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Cancer Research – CBD & Essential oils

Introduction: This is part one of our review of all the latest peer-reviewed science publications regarding essential oils and their effect on cancerous cells. It’s REALLY QUITE EXCITING! So much has come to light in the last few years that we want everyone to understand, and incorporate in their aromatherapy practice as they are able. […]

Introduction: This is part one of our review of all the latest peer-reviewed science publications regarding essential oils and their effect on cancerous cells. It’s REALLY QUITE EXCITING! So much has come to light in the last few years that we want everyone to understand, and incorporate in their aromatherapy practice as they are able. We will get to information regarding research using specific oils like Frankincense, Lavender and the like, but please first follow our introduction, as it is important to give an overview of the current state of cancer and natural medicine research!

An Important Note About These Studies

All the research we will discuss is either ‘en vitro’ (meaning, essentially, performed in a test tube – rather than a live animal), or some being ‘en vivo’, meaning in this case in an animal (mouse, rat, etc.). None of the examination of the killing of cancerous cells using essential oils has been performed in humans. Why? Because there is no single group or company that can afford to have these long term, very expensive studies done. And even if the largest EO companies in the world could pay for them, they have no reason to do so, as they could not use the resultant information for their own profit.

The bottom line is that we will not anytime soon have FDA-Approved, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies using human beings because their is simply no source of funding these extremely expensive ventures. ‘Big Pharma’ is a multi-multi-billion dollar industry that relies almost solely on new “patentable” drugs for their income. You can’t patent a natural medicine – no one ‘invented’ it, so no one is going to pay for research needed for Western medical doctors to ‘prescribe’ essential oils (and other natural treatments).

Disclaimer – Please Read and Understand

BECAUSE these studies have only been performed in cell cultures (ie. the ‘petri-dish’) or in animals, the FDA does not allow a correlation to be made to the potential effects on cancerous conditions of humans. SO, be clear: This information has not been reviewed by the FDA, and it is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Informing the Public of This Research

Despite these tests not being done on humans, we believe it very interesting for both the clinical aromatherapist and “lay-practitioner” to know the data resulting from the World’s most state-of-the-art research in the area of essential oils and cancer. We ask that, in whatever way possible, you “share” this information (via Facebook, forwarding the newsletter, etc) to as many friends, family and other interested parties that you can. We’d appreciate this very much! SO, on to the science!

There is a HUGE body of evidence that essential oils are highly effective at ‘killing’ cancer cells ‘en vitro’, again translating loosely to “in the test tube”, or in most cases, in petri-dishes and cell cultures – both cancerous and healthy (as controls).

Medicine: East vs. West, the ‘Great Divide’

Plant materials haves long been implemented by the Eastern medicine community, along with other alternative approaches that differ greatly from the Western medicine ideologies of the modern world. Here we will simplify the differences between these approaches, and highlight some of the exciting peer-reviewed studies published in highly-regarded scientific journals that have been ongoing over the last decade. (Fortunately, research on cell-cultures is affordable enough that many ‘Eastern’ researchers are willing to take the time and effort to investigate the potential of natural, inexpensive alternative treatments – because their medical systems are not driven primarily by the profit motive, but rather the health of the patient(s), the “least expensive, most effective” way to cure anything, in their culture, is their greatest focus).

In truth, it turns out that perhaps both Western and Eastern approaches do hold some merit when tackling such an enormous problem, like cancer.

In the West, for cancer specifically, it has long been the approach of pharmaceutical interests that one single compounds (or one or more acting together) can directly target pathways that lead to either apoptosis (natural cell death, which does not happen naturally in cancer cells) or block cancer cell proliferation (prevent their spreading). That is to say, a single compound can be responsible for destroying selective cancer cells (apoptosis) or destroy the pathway responsible for creating more of the cancer cells (anti-cell proliferation). Although this westernized approach seems very reasonable it may be missing the target slightly.

And this IS THE Western approach, as it is the only way that any company could profit from the success of such chemical cures: They can be patented so the would be available, via prescription, ONLY from the company which invented/discovered them. (Honestly, we’re not ‘against’ this in any way – we truly hope they do ‘find a cure’ – we just believe the approach to be narrow-minded, in that it inherently eliminates EACH AND EVERY ‘already available’ natural compound available on the entire face of the planet).

The Single Compound Approach: Does it Make Sense?

What if the single compound approach is incorrect and a symbiotic relationship must be done to target the entirety of the body, not just single pathways responsible for apoptosis or anti-cell proliferation? More specifically, does the plant medicine world hold the key to targeting a problem using both the western and eastern approaches, by using the entire plant to study multiple compound’s interactions at once? This excerpt below from a Turmeric study on curcumin and it’s anti-cancer properties discusses this point eloquently.

“No natural agent has yet been described which modulates so many signal transduction pathways as curcumin does. Is that to our disadvantage? Probably not. Most cancer biologists are of the opinion that tumor cells use multiple pathways to escape host defense mechanisms. (Ed. Note: This is why we see such things as antibiotic resistance – an ‘organism’, or in this case a cancer cell, can “figure out” a way to get around one single threat, but is less likely to be able to do so from many such threats at the same time.)

Thus the drug which is specific for inhibition of one signal transduction pathway in the tumor cell may not be adequate. Finding a drug that attacks multiple pathways and yet is pharmacologically safe is difficult. Curcumin, however, is one such drug (cthat meets this criterion. The inability to patent curcumin, because of its natural occurance and well-established, long history of dietary use, prevents the involvement of pharmaceutical industry to examine this drug closely as a therapeutic or preventive agent. The structure of curcumin can serve as lead compound for the design of a better molecule that is also patentable. It is our hope that other nonprofit organizations see the value in this compound and provide the kind of evidence needed to help cancer patients.” [10]

Where the Research Stands Now: Now that we see the overall problem or perhaps better yet the solution or potential solution that essential oils or plant medicine could supply, let’s look at exactly the number of publications of recent years. Below is the exact number of studies based on essential oil research for each type of cancer. [4]

The number of recent publications in this space has exploded and over 200+ more studies since 2014 have been recorded on PUBMED that discuss essential oils and their anti-cancer potentials. These articles have all gotten mostly to the invitro phase of development, but some exciting in-vivo studies have slowly made it to the forefront of the research.

At Ananda, we have specifically helped provide our essential oils to a nursing study. This placebo-controlled study works with post breast cancer treated patients. We specifically provided Turmeric, Peppermint, Geranium, Black Pepper, Rosemary, and Ginger to be applied for 6 weeks.

Ananda provides an open mind in the space but the work still needs to be done clinically and our nursing alliance study proves this.

For more information on CBD and it’s robust network of cancer research please visit Project CBD’s Cancer Section.



Wester Medicine vs Eastern Medicine Image Source


[2] Andrade, Milene Aparecida, et al. “Anticancer Properties of Essential Oils: an Overview.”Current Cancer Drug Targets, vol. 18, 2018, doi:10.2174/1568009618666180102105843.

[3] Dimas, K., et al. “Labd-14-Ene-8,13-Diol (Sclareol) Induces Cell Cycle Arrest And Apoptosis In Human Breast Cancer Cells And Enhances The Activity Of Anticancer Drugs.”Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, vol. 60, no. 3, 2006, pp. 127–133., doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2006.01.003.

[4] Bhalla, Yashika, et al. “Anticancer Activity of Essential Oils: a Review.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, vol. 93, no. 15, 2013, pp. 3643–3653., doi:10.1002/jsfa.6267.

[5] Martin, Tracey. “ANTI-METASTATIC AND CYTOTOXIC PROPERTIES OF FRANKINCENSE AND SCENTED MYRRH.” Anticancer Research, vol. 35, 2015, pp. 4283–4370.

[6] Ni, Xiao, et al. “Frankincense Essential Oil Prepared from Hydrodistillation of Boswellia Sacra Gum Resins Induces Human Pancreatic Cancer Cell Death in Cultures and in a Xenograft Murine Model.” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, BioMed Central, 13 Dec. 2012,

[7] Implication of Limonene and Linalyl Acetate in Cytotoxicity Induced by Bergamot Essential Oil in Human Neuroblastoma Cells.” Fitoterapia, Elsevier, 23 May 2013,

[8] Dozmorov, Mikhail G, et al. “Differential Effects of Selective Frankincense ( Ru Xiang ) Essential Oil versus Non-Selective Sandalwood ( Tan Xiang ) Essential Oil on Cultured Bladder Cancer Cells: a Microarray and Bioinformatics Study.” Chinese Medicine, BioMed Central, 2 July 2014,

[9] Jaafari-Ashkavandi, Zohreh, et al. “The Effects of Frankincense on Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma Cell Line.” International Journal of Cancer Management, Kowsar, 1 Jan. 1970,

[10] Aggarwal, Bharat B., et al. “Anticancer Potential of Curcumin: Preclinical and Clinical Studies.”Anticancer Research, International Institute of Anticancer Research,

[11] RenPeng, et al. “Frankincense, Pine Needle and Geranium Essential Oils Suppress Tumor Progression through the Regulation of the AMPK/MTOR Pathway in Breast Cancer.”Oncology Reports, Spandidos Publications, 1 Jan. 2018,

[12] Multicenter, Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel-Group Study of the Efficacy, Safety, and Tolerability of THC:CBD Extract and THC Extract in Patients with Intractable Cancer-Related Pain.” Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, Elsevier, 5 Nov. 2009,

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