The Role Frankincense Essential Oil Plays in Cancer Care

aromatherapy cancer care immune support inflammation Feb 13, 2022
Cancer patient and essential oils, frankincense resin

Inflammation - Cooking from the Inside Out

We’re living in a fast-moving world with many stressors. Stress causes a release of a chemical hormone called Cortisol, which is the main culprit in producing inflammation in your body, causing illness and possibly disease states such as cancer. Inflammation is similar to a “slow burn” within your body.

You are probably familiar with the outward signs of inflammation, such as redness, swelling, and discomfort seen after a trauma or injury. Still, we don’t always recognize internal signs of inflammation.

Earlier or more subtle signs of internal inflammation include stomach bloating, indigestion, constipation, and gastric reflux. These are related to the body, primarily the liver, unable to clear the toxins moving through the digestive system.

Causes of Inflammation

Diet: Our modern diet offers plenty of processed food, high sugar, and carbs that increase your insulin levels and put your immune system on high alert. A perfect medium for inflammation.

Environment: Over the last 50 years, we have poured chemicals into our food, water, ground, and air. These are toxic to your system and difficult for your body to clear, and the accumulation can add to or create an inflammatory process.

Stress: A significant source of inflammation, creating chaotic feelings in our body and adding fuel to that internal fire or inflammation. The stress response causes cortisol release, which has a huge role in inflammation and affects your immune system. 

Anxiety and depression are stressors on your body, creating inflammation (1). There are other types of stressors surrounding you in your workplace and home which you may overlook. For example, chemicals in the air, your food, water, and personal health care products can intensify this inflammation process. Maybe you take medications that contain chemicals that can create more stress and inflammation in your system. Stress, injury, diet, environment all contribute to inflammation overload. Experts say that inflammation is the root of all (or most) illnesses. Yet, we take medications to suppress the inflammation versus correcting or healing the concern.

Researchers link depression and stress to an increase in inflammatory markers in the blood.
~Lee & Guiliani (2019), Frontiers in Immunology

Inflammation and the Cancer Connection

As mentioned, inflammation is the root of most (if not all) illnesses, including cancer. Inflammation is an acidic condition within the body that can promote an environment for cell breakdown and disease. Cancer may arise when the body is under stress - physical or emotional. Some experts report that 25% of cancers are related to emotional stress (2), and over 30% of cancers have a connection to environmental stressors (exposure to toxins).

Many cancers relate to our health habits, including diet, lack of exercise, and even obesity (National Cancer Institute). A cancer cell is a cell that has lost its behavior memory. The body's natural defenses can't keep up with the cancer cell replication, causing inflammation and disease manifestation. 

Health is a relationship between you and your body.

~Terri Guillemets

Essential Oils Support The Cancer Care Plan

Diseases such as cancer create an acidic state or lower frequency within the body. Essential oils are alkaline and may benefit a health plan by bringing balance into the body.

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), and Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). The essential oil with the most research connected to cancer is Frankincense (Boswellia carteri). One theory is that Frankincense may reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body, thereby breaking the inflammation cycle. 

Frankincense Essential Oil Takes the Lead

Many studies done on the constituents of Frankincense identify how it causes 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, support the immune system. We must be careful not to assume that this action will occur with the whole essential oil. However, several case studies support frankincense essential oil as a complement to a plan for well-being. One good use of Frankincense oil was in the relief of chemotherapy-related fatigue. (3) Several case studies support the use of frankincense oil to ease comfort, which may be related to its anti-inflammatory activity.

In closing, frankincense has many studies for its benefits in cancer care. Much research is on the chemical constituents versus the entire essential oil. Other essential oils such as Orange and Lemon (Citrus limon) contain limonene and support the immune system. However, it’s Orange oil which has many studies related to its benefits in cancer care, especially for comfort and relaxation. 

Frankincense oil alone or in combination with another oil is used in an inhaler or diffuser to provide comfort or uplift a mood. Consider using frankincense 2-3 drops in a teaspoon (5 ml) of a lotion and apply topically on the feet to support your immune system and cool the flame.

I share more information about inflammation, the cancer connection, and aromatherapy remedies in my online course, Supporting Cancer Care with Essential Oils

For more information, click the button below.


  1. Lee & Guiliani (2019). Frontiers in Immunology
  2. Payne (2014). Stress & Inflammation.
  3. Reis et al. (to be published 2022). Cancer Nursing.

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