While you have probably heard of essential oils, did you know that they are commonly used as an alternative form of cancer treatment?

Studies have shown that essential oils can reduce certain symptoms related to cancer, and may even have the power to eventually treat cancer itself.

Although scientific trials on whether or not essential oils can treat cancer in the long term are still in their infancy, the research is promising.

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Why You Should Always Talk To Your Doctor Before Trying Essential Oils (or any other cancer treatment)

Before trying any new form of alternative cancer treatment, it is important that you first consult with your doctor to ensure that the alternative you’re hoping to try is appropriate for you, specifically.

What Are Essential Oils?

Woman Making Essential Oils

Essential oils are made from extracted plant compounds. This process is usually done through either steam or water distillation methods, which extract the properties of the plant responsible for its aroma. These aromatic properties are then isolated and cold pressed into the essential oils we know and love.

Because of their fragrant aromas, essential oils are often used in aromatherapy. They are also commonly used in certain beauty and personal care products. Oh, and did we mention that they make a great addition to any massage?

Like the plants they are derived from, each individual type of essential oil has its own unique properties and best usages.

Can Essential Oils be Used to Treat Cancer?

While essential oils have not been shown to explicitly prevent or treat cancer, they have been shown to have some wonderful benefits and a lot of potential.

Research on essential oils

When it comes to using essential oils as a form of cancer treatment, it is important to know that, at this point, all studies have been performed in laboratory environments and not on humans actively living with cancer. However, it is common practice to conduct initial studies in a lab environment before moving on to human trials.

Nevertheless, the research conducted on essential oils and their role in cancer treatment is promising. 

And while research into whether or not it may someday be possible to treat cancer with essential oils is still in its infancy, there have been some clinical trials showing that essential oils are effective when it comes to treating the symptoms of cancer.

Using Essential Oils to Treat Symptoms

There are a few essential oils that people identify as being especially powerful when it comes to treating some of the symptoms of cancer. These include: chamomile, lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus, and peppermint essential oils.

In one study of cancer patients, roman chamomile essential oil was used for aromatherapy, in combination with massage. Participants were shown to experience significantly reduced levels of anxiety and overall symptoms of cancer, when treated using both the massage and aromatherapy components. Participants in the control group who only received the massage and not the aromatherapy component, did not show these same results. 

In another study on aromatherapy using essential oils, cancer patients were shown to have reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety when treated with six sessions of aromatherapy.

Frankincense and cancer cells

Frankincense has been used to treat a variety of ailments since ancient times. Therefore, it comes at little surprise that it is one of the most popular oils used for cancer treatment.

Frankincense has actually been used for brain cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer. For example, in one study, scientists found that breast cancer cells stopped growing when they were exposed to frankincense oil. In another study, they found that it helped to suppress cells associated with bladder cancer.

Additionally, frankincense has been found to contain a substance known as Boswellic acid, which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Since inflammation plays a role in cancer, Boswellic acid could be an important component of further cancer research.

How to Use Essential Oils For Cancer

Woman Showing Essential Oils to Patient

When it comes to essential oils, there are a few different ways you can utilize them as a form of alternative cancer treatment.


Arguably the most popular method of essential oil use is aromatherapy.

As we mentioned earlier, aromatherapy can offer benefits to cancer patients. For example, certain essential oils have been known to help reduce symptoms of: stress, anxiety, depression, nausea, and headaches—as well as promote positive feelings and emotions.

Some people prefer to buy bottles of essential oil and apply them topically to their skin, while they inhale the aroma. Please note that essential oils should never be applied directly to the skin without first diluting them with a carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil, sweet almond oil, or grapeseed oil. Direct application of essential oils to the skin can cause irritation in certain people, which is why dilution with a carrier oil is necessary.

In addition to topical application, essential oils are also commonly added to electric diffusers, which release the aroma through water vapors into the air. Diffusers are great for long-term inhalation of the oils, as they can be left to diffuse for hours at a time. Please note, certain essential oils are toxic to pets; therefore, an essential oil diffuser may not be an appropriate choice for people with pets.

Beauty and Personal Care Products 

Many more natural beauty and personal care products utilize essential oils in their ingredients. Personal care products that are likely to contain essential oils include certain brands of: skincare, lotion, shampoos, and body washes.

Depending on what you’re hoping to achieve, choosing products that contain certain types of essential oils may be able to help. For example, if you’re looking to find a lotion that may also help to relax you, you may want to try one that’s infused with lavender essential oil, which promotes restfulness.

Or, perhaps you’re looking to find a shampoo and conditioner that might be able to ease your headache symptoms. In this case, you may want to go with a product line containing peppermint oil, which is known to relieve symptoms of headaches and migraines.

Of course, these are just a few examples. 

Skin Massages

While a massage is always wonderful, the addition of aromatherapy (via essential oils) can make it even better. 

When it comes to incorporating the oils, you may choose to have your massage therapist topically apply the oils during the massage. Topical application during a massage uses larger quantities of the oil than if you were to apply it yourself to a smaller area of the skin. For this reason, the aromatherapy component is likely to be stronger and therefore more effective. 

If you’re not interested in topical application, but are still hoping to reap some of the benefits of aromatherapy, some massage therapists may have an essential oil diffuser in the room, and may offer to diffuse an oil of your choosing during your session.

Are Essential Oils Safe If You Have Cancer?

For the most part, essential oils tend to be safe for most people, including those with cancer, when used correctly and with caution in mind.

Side effects

The most common side effects of essential oils result from incorrect topical application to the skin, resulting in skin irritation. 

As we mentioned earlier, it is important to always dilute your essential oil with a carrier oil before applying it to the skin, specifically for this reason. You should also conduct a patch test to a small area of your skin, before applying the oil more generally. Leave the patch test on for 24 hours to make sure you don’t have a reaction to that specific essential oil.

Other side effects include allergic reactions to the essential oil itself. Because essential oils are made from plants, including flowers, tree bark, leaves, etc., you should not use essential oils that come from plants that you are, or could be, allergic to. 

Also, remember that essential oils should NEVER be consumed, as they can be toxic. They should also never be applied near the eyes.

Should You Try Essential Oils If You Have Cancer?

While the research is preliminary, there’s very little downside or risks to trying essential oils if you have cancer. 

With that being said, it can definitely be worthwhile to incorporate the use of essential oils into your alternative cancer treatment plan.

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