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Can Essential Oils Help Cancer Patients?

Updated on May 19, 2016

What are Essential Oils and What do They Do?

Is it true that essential oils can help people with cancer, even when everything else has failed? Yes, if you believe some of the Internet testimonials.

These are just anecdotes, as few studies have been conducted. So these accounts are pretty much all we have to go on. And, if they are true, they would, potentially, offer another option for people who've been told their cancer is "terminal."

Please understand that I'm not giving medical advice, or even suggesting a cancer patient should use essential oils in hopes of recovering. All I'm doing is reporting on the issue, and presenting information.

For someone with a disease as serious as metastatic cancer, alternative treatment is not a do-it-yourself process. If someone has the means, and is physically able, it's possible to a medical clinic in Mexico or Germany, where cancer care is much more advanced than it is in the United States, especially in the field of alternative therapy. There are also integrative oncologists throughout the world, a number located within the United States, who combine more conventional medicine with an alternative approach.

Suzanne Somers interviewed some of these doctors for her book called Knockout, which chronicles her recovery from breast cancer, and describes what she's now doing to stay healthy.

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to travel, especially since most very ill patients have already exhausted their financial resources. It's also typical to run up big bills seeking conventional treatment, even for those with good insurance. That's because co-pays can add up for hospital stays, specialty care and multiple prescriptions.

So, what do we know about essential oils and cancer?

The Was One of the Gifts Brought by the Magi to Baby Jesus


Frankincense and Cancer

Among the most studied essential oils for use in cancer patients is frankincense. This Middle Eastern resin is what one of the Wise Men brought to the manger in Bethlehem to present to the newborn King. In those days, it was considered more precious than gold. Now we're beginning to understand why the ancients had a love affair with frankincense.

Researchers in both the United States and Oman, where the best frankincense is harvested, are studyingfrankincense's ability to destroy cancer cells. The beauty of this is that it seems to know how to destroy only the unhealthy cells, and bypass the healthy ones.

One of the big problems with modern oncology, and the chemotherapy agents now used, is that they can't distinguish between the normal and abnormal. All fast-growing cells are targeting, including those that line the digestive tract, which is why nausea and vomiting are common side effects of this type of treatment.

If frankincense could be used instead, this could potentially revolutionize cancer treatment. It also appears to be safe and non-toxic.

The Work of Dr. H.K. Lin, PhD

Frankincense, derived from the boswellia sacra tree, is the subject of intense research at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. This is the species of boswellia that is native to Oman and grows only there. There are multiple types and grades of frankincense and this is widely considered the best.

Dr. H.K. Lin, PhD., a University of Oklahoma researcher, has conducted in vitro experiments with cancer cells and frankincense. He's found that frankincense definitely kills cancer in the lab. Another Omani research, Dr. Mahmoud Suhail, MD, as reported elsewhere, has used this resin in his clinical work, with very good results as well.

Dr. Lin works exclusively with Young Living frankincense. He has no financial stake in this product. He began using it after he didn't see the same results with some other products. This, he noted, was an exercise in frustration that cost him time and money. He warns people against using inferior grades of frankincense and expecting good results.

Frankincense, according to Dr. Lin, has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine as a tumor-fighting agent.

Video Testimonial of Cancer Patient Who Used Frankincense

Healing Properties of Other Oils

Right now, there is a lot of interest in essential oils for their potential healing properties. Frequently used by massage therapists and aromatherapists, these oils are highly concentrated essences of flowers and plants.

It's believed many of these oils do contain potent cancer-fighting compounds, just like the plants from which they are derived. However, mainstream medicine is pharmaceutical based, so formal scientific studies in the role of essential oils in treating cancer are limited. Solid information is definitely lacking.

However, so far, the little research that's been conducted with some of the other oils, or the plants they are derived from, is encouraging.

Orange Rinds are Rich in D-Limolene


D-limonene and Cancer

Orange essential oil is a popular supplement that contains high quantities of d-limonene, found in citrus peels. This oil is often used by cancer patients, and it's also used by others to prevent getting the disease.

Again, though, there is a paucity of research into whether orange oil can effectively help someone battle cancer. One study on d-limonene, however, may provide some clues.

In 1992, the medical journal Cancer Research published a study on the ingestion of d-limonene in a group of rats with mammary tumors. They noticed a complete regression of tumors, small as well as advanced, when sufficient dietary levels of d-limonene were maintained.

While no one is calling this a cancer cure, it's one more bit of information that may one day help in winning the war against this disease that now kills about 585,000 Americans every year.

Cancer Fighting Compounds in Some Essential Oils

This resin has the unique ability to hone in and destroy malignant cells only. Normal cells are not disturbed.
Myrrh was shown to kill all breast cancer cells in one laboratory study.
Orange rinds have plenty of d-limolene, shown the laboratory to fight breast cancer cells.
This popular herb has anti-oxidants shown to stop the growth of tumors in humans, as well as in the lab.

Rosemary Oil and Cancer

A study that appeared in the March 25, 2013 edition of the medical journal Frontiers in Pharmacology concluded that two compounds found in the herb rosemary, carnosic acid and carnosol, are able to inhibit prostate cancer cells, both in the lab and in humans as well.

The authors of the study believe this occurs through "multiple signaling pathways" They called for further research in an effort to understand this mechanism.

Rosemary is often used to flavor Mediterranean cuisine, widely heralded as a longevity diet. The authors speculated that not enough attention has been paid to the various herbs and spices found in foods consumed throughout that region.

Myrrh Oil and Cancer

Myrrh was another of the gifts brought to the infant Jesus by the three wise men, whom undoubtedly realized its value as a medicine. It's now known that myrrh, a gum from the Commiphora tree that also grows in the Middle East and in parts of Africa. It has a long history in Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as in Ayurvedic medicine, which originated on the Indian subcontinent.

A study on the efficacy of myrrh against cancer was published in 2001 showed that a myrrh extract killed all human breast cancer cells in a laboratory dish.

Dr. Lin said he has begun adding a little bit of myhhr to his frankincense mixture that he uses against tumor cell lines in his lab. He said doing this seems to make the frankincense more potent.

Your Experience with Essential Oils

What is your favorite essential oil?

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are not meant to diagnose‚ treat or cure any disease or medical condition.

This article is not intended as medical advice, and is presented as background material only. People with health concerns should discuss them with a licensed health professional. The author assumes no responsibility for treatment decisions or outcome. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use essential oils unless directed to do so by a healthcare professional.


Submit a Comment
  • ologsinquito profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from USA

    Hi Pam, there is a YouTube video by Dr. HK Lin, in which you might be able to get some good information. You should try to find a good aromatherapist, because some of these oils definitely should not be swallowed. I've heard to people rubbing the oils on the soles of their feet. But I'm not an expert, or a qualified medical practitioner, so I can't give medical advice, and I'm not suggesting that I can. The article is written only for informational purposes. I hope this helps.

  • ologsinquito profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from USA

    Hi Alicia and MsDora, thanks so much for reading. I agree that more clinical trails are needed, using whole oils and not just isolated extracts, so it can be seen what all the components of these oils can do, working in synergy. I'd also hope the trails would not run while people are simultaneously doing chemo and radiation.

  • ologsinquito profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from USA

    Hi heidi, I love the smell of frankincense as well. Thanks for reading. Hi someonewhoknows, if you are trying to fight something serious, then Omani frankincense is what you want. However, I buy a lesser grade for skin care purposes. I use a mixture of jojoba oil and frankincense as a moisturizer.

    Hi Flourish, I'm so happy we're returning to nature, or God's pharmacy. Thanks for reading.

  • ologsinquito profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from USA

    For myself, though, I'm not as fussy about the other oils, just Frankincense.

  • ologsinquito profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from USA

    Hi Eric, I don't know the answer to that about the less expensive products. My guess would be no, but it's only a guess. Dr. HK Lin uses only one kind of frankincense and he's the expert. If it were me, I wouldn't take the chance with a different type.


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