Essential Oils as Anti-Cancer Agents: An Update on the Science, Part 1

We’d just like to pass on an update on the latest research from around the world regarding the anti-cancer activity of essential oils. Different essential oils are being researched all the time for their anti-carcinogenic properties, and we feel it important to pass on this news.

frankincense

Frankincense resin, from which the essential oil is distilled.

This information is not intended to be used by the reader for self treatment. We do encourage the use of oils with this healing property in mind — you’ll find us diffusing Frankincense in the store frequently for just this purpose: as a preventative measure, with respect to all the environmental toxins we are exposed to daily.

At the same time, we have had customers tell us they’ve successfully managed malignancies using essential oils purchased from our store, while working with an oncologist. While working closely with a health professional, it seems reasonable that essential oils can be used as a complementary therapy, and this is in fact the only way oils should be used by those diagnosed with cancer.

Further, we feel it important this information becomes more widely known — That essential oils don’t simply remain in the realm of fancy smelling liquids that make you feel nice while you’re getting a massage! That they have true medicinal potential, and the greater of the populace that views them this way, the sooner they will be employed in a manner by the conventional medical establishment that would be truly helpful to patients.


The Research

As of July 1, 2011, a search of the term “essential oil cancer” produced 24 pages containing 469 relevant results at PubMed.Gov. What follows is a selection made by our staff of these research abstracts, that were thought interesting and potentially helpful to natural medicine practitioners and essential oil users.

We’ll present these in the following format: The type of cancer under study; Article Title; Journal or Publication Title, Date of Publication, the Research Facility where the study was performed, and a summary of the research abstract with all pertinent information, including results and conclusion. We’ll do our best to clarify obscure

Aquilaria sinensis fruits

Aquilaria sinensis fruits, from which an the essential oil is extraxted.

references, and let you know that these clarifications were our input. So here we go!

Breast Cancer:

  • Study on volatile components from peel of Aquilaria sinensis and the anti-tumor activity. Journal of Chinese Medicinal Materials, Nov. 2010 (Ed Note: Aquilaria sinensis is an endangered tree native to China, and used in Chinese medicine. It produces a small fruit, from which the essential oil was extracted for this study. While this oil is not commercially available, it may become so due to the results of this research. The resin of the tree is commonly made into incense sticks, and the tree is also called  “the incense tree”.)
    The essential oil was analyzed, and the volatile components described. The oil was tested for its ability to inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells. The inhibition rate reached 99.6% with a concentration of 500microg/ml. This is 500 micrograms per milliliter of cell culture “broth”. One microgram is one millionth of one gram. The researchers concluded: “extract from peel of A. sinensis significantly inhibited the proliferation of human breast cancer cells.”

Head and Neck Cancers:

  • Lovage Leaf

    Lovage leaf, from which an essential oil is distilled.

    Title: Chemical Composition and antiproliferative activity of essential oil from the leaves of a medicinal herb, Levisticum officinale, against UMSCC1 head and neck squamous carcinoma cells. Published in Anticancer Research, Jan. 2011.(Ed. Note: Levisticum officinale is Lovage. Lovage leaf is a commonly available essential oil, which we are soon to be carrying at The Ananda Apothecary.)

    Results: Lovage essential oil had an IC50 value of 292.6 micrograms/ml meaning half of the cell line was destroyed by this concentration of essential oil in the cell culture, affecting genes involved in apoptosis, or natural cell death, the disruption of which is the hallmark of cancerous cells.

Skin Cancer:

  • Title: Selective cytotoxicity of Aniba rosaeodora essential oil towards epidermoid cancer cells through induction of apoptosis. Published in Mutation Research, Jan. 2011.
    Rosewood Tree

    Rosewood Tree with Fruit

    (Ed. Note: Aniba rosaeodora is Rosewood essential oil is currently found at The Ananda Apothecary.)

    Methods and Results: In order to explore their (essential oils’) beneficial properties on human skin cells, we investigated the effects of an essential oil from rosewood Aniba rosaeodora (REO) on the human epidermoid carcinoma cell line A431, on immortal HaCaT cells thought to represent an early stage of skin carcinogenesis, on transformed normal HEK001 keratinocytes and on primary normal NHEK keratinocytes.

    In a defined range of concentrations, Rosewood Essential Oil selectively killed A431 and HaCaT cells. The same treatments had only a minor cytotoxic effect on HEK001 and NHEK cells (ed. note: these were the “healthy” cells). The identification of selective induction of apoptosis in precancerous and cancerous skin cells by Rosewood Essential Oil highlights the potential anticancer activity of this essential oil. (Ed. Note: “selective induction” means only the cancerous cells were affected and destroyed by the essential oil).

We’ll stop here for now :) …Continuing with more in part 2 to be presented in the next week. Comments and questions are welcome! Also, if you’ve had any experience with essential oils and cancer, we invite you to share in the forums!

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