Killer or carcinogen? The truth about essential oils as anti-cancer agents

With aroma medicine being accepted more than ever, research is on to explore the various healing benefits of essential oils. Though it has been tested and proved that essential oils have significant effects as antivirals, antibacterials, anti-fungals and anti-depressants, recent research shows that they have specific anti-cancer properties too. This article will explore the truth about essential oils as anti-cancer agents for future.

Essential oils as carcinogens: Before we analyze the role of essential oils as anti-cancer agents, we need to first understand that not all essential oils are good for health and as in every other case, there are a few exceptions too. Some essential oils are said to be carcinogens, or stimulators of cancerous growths. This is basically because of one or two carcinogenic components present in such oils. Hence prolonged use of such oils can mean increased possibility of cancer. There are a few carcinogenic oils and there are other oils to be avoided if you have a particular type of cancer or so. Calamus oil and Sassafras oil, because of their high content of asorone and safrole, are highly carcinogenic. The methyl chavicol in Basil oil can be carcinogenic if used in large amounts. It is best to select  a Basil oil with the highest Linalool content and of course, lowest methyl chavicol content.

You need to avoid a few essential oils if you have cancer. These include Aniseed, Basil, Bay, Cinnamon, Clove, Fennel, Nutmeg, Star anise, Ho leaf, Laurel, Citronella, Eucalyptus, Lemongrass and Verbena. If you have skin cancer, avoid using Bergamot and other sun-sensitive oils.

Essential oils as anti-cancer agents: Research has revealed that many useful essential oils have an annihilating effect on cancer cell line. Some of these oils are:

Frankincense oil: A study in the journal of BioMed Central Journal of Complementary Alternative Medicine in March 2009 revealed, “Frankincense oil appears to distinguish cancerous from normal bladder cells and suppress cancer cell viability.” The study opined that the oil can be used to induce bladder cancer death and is an inexpensive way to eradicate cancer without harming the healthy cells in the same organ. Since Frankincense is a natural compound, there will no side effects like in chemotherapy.

Lemongrass oil: Lemongrass oil has been extensively researched for its anti-cancer properties. A study published in Chemico-Biological Interactions identifies that Colon cancer and Neuron cancer lines can be reduced with Lemongrass oil. The study indicated that Lemongrass oil induces natural cancer cell death through a process called the apoptotic process.

Sweet Linalool: Linalool is a sweet, relaxing aromatic found in many essential oils. It has been found out that Linalool can completely eradicate the HepG2 line of liver cancer cells when used in very low concentrations. Apart from its anti-cancer effects, Linalool also has anxiety-alleviating and sleep-inducing properties.

Sandalwood oil: Sandalwood oil is a great agent for preventing skin cancer tumor development. The alpha-santalol in Sandalwood oil is a remarkable for reducing skin tumor formations. This has been proved in a study published in the Journal of Anticancer Research  in January 2008.

Spice oils: Spice oils like Thyme and Oregano are also effective in preventing cancer. They do this by protecting the breakage of human DNA strands when exposed to highly oxidative stress. Some oils, instead of being direct anti-cancer agents, prevent tumor growth by supporting the immune system.