a registered trademark because the combination of the common word "apple" and selling computers was a unique combination.   This does not mean, of course, that no one can use the word "Apple" to describe their products or services.  In like manner many people sell many different products using the word "Essiac" on the labels of their products and in their website domain names.  If you type in "Essiac" on any search engine you will get hundreds of thousands of results.  The Yahoo search engine recently showed over a million results for "Essiac"! 

It is now well known that Rene Caisse gave different versions of her Essiac formula to multiple recipients.  According to Mali Klein, who the Essiac Archives from Sheila Snow, there were at least four individuals (other than Mary McPherson) and two commercial companies who may also been given various Essiac formulas in the last two years of Rene Caisse's life.13  Dr. Gary Glum and Mary McPherson were the primary people who placed the "classic" Essiac formula and recipe in the public domain:  a decoction of (by weight) 1 part Turkey Rhubarb root, 4 parts Slippery Elm bark, 16 parts Sheep Sorrel tops & root, 24 parts Burdock root. 

It is very likely that Rene Caisse decided to give various Essiac formulas to other people after David Fingard failed to fulfill the Resperin contract.  It would seem that this would have been within her rights and she may have justified it, given the breach of contract by Resperin and her dislike for David Fingard.  Rene thought he was arrogant and rudely dismissive of the doctors who were working with him.6  "She called him 'Old Satchel-ass', and she was frightened by how he 'really hammered at her until she was exhausted.'"17  Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that she did not have any allegiance to him or the original Resperin corporation.

SUMMARY:  There is no evidence available that proves Rene Caisse gave to any individual or company the exclusive, sole rights to the use of the word "Essiac" and to all the Essiac formulas, recipes and treatments.  On the contrary, the evidence does indicate that Rene Caisse gave various Essiac formulas and recipes to at least four people.  This action alone indicates that Rene Caisse never intended to give anyone the sole rights to Essiac.  Her primary purpose was to "help suffering humanity". 

Nevertheless, the fighting, disinformation and outlandish claims continue even today over who owns Essiac.  The prophetic Homemaker's article in 1977 summed it up several month's before Essiac became a trademark: 

"There's a tragic and shameful irony in the Essiac tale.  In the beginning, a simple herbal recipe was freely shared by an Indian who understood that the blessings of the Creator belong to all.  In the hands of more sophisticated (and allegedly more "civilized") healers, it was made the focus of an ugly struggle for ownership and power."14

"Respect and love of our fellow man [is] more important than riches." -- Rene Caisse15

In the final analysis, what is "Essiac" and who owns it?  According to Mali Klein, "Essiac is a folk remedy, something 'for the people by the people' that can be made at home in your own kitchen using your own utensils."16


Early 1890s -- An "Indian medicine man" gave an eight-herb formula to Mrs. Johnson (or Johnston) for her breast cancer.

1922 --  Mrs. Johnson gave the eight-herb tea recipe to registered nurse Rene Caisse.

1924 -- Rene Caisse uses the "Indian medicine man's" tea to treat her first patient (her aunt) for inoperable cancer under supervision of Dr. R. O. Fisher.  Her aunt lives for 21 more years free of cancer.  Under doctor supervision, Rene begins private testing of mice with human carcinoma.  The research shows promising results.

1926 -- Eight doctors petitioned the Department of National Health & Welfare to request that Rene Caisse be given facilities to do independent research of her discovery.   The Department responded by threatening to arrest Rene Caisse for "practicing medicine without a license".   The eight doctors do not use the word Essiac in their petition and only refer to it as "treatment for cancer given by R. M. Caisse".

1927 -- Rene quits her general nursing work in favor of independent research and treatment of terminal patients.  The Ontario Minister of Health grants Rene permission to carry on treating patients as long as she charges no fee and patients have written diagnoses/referrals from their doctors. 

1928-1930 -- Rene is provided research facilities at the Christie Street Hospital Laboratories in Toronto to test Essiac on mice with Rous Sarcoma.  Essiac keeps them alive longer than any treatment had previously.  Dr. Frederick Banting offers to work with Rene in his facilities at Univ. of Toronto.  Dr. Banting was a co-discoverer of insulin.  However, Rene turns down Dr. Banting's offer. 

1934 -- Dr. Albert Bastedo leads a successful drive to get the Bracebridge town council to provide facilities for a cancer clinic for Rene in her home town of Bracebridge, Ontario. 

1935 --  Rene Caisse opened up the Bracebridge Cancer Clinic in August.

1936 (summer) --  The Canadian Medical Association offers Rene the opportunity to do formal animal testing, but she declines, feeling she’s done enough testing on animals.

1936-7 (winter) -- In addition to clinic patients, Rene travels regularly to Toronto to treat patients, and also to Chicago to treat 12 patients in a clinical trial at Northwestern University Tumor Clinic.  Chicago doctors offer to open a clinic in the Passervant Hospital if Rene will move to the United States.

1937 (summer) -- Dr. Richard Leonardo offers to set up a clinic and work with Rene in Rochester, New York if she will move to the United States.  Rene refuses the US offers in favor of proving Essiac in Canada.

1938 (March 24) -- A bill is presented to the Ontario Legislature to formally authorize Rene to treat cancer patients.  The bill fails by three votes.  Another bill did pass (the Kirby Bill) and it set up a commission to investigate cancer remedies.

1939 (July 4) --  The Canadian Cancer Commission hearings begin but mainstream medicine would not recognize Rene Caisse's achievements.

1941 -- Disillusioned and exhausted Rene closes the Cancer Clinic for the last time.

1959-1960 -- Rene Caisse briefly joined forces with Dr. Charles Brusch to research Essiac at the Brusch Medical Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  However, Rene Caisse did not give Dr. Brusch the Essiac formula.  After Rene's death he may have gotten the formula from Dr. Gary Glum and/or Mary McPherson.

1963 -- Rene Caisse wrote and made available for limited distribution "I Was Canada's Cancer Nurse". 

1973 -- Dr. Chester Stock of Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute contacted Rene Caisse expressing his interest in conducting animal research with Essiac.  The letters between Dr. Chester Stock and Rene Caisse are the only documented evidence of the importance of sheep sorrel root in Essiac.  Dr. Stock ended this research in 1976.

1977 (June-August) -- Homemakers Magazine of Toronto publishes an article “Could Essiac Halt Cancer?” based on the research and writings of Sheila Snow.  The article triggers a national resurgence of interest in Essiac.  Rene has to have an extra phone line added to cope with all the calls.  She gets the attention of the Canadian Cancer Research Foundation and the Cancer Institute in Toronto, who caution Rene not to treat any more people and authorizes a human study to be done by a St. Marie, Ontario oncologist.  Testing conducted by Drs. David Walde and John Barker – due to poor quality materials, Essiac still not clinically proven effective.  Resperin Corporation, a small, nearly defunct pharmaceutical company based in Toronto, promises it will set up clinical studies on human patients all across Canada in return for marketing rights.

1977-1978 -- The evidence indicates that Rene Caisse gave Essiac tea and the Essiac formula and recipe to Mrs. Pat Judson of Deering, Michigan.

1977-1978 -- The evidence indicates that Rene Caisse gave Essiac tea and the Essiac formula and recipe to Gilbert Blondin of Hull, Quebec.

1977 (October) -- Rene gives Resperin Corp. a formula for the token sum of $1.  The promised clinical studies never materialize and Rene Caisse never receives any promised royalties.  Apparently, Rene only sold the formula to Resperin, but not the recipe.  Resperin finds that it doesn't even know how to make Essiac tea so Rene's best friend, Mary McPherson, showed them how to make it.

1978 (spring) -- A public forum in Toronto failed to get the formula for the tea publicly recognized.  

1978 (June) -- A class-action lawsuit in Detroit in which Pat Judson was involved failed to make Essiac available in the US.

1978 (August 11) -- Rene’s 90th birthday party, organized by Mary McPherson and attended by over 600, including Pat Judson, honors her life and work.

1978 (September) -- Rene was honored and recognized for her work at an alternative therapies convention in Detroit.

1978 (December 26) -- Rene’s life ends after being hospitalized after a fall that breaks her hip.

1985 --  The evidence indicates Pat Judson sold the Essiac formula to Dr. Gary Glum for $120,000.

1985 -- Gilbert Blondin goes into partnership with Pierre Gaulin.

1988 -- Dr. Gary Glum publishes CALLING OF AN ANGEL which promotes his video tape revealing both the Essiac formula and recipe, thereby placing Essiac in the public domain.

1993 -- Sheila Snow publishes her first book, THE ESSENCE OF ESSIAC.  (now out of print)

1994 (December 23) -- Mary McPherson confirms Dr. Glum's formula as being correct by recording a sworn affidavit in the Town of Bracebridge revealing the Essiac formula and recipe.

1999 -- Sheila Snow and Mali Klein publish ESSIAC ESSENTIALS, The Remarkable Herbal Cancer Fighter.  (now out of print)

2000 (July 5) -- Mary McPherson states that the company that was allegedly continuing the Resperin corporation work was not making up the tea like Rene Caisse did.

2001 -- Sheila Snow and Mali Klein publish ESSIAC, The Secrets of Rene Caisse's Herbal Pharmacy.  (now out of print)

2003 (September) -- The webmaster of interviews Dr. Gary Glum and obtains a certified true copy of Mary McPherson's affidavit of Rene Caisse's formula and recipe from the Commissioner for Affidavits of the Town of Bracebridge, Ontario.  The affidavit is then posted on this website.  This was the first time that Mary McPherson's affidavit appeared on the internet for all the world to view. 

2006 -- Mali Klein publishes THE ESSIAC BOOK, the first handbook on using Essiac with various formulas.  This book was the first book to show letters between Rene Caisse and Dr. Stock that reveal that sheep sorrel roots are an essential part of the Essiac formulas.  (now out of print)

2011 -- THE COMPLETE ESSIAC ESSENTIALS becomes available in print and Mali Klein also produces a companion video Essiac, A Modern Folk Remedy.

*This timeline is based on the information from Rene Caisse, Dr. Gary Glum, Mary McPherson, Sheila Snow and Mali Klein.




3.  BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY, 6th ed., p. 1494


5.  Ibid, p. 45

6.  Ibid, p. 107

7.  Ibid, p. 108

8.  Ibid, p. 109

9.  Ibid, p. 44

10.  Ibid, p. 43 - 49

11.  Ibid, p. 109-111



14.  "Could Essiac Halt Cancer?" June 1977, Homemaker's Magazine

15.  "I WAS CANADA'S CANCER NURSE" by Rene Caisse


17.  THE ESSIAC BOOK, p. 84

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