Essential Oils for Cancer

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Essential oils are extracted from the leaves, stems, roots, and bark of a plant by a process of steam distillation. The oils contain many active compounds and they are generally very potent. They can provide us with a whole host of health benefits, as long as they are used properly. Here are the most common ways you can use essential oils:


Inhalation of the Essential Oils

Oils can be inhaled from the bottle, from a tissue, or from your hand, or they can be put into a diffuser. Inhalation is a very effective way to use oils to boost the mood, induce relaxation, and treat physical issues. Take care to inhale the oils in a well-ventilated area as inhaling them in a confined space can lead to headaches and allergic reactions.

You can also do steam inhalation, which is effective if you have any kind of sinus or nasal congestion from a cold or other respiratory infection. Just put some hot water in a bowl or basin, apply up to 7 drops of oil, cover your head with a towel, keep your eyes closed and inhale the vapour.

Use Them as a Household Cleaner or Room Spray

The Oil Can Be Used Around the Home

Mix your chosen oil with water in a spray bottle and shake well to make a room spray or a spray for your linen. This method can also be used to create an effective household surfaces cleaner. Oils like tea tree oil and lemon oil will both get rid of germs and grime, and make your house smell wonderfully fresh.

Topical Application

Topical Application

Oils are commonly used in massage to boost health. Massage increases blood circulation which improves the absorption of the oil. Always dilute oils before applying them to the skin as it can cause sensitivity. Always test a small amount of oil on the skin of your upper arm before you use it on your body to check that your skin doesn’t react to it.

Add Some Oils to Your Bath

Add Them to the Bath

This is an effective way of treating the body and mind. Add up to 7 drops of oil to your bath and mix it well. Make sure you rinse the bath afterwards to remove any traces of slippery oil.

Safety First When Using Essential Oils

Never use them on the skin unless they have been diluted. Oils are very potent and this can cause sensitivity. Always do a patch test, especially if you are using an oil for the first time. Remember that some oils can cause sensitivity if the skin is exposed to the sun, so always wait for 24 hours before you go out in the sun if you have applied oils to the skin, especially citrus-based oils.

Seek advice from your doctor before using oils if you are taking medication, or if you have an existing health problem. This also applies if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Most oils are not suitable for children as their systems are more delicate in general.

Internal use of oils is not recommended, unless you are doing so under the guidance of a professionally qualified person. Some oils can be very toxic in certain doses, and you should always be fully appraised of the potential risks of ingesting an oil before you do so.



Cancer is a disease where cells in a specific part of the body grow and reproduce uncontrollably. The cancerous cells can then invade and destroy healthy tissue, including organs.

Cancer sometimes begins in one part of the body, then spreads to other areas, which is known as metastasis.

More than one in three people will get a form of cancer in their lifetime. The most common cancers are breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and bowel cancer.

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common type of female cancer. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over 50, but younger women can also get the disease.

About one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives, but there’s a good chance of recovery if it’s detected in its early stages.

This is why it is essential that women check their breasts regularly for any changes and report these changes to their doctor.

In rare cases, men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Symptoms of breast cancer

Breast cancer can have a number of symptoms, but the first symptom people tend to notice is usually a lump or area of thickened breast tissue.

Most breast lumps aren’t cancerous, but it’s always best to ask your doctor to examine them.

See your doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
  • discharge from either of your nipples, which may contain blood
  • a lump or swelling in either of your armpits
  • dimpling of the skin on your breasts
  • a rash on or around your nipple
  • a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as it poking inwards
  • Causes of breast cancer
  • What causes breast cancer isn’t fully understood, but some things are known to increase your risk including:
  • Increasing age, there is more risk as you get older
  • a family history of breast cancer
  • a previous diagnosis of breast cancer
  • a previous benign breast lump
  • being tall, overweight, or obese
  • excessive consumption of alcohol

Lung Cancer  

Lung Cancer  

Lung cancer is one of the most common and deadly types of cancer. Lung cancer mainly affects older people. It’s very rare in people younger than 40, and is most often diagnosed between the ages of 70-74. While people who have never smoked can develop lung cancer, smoking is the main cause of the disease, and it’s responsible for 85% of cases.

There are often no symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer, but as the condition develops, you may notice:

  • a persistent cough
  • coughing up blood
  • persistent breathlessness
  • unexplained tiredness and weight loss
  • an ache or pain when breathing or coughing
  • see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
  • Types of lung cancer
  • There are two main types of primary lung cancer.
  • non-small-cell lung cancer, which is the most common type and it accounts for more than 80% of cases.
  • small-cell lung cancer is a less common type which usually spreads faster.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and over 40,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs and you can have it for many years without knowing.

The prostate is a small gland in the pelvis found only in men.  It is about the size of a satsuma and it’s located between the bladder and the penis.

The main function of the prostate is to help produce semen.

The causes of prostate cancer are unknown, though certain things can increase your risk of getting the disease:

  • Being 50 or older
  • Being of African-Caribbean or African descent
  • If you have a very close male relative who has had the disease
  • Symptoms often only become noticeable when your prostate is large enough to affect the urethra, which is the tube that connects the bladder to the penis.
  • When this happens, you may notice an increased need to urinate, that you strain while urinating and you feel that your bladder has not fully emptied.
  • Bowel cancer
  • Bowel cancer is cancer that begins in the large bowel. Most people diagnosed with it are over the age of 60.
  • The main symptoms of bowel cancer are:
  • persistent blood in the stools or a change in bowel habits
  • persistent lower abdominal pain, bloating or discomfort that’s caused by eating and may be accompanied by loss of appetite or considerable unintentional weight loss
  • These symptoms can occur for reasons other than cancer but it’s still important to get them checked out.

Cancer Symptoms to Look out For


There are more than 200 different types of cancer, but many types produce the same symptoms in the body. It’s important to be aware of any changes to your body, such as the sudden appearance of a lump, blood in your urine, or a change in bowel habits.

These symptoms can be caused by other illnesses, but it’s important to see your doctor to make sure.

Look out for these symptoms:

  • Lump in your breast or elsewhere on the body
  • Coughing, chest pain and breathlessness
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • blood in your stools
  • diarrhoea or constipation for no obvious reason
  • a feeling of not having fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet
  • persistent bloating
  • blood in your urine
  • bleeding between periods
  • bleeding from your bottom
  • blood when you cough
  • blood in your vomit
  • a large irregular shaped mole on your skin which is crusty or that bleeds
  • unexplained weight loss

Reducing Your Risk of Cancer

Helps To Prevent Cancer

Making some changes to your lifestyle can reduce your risk of developing cancer. Eating healthily, taking regular exercise, and not smoking can all reduce your risk.

Cancer Treatment

Cancer Treatment

Surgery is the first line of treatment for most types of cancer, as solid tumours can usually be surgically removed.

Two other treatments are also very common, and they are:

  • Chemotherapy, which is potent cancer-killing medication
  • Radiotherapy, which is the use of x-rays to kill cancer cells.  the controlled use of high-energy X-rays



There are many different types of chemotherapy medications, but they all work in a similar way. They stop cancer cells reproducing, which prevents them from growing into tumours and spreading in the body. Chemotherapy might be used if a cancer has spread or there’s a risk it will spread.

It can:

  • try to cure the cancer
  • be combined with radiotherapy to make a more effective treatment
  • reduce the risk of the cancer coming back after radiotherapy or surgery
  • relieve symptoms if a cure isn’t possible
  • Types of chemotherapy
  • Chemotherapy can be given in a few different ways.
  • The most common kinds are:
  • chemotherapy given into a vein through a tube in your hand, arm, or chest
  • chemotherapy tablets which are prescribed and taken at home

Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Side Effects of Chemotherapy

As well as killing cancer cells, chemotherapy can damage healthy cells in the body, such as blood cells, skin cells and cells in the stomach lining. This can cause side effects such as:

  • feeling tired all the time
  • feeling sick and vomiting
  • hair loss
  • reduced immunity
  • a sore mouth
  • dry, sore, or itchy skin
  • diarrhoea or constipation
  • Radiotherapy

There are many different ways you can have radiotherapy, but they all work in a similar way. They cause damage to cancer cells and stop them from growing or spreading in the body.

Radiotherapy may be used in the early stages of cancer or after it has started to spread.

It can be used to:

  • try to cure the cancer
  • complement other forms of treatment such as chemotherapy
  • reduce the risk of the cancer coming back
  • relieve symptoms if a cure isn’t possible
  • Radiotherapy is one of the most effective cancer treatments after surgery.
  • Types of radiotherapy

The most common types are:

  • radiotherapy given by a machine, where beams of radiation are directed at the cancer.
  • radiotherapy injections, capsules, or drinks, where radioactive liquid is swallowed or injected into the blood.
  • Treatment is usually given in hospital. You can normally go home after external radiotherapy, but you may need to stay in hospital for a few days if you have radiotherapy injections.
  • Side effects of radiotherapy
  • As well as killing cancer cells, radiotherapy can damage some healthy cells in the area being treated.

This can cause some side effects, such as:

  • sore, red skin
  • feeling tired all the time
  • hair loss in the area being treated
  • feeling sick
  • losing your appetite
  • a sore mouth
  • diarrhea

Popular Essential Oils for Cancer

Essential oils for cancer

Some essential oils have been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Essential oils should to be used to complement conventional treatments and medical advice should always be followed. Here are some of the best essential oils for cancer.

Thyme Essential Oil

Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris)

Thyme is an herb commonly used for cooking and medicine. The ancient Egyptians used it for embalming, and the Greeks used it in baths and for incense.

The herb has been scientifically proven to have some amazing benefits. A 2010 study looked at the effect of a number of oils on breast, lung, and prostate cancer cells. It was found that thyme inhibited all 3 types of cancer cells and was found to kill cancer cells while preserving healthy cells.

Rosemary Essential Oil

Rosemary Essential Oil

Rosemary is an aromatic herb which is used for flavouring in cooking, controlling garden pests, and fragrancing toiletries. It contains some potent therapeutic compounds.

Rosemary has been found to have antioxidant properties, which help to protect against free radicals which damage cells and DNA.

A number of studies have shown that rosemary extract has powerful anti-tumour properties and one study found that rosemary oil at a concentration of 1% could inhibit more than 90% of ovarian and liver cancer cells.

Oregano Essential Oil

Oregano essential oil

Oregano is a common herb native which is native to the Mediterranean. It belongs to the mint family and it has a number of chemical compounds which give it its strong flavour and medicinal properties.

University studies have shown that a compound in Oregano called carvacrol can lead cancer cells to ‘commit suicide’ and it is as effective at inhibiting cancer cell growth as turmeric.

Oregano essential oil has been shown to stop the growth of colon cancer cells, and it also demonstrates effective actions on prostate, breast, and skin cancer cells.

Chamomile Essential Oil

German Chamomile (Matricaria Recutica) Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum Nobile)

Chamomile is one of the most ancient medicinal herbs known to man. The flower comes in 2 common varieties, German chamomile, and Roman chamomile. The dried flowers of chamomile contain many therapeutic chemical compounds, known as terpenoids and flavonoids.

Chamomile is used for many ailments, including hay fever, inflammation, insomnia, gastrointestinal disorders, and haemorrhoids. The most common form of chamomile people use is a herbal tea. Chamomile essential oil is a more potent version of the herb.

In cancer studies, a compound in chamomile called apigenin has been found to have an inhibiting effect on cancer cells. This effect was tested on skin, prostate, breast, and ovarian cancer.

Another study found that chamomile essential oil was able to inhibit cell mutation by 60–75% so it can play a role in both inhibiting and preventing cancer.

Frankincense Essential Oil

Frankincense essential oil

Frankincense essential oil is made from the resin or sap from the Boswellia tree. There are many different types of these trees in Asia and the Middle East, and each produces a different resin.  Frankincense has been used since ancient times as a medicine and in religious rituals. The main active ingredient in the oil, boswellic acid, is a potent anti-inflammatory.

Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine use frankincense to treat many health conditions including cancer. Western studies back this up, and have shown that frankincense essential oil and its extracts have potent antitumor activity. The oil was tested on bladder cancer cells, and the study also showed that the oil acted on the cancerous cells but not the normal healthy ones. Prolonged use of frankincense doesn’t appear to have any side effects either.

As well as inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, essential oils can also help with the side effects of traditional cancer treatment. For example, many brain cancer patients experience brain swelling after having radiotherapy, which is usually treated with strong steroid medications. A study carried out in 2011 showed that frankincense essential oil can is a much safer alternative to this medication. In the study, brain swelling had reduced in 60% of patients who used the oil.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.