The Benefits of Frankincense in Supporting Cancer Care

aromatherapy cancer care supportive therapies May 03, 2023
Supporting Cancer Care

Cancer care needs support to address the whole individual. Cancer touches many of us in some way. We've known someone, lost someone, or experienced it ourselves. Those experiencing cancer or walking through a cancer diagnosis with a loved one know that several concerns can face a person who receives a cancer diagnosis. Holistic therapies can be part of a plan by helping to reduce anxiety, stress, and discomfort. Supportive therapies may bring balance and comfort in challenging situations. 

Many healthcare organizations, such as outpatient oncology centers, integrate holistic modalities into a care plan for well-being. Aromatherapy is one modality showing great success in many cases. Sadly, aromatherapy is not typically part of a cancer therapy plan.

Aromatherapy Should be Available as Part of Your Care Plan

Studies show that aromatherapy can provide relief for a variety of symptoms in patients with a cancer diagnosis. Although essential oils have few adverse effects, there is little information about the effectiveness of individual oils for specific symptoms. Many studies point to symptom relief when properly using aromatherapy as part of a patient's care plan.

Safety First

If essential oils are a part of your care plan, they must be done so by those aware of safety guidelines. Integrative services, like aromatherapy, must be governed under department or organizational policies to guide the practitioner and ensure patient safety. Practitioners using essential oils must obtain special education and training before sharing in a patient plan of care. 

Evidence Supports Aromatherapy in Cancer Care

Clinical Aromatherapy uses essential oils primarily through inhalation on a tissue or with an aromastick. Essential oils are the plant's life essence, and oils contain naturally occurring chemical constituents that contribute to a healing balance. Upon inhalation of an aroma, the aromatic molecules move from the olfactory system to the limbic system in the brain. Aromatherapy is helpful to calm or uplift a mood.

Three systematic reviews of more than 40 studies involving more than 3000 patients found that aromatherapies using essential oils relieved various physical and psychological complications. Reports identify Lavender, Ginger, Sweet Marjoram, and Mandarin essential oils to reduce pain, anxiety, and nausea and improve sleep.


Specific Benefits of Frankincense

Laboratory studies show that some essential oils effectively kill or stop cancer cells. There is evidence for several essential oils, such as Orange (Citrus sinensis), Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and Frankincense (Boswellia carteri). 

Reports show Frankincense has the most significant amount of research on cancer care. Several studies have shown how the constituents of Frankincense can cause death to tumor cell lines. For example, the research identifies how boswellic acids may kill cancer cells. Limonene and alpha-pinene, other constituents found in Frankincense, can support the immune system.

In addition, Frankincense (Boswellia carteri) oil may benefit cancer treatment-related concerns by relieving symptoms in patients, such as reducing cortisol, balancing inflammation, preventing skin damage, promoting calm and relaxation, easing mental fatigue, and reducing anxiety, depression, and stress.

One case study used Frankincense and Lavender essential oils in an inhaler to relax and calm a patient undergoing complex radiation treatments. In another case study, a patient with pancreatic cancer receiving intravenous chemotherapy was experiencing extreme fatigue affecting their quality of life. The patient was instructed to use a 5% dilution of frankincense oil compounded with coconut oil. The patient applied the oil mixture to the feet twice daily, reducing fatigue and improving energy within 24 hours.


Support Your Whole Being with Aromatherapy

An illness like cancer can lower the body's frequency. Holistic therapies assist the person back to balance and raise the body's energy vibration. Many supportive therapies, such as aromatherapy, have reduced treatment side effects such as nausea, mood changes, and discomfort. 

Frankincense has taken the lead in the amount of research done in cancer care, both in the laboratory and with case studies. The action of Frankincense may be related to its anti-inflammatory activity.

Consider using Frankincense essential oil as part of a plan for symptom management. Diffusing Frankincense oil with Orange oil has shown benefits for cancer patients. Consider this combination in an inhaler to uplift the spirit and calm emotions.

The online course, Supporting Cancer Care with Essential Oils, is full of information with evidence on several essential oils to support the person going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Learn ideas on using aromatherapy safely and confidently for yourself or someone you care for.


This blog is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical, mental health, or healthcare advice.  Although Debra Reis is a Clinical Nurse Specialist licensed in the state of Michigan, she is not acting in that capacity here. Debra Reis is acting as a holistic educator and consultant, not as a licensed medical health professional or in her professional capacity as a Clinical Nurse Specialist. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness, medical condition, or mental or emotional condition. Working with us is not a guarantee of any results. Debra Reis, Wellness Services, LLC owns all copyrights to the materials presented here unless otherwise noted.


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