Think about what you’re doing to prevent cancer. Are essential oils part of the plan? They’re amazing for controlling stress, a sneaky risk factor for cancer. Stress fuels the disease by suppressing immunity and increasing levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone.” However, essential oils and aromatherapy can do more than manage stress. Some have the ability to act on cancer cells themselves.
Of course, this doesn’t diminish the importance of eating well, staying active, and getting enough sleep. It also doesn’t give you a free pass at smoking cigarettes or drinking lots of booze! Using essential oils for cancer prevention should be part of a bigger wellness routine, starting with these 5 cancer-fighting oils.1
Chamomile isn’t just a calming bedtime remedy. Apigenin, its major flavonoid, is a chemoprotective agent. It regulates the cellular response to oxidative stress, suppresses inflammation, and inhibits the spreading of cancer cells. Talk about a triple threat.
Yet, apigenin’s claim to fame is the ability to induce autophagy, or natural self-destruction. The result: cancer cell death, otherwise known as apoptosis. The best part is that it won’t harm or suppress normal cells in the process.2 3
For centuries, thyme essential oil has been used as a food preservative. It possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and digestive benefits. But thanks to the active compounds called thymol and carvacrol, it can also ward off cancer.
As antioxidants, these substances neutralize free radicals by donating an electron. Moreover, thyme is very toxic to cancer cells! It’s so potent that it can destroy human cancer cells found in the mouth and liver.4 5 6
Are you a fan of herby aromas? You’ll be glad to know that rosemary, a fragrant evergreen shrub, is a top choice for cancer prevention. It contains carnosic acid and carnosol, two powerful antioxidants that destroy free radicals before healthy cells take a hit.7
As an essential oil, rosemary doesn’t lose these benefits. A 2014 study in Interdisciplinary Toxicology even found that rosemary oil can induce apoptosis by messing with cancer cell DNA. As a result, these cells die, leaving normal ones unscathed.8
Oregano is known for its antimicrobial properties, but according to research, the perks don’t stop there. A 2017 study in the journal Molecules shares that oregano has thymol and carvacrol, the same antioxidants found in thyme. Therefore, oregano can do a stellar job at scavenging free radicals.9
The oil also contains 4-terpineol, a compound that stops growth and spreading of cancer cells. It’s actually been found to combat breast and colon cancer, so it’s certainly worth noting.10
Frankincense has been used as a perfume and incense for thousands of years. It’s more than just a pretty scent, though. The essential oil contains boswellic acid, a major component that can stop abnormal tissue growth.
What’s more is that frankincense can specifically seek out cancerous cells. It brings on apoptosis by suppressing gene expression and activating certain pathways. One 2009 study found this effect useful in fighting bladder cancer.11
Use essential oils with caution. Not every kind is food-safe, so double and triple check labels before adding them to food. When part of a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle, essential oils can keep cancer at arm’s length.
|↑1||Moreno-Smith, Myrthala, Susan K. Lutgendorf, and Anil K. Sood. “Impact of stress on cancer metastasis.” Future oncology 6, no. 12 (2010): 1863-1881.|
|↑2||Sung, Bokyung, Hae Young Chung, and Nam Deuk Kim. “Role of apigenin in cancer prevention via the induction of apoptosis and autophagy.” Journal of cancer prevention 21, no. 4 (2016): 216.|
|↑3||Kandelous, Hirsa Mostafapour, Misha Salimi, Vahid Khori, Noushin Rastkari, Amir Amanzadeh, and Mona Salimi. “Mitochondrial apoptosis induced by Chamaemelum nobile extract in breast cancer cells.” Iranian journal of pharmaceutical research: IJPR 15, no. Suppl (2016): 197.|
|↑4||Nieto, Gema. “Biological Activities of Three Essential Oils of the Lamiaceae Family.” Medicines 4, no. 3 (2017): 63.|
|↑5||Fekrazad, Reza, Mehrad Afzali, Hamzeh Pasban-Aliabadi, Saeed Esmaeili-Mahani, Maryam Aminizadeh, and Ali Mostafavi. “Cytotoxic Effect of Thymus caramanicus Jalas on Human Oral Epidermoid Carcinoma KB Cells.” Brazilian Dental Journal 28, no. 1 (2017): 72-77.|
|↑6||Wu, Shuang, F. X. Wei, H. Z. Li, X. G. Liu, J. H. Zhang, and J. X. Liu. “Chemical composition of essential oil from Thymus citriodorus and its toxic effect on liver cancer cells.” Zhong yao cai= Zhongyaocai= Journal of Chinese medicinal materials 36, no. 5 (2013): 756-759.|
|↑7||Loussouarn, Margot, Anja Krieger-Liszkay, Ljubica Svilar, Antoine Bily, Simona Birtić, and Michel Havaux. “Carnosic acid and carnosol, two major antioxidants of rosemary, act through different mechanisms.” Plant Physiology 175, no. 3 (2017): 1381-1394.|
|↑8||Melušová, Martina, Soňa Jantová, and Eva Horváthová. “Carvacrol and rosemary oil at higher concentrations induce apoptosis in human hepatoma HepG2 cells.” Interdisciplinary toxicology 7, no. 4 (2014): 189-194.|
|↑9||Leyva-López, Nayely, Erick P. Gutiérrez-Grijalva, Gabriela Vazquez-Olivo, and J. Basilio Heredia. “Essential Oils of Oregano: Biological Activity beyond Their Antimicrobial Properties.” Molecules 22, no. 6 (2017): 989.|
|↑10||Begnini, Karine Rech, Fernanda Nedel, Rafael Guerra Lund, Pedro Henrique de Azambuja Carvalho, Maria Regina Alves Rodrigues, Fátima Tereza Alves Beira, and Francisco Augusto Burkert Del-Pino. “Composition and antiproliferative effect of essential oil of Origanum vulgare against tumor cell lines.” Journal of medicinal food 17, no. 10 (2014): 1129-1133.|
|↑11||Frank, Mark Barton, Qing Yang, Jeanette Osban, Joseph T. Azzarello, Marcia R. Saban, Ricardo Saban, Richard A. Ashley, Jan C. Welter, Kar-Ming Fung, and Hsueh-Kung Lin. “Frankincense oil derived from Boswellia carteri induces tumor cell specific cytotoxicity.” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 9, no. 1 (2009): 6.|