Essential Oils and Cancer
I’m fully aware this is a controversial and emotive subject, so I’m going to try and make this post as balanced and succinct as possible.
Every two minutes, someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer. It is estimated that 50% of people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime. The remaining 50% are likely to have friends or family members diagnosed with the disease.
For now, a guaranteed cancer cure remains elusive. Despite multi-million pound research, there is much we still don’t know about cancer. Clearly, prevention is key. In fact, around 42% of all cancer cases in the UK are thought to be preventable.
Thanks to modern medicine, cancer survival rates have doubled in the last 40 years.
But the side effects of cancer treatment can be brutal, so it’s no wonder that people are tempted to look for alternative options.
More and more, I’m seeing questions from people asking about essential oils and cancer:
Can essential oils prevent cancer?
Can essential oils shrink tumours?
Can essential oils help with chemo side effects?
What is the best blend of essential oils for cancer?
What’s the truth?
I’m going to get straight to the point here.
There is no essential oil that is proven to PREVENT cancer
There is no essential oil that is proven to CURE cancer
Anyone who tries to claim otherwise is deeply misinformed and/or likely to have a sales agenda.
Please do not rely on essential oils ALONE as a cancer treatment. I’ve seen some truly shocking “advice” on YouTube and Facebook.
It is becoming more than obvious that people do not need to use conventional practices like chemotherapy and radiation to eradicate cancer (Dr Z, The Essential Oil Revolution)
This advice is encouraging people to believe they can self-cure cancer using essential oils without any medical intervention. This is misleading, irresponsible and (in my opinion) unethical.
Some of the “cancer” advice out there is CRAZY! More often than not, requiring excessive amounts of essential oils (usually applied neat or ingested) From “saturating” a tumour with neat oils 8 times a day, to ingesting up to 240 drops of essential oils in capsules every day (No, I am not making this up!)
What about Frankincense?
There’s so much floating around online about frankincense oil and cancer. The truth is, there is no scientific evidence that frankincense essential oil cures cancer.
Now, there have been studies into the anti-cancer effects of boswellic acid, which is found in frankincense resin.
But boswellic acid is not present in frankincense essential oil – due to its molecular weight, it is scientifically impossible.
Beware of anyone who tells cancer patients they need frankincense essential oil. Do they really know what they’re talking about?
What about Chemotherapy?
There is so much confusion about using essential oils alongside chemotherapy. This 2017 study found that gentle aromatherapy massage helped to reduce pain and fatigue for chemotherapy patients.
However, it’s important to use essential oils with caution. As Robert Tisserand explains here, “Moderate amounts of EO will not kill cancer cells, but could protect them… Many essential oils have protective & antioxidant effects on our cells, and there is a reasonable chance that they will do the same for cancer cells – protect them from the chemotherapy – which of course would not be a good thing. This opinion is shared by many”
Robert Tisserand’s recommendation is to discontinue using essential oils for a week prior to starting chemotherapy, and continue to avoid using them for a month after finishing treatment.
To avoid any negative interactions, it’s always wise to seek advice from your doctor before using essential oils alongside cancer treatment. Don’t attempt to self-treat cancer with essential oils.
Not a “cure”
Yes, making healthy lifestyle choices can reduce our risk of cancer – and essential oils can play a role in reducing stress and generally improving our wellbeing. But a healthy lifestyle involves more than just essential oils – it requires good nutrition, exercise, adequate sleep, fresh air… essential oils ALONE will not magically solve all your health problems. They are not a silver bullet (read more: Why Essential Oils Are Not a Magic Wand)
I’m all for championing holistic alternatives where appropriate, and there is lots of exciting research into potential cancer cures. But, currently, there is no single oil or blend that is GUARANTEED to cure cancer. Likewise, there is no proof that using any essential oil is guaranteed to prevent cancer.
This is why it bothers me to see “essential oil blends for cancer” posted online. People are being led to believe that all they need is a bottle of frankincense oil. If only it were that simple!
But what about…?
I know people will protest “But essential oils don’t have nasty side effects like chemotherapy and radiotherapy!” and “But this person said they cured their own cancer using essential oils!”
Just remember that most of the people touting these “anti-cancer blends” on Facebook and Pinterest are SELLING essential oils – they are not aromatherapists. A professional aromatherapist would never tell a client they could cure cancer with essential oils.
It’s certainly feasible that there are “natural” cancer cures out there, and it’s exciting to consider how much more we’ll know in 20 years’ time. There has been research into the potential preventative role of limonene-rich oils for breast cancer, but we don’t currently know enough to extrapolate this into saying “citrus oils cure cancer”.
So yes, perhaps essential oils will be used to treat cancer one day. But, for now, there hasn’t been enough research. Let’s not jeopardise this potential by spreading wild and spurious claims about what essential oils can do. I really believe this kind of nonsense does more harm than good. Particularly if vulnerable people are lured away from receiving medical treatment they desperately need.
Pretty much all the “cancer-curing” essential oil advice you’ll find online is excessive and ridiculous, which only serves to reinforce the “quackery” connotation of aromatherapy that we’re striving to escape.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t investigate the potential curing effects of essential oils, but can we please share factual and balanced information – NOT outlandish claims?
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