Essential Oils for Cancer: What You Need to Know

Aromatherapy. Noun. The use of aromatic essential oils through massage, baths, and diffusion to improve upon health and well-being.

“Yeah, right” is probably a common thought people have upon hearing about aromatherapy for the first time.

In all honesty, the claim that essential oils can heal everything from anxiety to immune system problems seems more magical than medical ­— but there may be something to it.

The use of essential oils is becoming increasingly popular as DIY's from Pinterest and natural health movements slowly take over the world. However, it's far from a new phenomenon; humans have been using essential oils for over 5,000 years. A brief history lesson: Ancient Egyptians used juniper oil, cedar oil, frankincense, and myrrh in the mummification process. During the Roman empire, essential oils were used for both healing and spiritual purposes; in fact, the baby Jesus was given gifts of frankincense and myrrh. Aromatic massage and the medical use of hundreds of essential oils have been important in India for several millennia.

[caption id="attachment_67076" align="alignnone" width="704"]Frankincense and myrrh Two of the most historically important resins, frankincense and myrrh.[/caption]

The list goes on. In many cultures, it was thought that aromatic oils carried both medical and spiritual value. Proponents of aromatherapy still make these claims today. Many even claim that essential oils have the ability to treat cancer.

But the cold, hard truth? There isn't a lot of research on essential oils and how they interact with cancer, so we don't know with 100% certainty if they work or not. Despite the historical prominence of essential oils, few scientific studies have been conducted on the effects of aromatherapy on actual humans (i.e. not on mice or cells in a petri dish). More studies need to be done in order for us to draw concrete conclusions. For this reason, aromatherapy seems to be a game of he-said-she-said; some swear by it, others curse its name, and still others remain ambivalent.

Looking at the effects of aromatherapy is complicated. The results of aromatherapy are subjective because of the psychology of the sense of smell. Scents carry strong emotional bonds based on experiences and memories. For example, if your grandma's house smelled like peppermint, your stress levels may decrease during an aromatherapy session with peppermint oil. However, it may simply be because the smell brings back good memories and not because of the inherent benefits of the essential oil. 

Even so, chemotherapy takes a lot out of a person. Issues such as fatigue, pain, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, dry skin, and chemo brain can abound, and that's not to mention the stress, anxiety, and depression that can come from cancer. Is there a chance that aromatherapy can help with chemo side effects? Can it fight cancer altogether?

The good news is, even though we do not know the effects of aromatherapy for sure, there is evidence that certain essential oils have the ability to aid ailments and that there is, at the very least, a possibility that they can fight cancerous cells. Either way, you'll have an excuse to get a massage. Let's take a closer look.


Recommended Essential Oils for Cancer Patients:

[caption id="attachment_67075" align="alignnone" width="704"]Rosemary essential oil Rosemary Essential Oil[/caption]

Frankincense: Although research is limited, there is some evidence that this essential oil may be able to boost the immune system and fight cancer. Frankincense can also aid in skin care and help reduce stress.

Chamomile: Chamomile is another essential oil that may have the ability to fight cancerous cells. Additionally, it can help to soothe anxiety and depression; and relieve pain.

Rosemary: In addition to cancer-fighting properties, rosemary can improve the memory and soothe soreness. It may even aid in hair growth.

Lavender: This essential oil is rich in antioxidants, gentle and is incredibly versatile. Lavender oil can help to heal the skin, soothe pain, and calm the mind.

Rose: Another gentle essential oil, rose oil has been shown to combat depression and keep the skin healthy, among other uses.

Eucalyptus: Due to antioxidants and antiseptics, eucalyptus oil has the ability to remove toxins. It can help relieve pain, heal sores, soothe colds, and act as a decongestant.

Ginger: Ginger is well known for its ability to soothe gut-related issues such as diarrhea, constipation and nausea because of its antiseptic properties.

Peppermint: Like ginger, peppermint is also known for its ability to aid in digestive problems. Peppermint oil has also been shown to relieve headaches, sharpen focus and mental clarity, and increase energy.

Basil: Basil is an antibacterial essential oil that can help to soothe colds and increase energy by stimulating the nervous system.


Essential oils to aid chemotherapy side effects:

[caption id="attachment_67079" align="alignnone" width="704"]Eucalyptus essential oil Eucalyptus Essential Oil[/caption]

Dry skin: Lavender, frankincense, rose

Fatigue: Peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus

Nausea: Peppermint, ginger, lavender

Diarrhea: Peppermint, ginger, chamomile, rose

Constipation: Ginger, peppermint

Pain: Lavender, chamomile, eucalyptus, rosemary

Chemo brain: Peppermint, basil, rosemary

Stress, anxiety, and depression: Lavender, rose, frankincense, chamomile

Cancer Fighting: Frankincense, rosemary, chamomile

How to use essential oils

  1. Diffusion

    [caption id="attachment_67080" align="alignnone" width="704"]Ultrasonic Mist Diffuser Ultrasonic Mist Diffuser[/caption]

    There are several methods of diffusion, but we recommend mist diffusers. These work by turning water into cool mist that diffuses the scent of essential oils throughout the room. They are incredibly easy to use; simply fill the diffuser with water (there is usually a “fill-to” line) and add 3-4 drops of essential oil. Turn on the diffuser, and you're done.

  1. Massage

    Either go to an aromatherapist, or mix a small amount of carrier oil, such as coconut oil, with a couple drops of essential oil and gently massage it into your skin (or have your significant other give you the massage). When applied directly to the skin, you only need to add 5-11 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil.

  2. Bath

    Mix a carrier oil, such a coconut oil or sweet almond oil, with essential oil, using 5-11 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil. Place the mixture in the bath while the water is running; the aroma will diffuse and your skin will receive the benefits of the oils.

    [caption id="attachment_67074" align="alignnone" width="704"]Aromatherapy Bath Pro-Tip: Don't invite your cat to your aromatherapy bath.[/caption]


Important notes before you begin:

[caption id="attachment_67085" align="alignnone" width="704"]Coconut Oil Coconut oil is a popular carrier oil.[/caption]

-Essential oils MUST be diluted

You only need a few drops to reap the benefits of the essential oils. Some essential oils may burn or damage the skin if used directly because they are so concentrated. Instead, add a couple of drops of essential oil to a vegetable based carrier oil, such as coconut oil, sweet almond oil, avocado oil, Argan oil, or olive oil. 

-Ask your physician before you start aromatherapy

Always ask a doctor before you begin aromatherapy, especially if you have any preexisting conditions. Not every oil works well for every person, and you may harm yourself if you do not take proper precautions.

-Test oils before you use them

Place a small amount of diluted essential oil on your forearm and wait a day. If your skin reacts, becomes red, or breaks out, do not use that oil again.

-Do not use essential oils if you are pregnant

The use of certain essential oils may complicate the pregnancy.

-Do not ingest essential oils

Many essential oils are not safe to eat.

In the end, essential oils probably aren't the magical, cure-all solution that is often presented as on the internet. However, they may be able to help you – even if the only benefit is a nice smell.

Have you tried aromatherapy? Did it help you? Which scent is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below.