Can Frankincense Oil Kill Cancer and Boost Immunity?
When Americans think of frankincense oil today they think back to the Christmas story. The gifts of the Magi – gold, frankincense, and myrrh – were carried a great distance specifically for the new King that their star-watching indicated. In the past, scholars and health researchers have mused and debated over them.
- Who were the Magi? What was the significance of the gifts?
- Were they for the infant Jesus or for a much bigger purpose?
- Did they give Him frankincense oil or just the resin?
In 2013, the University of Leicester conveniently published just before Christmas that has rekindled this theory. According to their press release, the Omani government-funded research has (for the first time) uncovered that frankincense has the ability to target cancer cells in late-stage ovarian cancer patients. And this all appeared to be due to AKBA (acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid). (1) According to lead researcher Kamla Al-Salmani,
“After a year of studying the AKBA compound with ovarian cancer cell lines in vitro, we have been able to show it is effective at killing the cancer cells. Frankincense is taken by many people with no known side effects. This finding has enormous potential to be taken to a clinical trial in the future and developed into an additional treatment for ovarian cancer.”
Boswellic Acid and Beta-Elemene
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It has become glaringly obvious that boswellic acid (BA) is a compound fit to kill cancer cells, and researchers have tested frankincense oil to determine if it can play a role in oncology.
However, ask any chemist and they will tell you that BAs are too large to pass the steam distillation process. Nonetheless, there are still bad essential oil studies that claim they are indeed part of frankincense oil. Subsequently, the jury is still out as to the exact mechanism(s) explaining why frankincense is so beneficial to cancer patients.
Advances in recent research suggest that Beta-elemene – a cancer fighting terpene found in frankincense and myrrh with the ability to cross the blood brain barrier – may be partly responsible. As stated by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center,
“Beta-elemene is a compound found in plants such as celery, mint, and in many others used in traditional medicine. Although the pure form is not used as dietary supplement, some cancer patients use herbs high in beta-elemene as treatment. Beta-elemene was shown to prevent growth of cancer cells in laboratory cells by different mechanisms. A few poorly designed studies done in humans showed that it may improve quality of life in cancer patients. It is unclear if raw herbs containing beta-elemene have the same effects in humans. More research is needed.” (2)
Some even suggest that the amount of β-elemene that frankincense and myrrh contain could very well explain why so many people claim that both oils have been instrumental to them beating cancer God's way. (3)
The healing benefits of frankincense have traditionally centered on disease prevention and anti-inflammatory properties, and researchers have been able to confirm that boswellic acids contain a potent ability to modify the immune system as well. (3) Part of having a more efficient immune system is the regulation of inflammation, as well, which can have effects topically or systemically. (4)
This is why it's important to supplement with Boswellia resins. Formulated by my friend Sunil Pai, MD Integrative Medicine expert and medical director of Sanjevani Integrative Medicine Health & Lifestyle Center, Bosmeric-SR™ is the strongest natural supplement for pain and inflammation support. Here are the specs:
- Clinically tested, this unique sustained release formulation of patented ingredients delivers superior absorption and release over an 8 hour period.
- Each bi-layered caplet delivers the highest dosages available of Curcumin C3 Complex® (curcumin longa) [250 mg]; Boswellin® PS (Polysal) – 35% boswellic acids + 10% AKBBA + 35% Polysal™ (boswellia serrata); and Ginger Extract (zingiber officinale) 20% Gingerols. In addition BioPerine® (piper nigrum) is added to further enhance bio-availability.
- These ingredients support inflammatory physiological response mechanisms which are critical to the health of the entire body and have been shown to play a crucial role in supporting cardiovascular, immune, neurological, gastrointestinal, joint and connective tissue systems.
- Research now suggest that most, if not all disease, begins with inflammation.
At the end of the day, once we know the basic properties of an herb, root and resin we are able to determine the best ways to utilize it. Let's take a closer look at what the components of frankincense mean for our daily lives…
Frankincense Cancer Research
Used because of its anti-inflammatory properties, the various Boswellia species have been a “go-to” or natural healers for centuries because of its ability to help with a myriad of health concerns like learning disorders, gastrointestinal dysfunction and skin conditions. New cancer research, has uncovered that the medicinal uses of frankincense can reach well beyond this.
While we do know that the various forms of frankincense (essential oils, extracts, pure resin, etc.) have the potential to fight cancer, much is left to be understood, making this a controversial topic in the natural health and research world.
Current research demonstrates anti-mutagenic and apoptotic (programmed cell death) abilities. Though the results have occurred in lab tests and we have yet to see how to best replicate these results in active cancer in humans, the demonstrated results remain. Researchers found that boswellic acids are “cytotoxic to ovarian cancer cells at pharmacologically achievable concentrations” and “may form the basis of a novel anticancer treatment for ovarian cancer, perhaps alongside conventional chemotherapy.” (4)
For those who have added frankincense oil to their cancer care plan, the benefits may go beyond anti-tumor effects. Conventional treatment is often still selected by patients, and can be more painful and difficult than the symptoms of cancer itself. Brain cancer patients, for example, sometimes experience swelling in the head called cerebral edema after their tumors have been removed. Steroid treatment is common but also associated with difficult side effects and complications.
Frankincense, on the other hand, has shown remarkable effects against this particular problem. In 2011, a clinical trial evaluating 44 individuals monitored high doses of frankincense resin as a remedy for cerebral edema. In 60% of the patients, the swelling was reduced by 75% or more. The concluding remarks called for frankincense to be prescribed for cerebral edema in these circumstances, avoiding the struggles of steroid therapy. (11) Whether the essential oil can help remains to be proven clinically. Nonetheless, applying diluted frankincense of cerebral edema is a common practice amongst essential oil users battling cancer.
Overshadowed the past several hundred years by its role in the “Christmas Story,” frankincense is finally getting the attention it deserves as one of the most viable healing agents on the planet. The journal Oncology Letters published an article late last year that highlights the ability of this Biblical tree to kill cancer cells; specifically the MCF-7 and HS-1 cell lines, which cause breast and other tumors. (12) The essential oil has also been used with much success to treat issues related to digestion, the immune system, oral health, respiratory concerns and stress/anxiety.
Another promising property of frankincense is its potential to fight cancer. In several studies, frankincense has demonstrated anti-cancer properties and the ability to mitigate many different kinds of cancer cells. (13) As more studies are conducted, the implications of this ability will be exciting to watch unfold!
Arguably the most potent medicinal EO out there, recent research studies suggest that frankincense not only kills cancer cells, but it also promotes health and vitality in neighboring non-cancerous cells! To help prevent getting sick and boost your immune system, simply follow the advice below and take some frankincense with a carrier oil!
An Important Note
Essential oils are transdermal and work at the cellular level, and each species has distinct properties that can help cancer patients. Also, please recognize that specific species that a given company sells will NOT be addressed in this article, and we cannot correlate these data to species that your favorite brand(s) may sell. However, the chemical constituents in various species are so similar, that it is quite possible that all of the species will contain similar properties.
Also, let's remember peer-reviewed articles discuss the success clinical researchers have experienced in using various essentials oils to prevent, stop and even reverse the growth of various cancer lines in animal and human cell studies. It is important to keep in mind that a vast majority of these studies are based off of cells in a petri dish. Subsequently, many experts and critics of using essential oils for cancer therapy insist that we cannot extrapolate the data from these studies to live, in vivo cancer patients. Even though there is merit to what these people say, let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. The burden of proof is on the critic in this case. Thousands of thousands of testimonials and case studies alone should awaken us to the realization that EOs can be quite effective in helping people with cancer.
With that said, I set out to see what some of my social media fans had to say about their personal experience with essential oils and cancer, and I conducted an informal survey…
So, to find out what cool testimonials were out there, I did a quick survey on Facebook. Below is find that image that I used, and this was my survey question:
Share your story!
Have you've experienced a “medical miracle” after using #frankincense #essentialoil?
I hear the stories all the time, and we'd LOVE to hear from YOU! 🙂
Abundant Life Testimonials
And these are just a FEW of the responses that I received! Overall, the response was quite overwhelming (in a good way!).
To read more about the abundant life giving benefits of frankincense check out my new article Ancient Healing Benefits of Frankincense.
H.K. Lin, PhD
In addition to being an Associate Professor Department of Urology (University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center), Dr. Lin is quickly becoming the essential oil research guru of the 21st century. He's actually a pretty big deal. His research on frankincense oil is unparalleled and he's been able to uncover some pretty profound findings such as:
- Frankincense oil derived from Boswellia carteri induces bladder tumor cell and Boswellia sacra does the same with breast cancer cells; meaning that they target cancerous cells by killing them and leave the healthy cells alone.
- Frankincense oil derived from Boswellia sacra represses signaling pathways and cell cycle regulators that have been proposed as therapeutic targets for cancer.
- Suppression of cellular network formation and disruption of spheroid development of cancer cells, suggests that frankincense oil derived from Boswellia sacra may be effective for advanced breast cancers as well as for cancer prevention.
Having already published several articles supporting the cancer-fighting characteristics of essential oils, Dr. Lin has set out to change the course of healthcare by developing scientific evidence to support the use of essential oils to fight cancer and other diseases.
Recently, Dr. Lin reached out to me via email with this message:
Dr. Zielinski, I just want to let you know we had a bladder cancer case report published by Integrative Cancer Therapies early this week. (14)
Based on university policy, I cannot be affiliated with any commercial company and cannot endorse any commercial product, I used a generic name in this report.
Along with our previous publications on frankincense oil, we have reported the following observations:
- Frankincense oil induces potent cytotoxicity in various types of cancer cells but not their normal counterparts.
- Unlike chemotherapy drugs, frankincense oil specifically targets tumor cells but not fast-growing cells. This might be “no observable adverse effects” using frankincense oil.
- Frankincense oil prevents cellular network formation of tumor cells.
- Frankincense oil causes the breakdown of multicellular tumor spheroids, which might be the cause of drug resistant.
- Frankincense oil simultaneously activates multiple signaling pathways including the caspase pathway leading to apoptosis. Is this similar to the use of “drug cocktails” in complicate diseases?
Based on we reported human case studies so far, we described the following observations in humans:
- Frankincense oil induces apoptosis of tumor cells.
- Frankincense oil does not have no noticeable adverse effects when appropriate dose is applied.
- Frankincense oil attracts infiltration of inflammatory cells to the tumor site with unknown mechanism.
A few months ago, the federal government announced a “Cancer Moonshot Cancer program” led by Vice President Biden. They vowed to conquer cancer using lots of resources and modern technologies. Unfortunately, no one is, or willing to, pay any attention on any botanical product; there is just no resource in this “forgotten” field.
All participants involved in the Cancer Moonshot Program described that they will have “solutions” for cancers few years later. However, my main concern is how about the people who are fighting against cancers now. Can we provide anything to do the help while they are dealing with the deadly disease?
More Than Just Cancer
People who have added Boswellia into their natural health cancer care plan may find themselves experiencing double-benefits from this miracle essential oil.
For many cancer patients, there's a time when the treatment becomes worse than the cancer itself. It is as this point that quality of life and symptom suppression is the focal point for many diagnosed with this deadly disease. Debilitating in-and-of itself, these cancer treatment side effect can make having cancer absolutely miserable.
Take, for instance, brain cancer patients who experience cerebral edema (swelling in the head) after having their tumors irradiated. Typically, these people are treated with dexamethasone and other corticosteroids to control the swelling, but this is done at a great cost because the deadly complications of steroids are limitless. Unfortunately, these people suffer toxic overload from the drugs that are supposed to help them in the first place and get headaches, migraines, and may even deal with blurred vision because of the steroid treatments.
Thankfully, frankincense offers a natural, viable solution to this horrible issue. Back in 2011, the journal Cancer published the results of a 44 person clinical trial evaluating how brain edema fared in brain cancer patients that were randomly assigned to radiotherapy. Astoundingly, 60% of the patients displayed 75% reduction or greater in cerebral swelling after being treated with 4200 mg/day of frankincense! (15) These results are so significant that scientists are urging the medical community to consider prescribing this potent essential oil instead of steroids for cancer patients assigned to radiotherapy.
We hope this spreads like wildfire within cancer treatment circles. Who knows what could happen if more people utilized this approach. As we've seen above, if Boswellia serrata can kill cancer cells and prevent tumors from growing, the sky's the limit for folks who follow natural health guidelines.
Frankincense and Immune Function
A growing body of research has recently unlocked the doors to our understanding of why frankincense is so beneficial to our health. In a study published by Phytotherapy Research, for instance, when mice took 1-10 mg of Boswellia serrata orally it was discovered that multiple levels of their immune systems were stimulated including: (16)
- Cytokines (interferon gamma, interleukin-4, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha)
- Delayed hypersensitivity reaction (early 24 hours, delayed 48 hours)
- Immunoglobulins (IgG and IgM)
- T-cell interactions (i.e. CD4/CD8, which are generally low in AIDS patients)
In layman's terms, frankincense can boost the immune system like no other! Two fundamental ways this is accomplished is by proliferating lymphocytes (white blood cells, which are the body's primary defense team) and by keeping inflammation at bay (which is arguably the primary risk factor for most chronic diseases). This may also explain why Boswellia serrata is so effective in treating autoimmune conditions like bronchial asthma, Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative colitis.
Implement frankincense into your natural health regimen today. The essential oil can be used in vaporizers with ease to treat respiratory conditions. A salve is effective for skin issues. And, an all-natural, organic supplement is fantastic for everything in between!
Frankincense Oil Recommendations
To help boost immunity and as a cancer prevention technique:
- Add 1 drop of frankincense oil in 1 teaspoon of carrier oil (like coconut), and consume first thing in the morning. This is not intended to be a longterm solution and should only be utilized for 2-3 weeks at a time. Discontinue use immediately upon signs of adverse reactions.
- Put 1-2 drops in a soft gel capsule to prevent esophageal irritation.
- Add 3 drops each of frankincense and myrrh oils to a diffuser.
And don't forget about taking Bosmeric SR!
To address tumor and malignant growths consider:
- Applying diluted frankincense on the tumor directly, and on the bottoms of your feet. 2 drops of carrier oil per drop of frankincense is a popular approach
Safety & Contraindications
Are you sure you're using essential oils safely and effectively? Are you confused by dilutions and conversions?
Let me help take out the guesswork and download my FREE roller bottle guide HERE.
When it comes to drug interactions and contraindications, there are literally textbooks devoted to the study of essential oil safety and, as a trained researcher and doctor, I think it’s important to note that there is virtually no research out there discussing how essential oils interact with drugs in human clinical trials. This means that essential oil safety is still a wild frontier in the science community and no one really knows (for certain) how essential oils will interact with drugs or your body.
Nonetheless, properly diluting your essential oils is fundamental to safety and effectiveness because they are highly concentrated plant compounds. To help you along your journey, I have a created an easy-to-use dilution guide that you can download for FREE to make sure that all of your topical applications are safe and effective for the entire family.
As with as medicine and natural therapies, this is only a guide and be sure to discontinue use if any adverse reactions occur and consult your physician immediately.
- Ammon HP. Boswellic acids in chronic inflammatory diseases. Planta Med 2006; 72(12): 1100-16.
- Bible History Daily. Why Did the Magi Bring Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh? Available at: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/jesus-historical-jesus/why-did-the-magi-bring-gold-frankincense-and-myrrh/.
- Khajuria A, et al. Immunomodulatory activity of biopolymeric fraction BOS 2000 from Boswellia serrata. Phytother Res 2008; 22(3): 340-8.
- Kirste S, et al. Boswellia serrata acts on cerebral edema in patients irradiated for brain tumors: a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind pilot trial. Cancer 2011; 117(16): 3788-95.
- Park B, et al. Boswellic acid suppresses growth and metastasis of human pancreatic tumors in an orthotopic nude mouse model through modulation of multiple targets. PLoS One. 2011; 6(10): e26943 [epub].
- Suhail MM, et al. Boswellia sacra essential oil induces tumor cell-specific apoptosis and suppresses tumor aggressiveness in cultured human breast cancer cells. BMC Complement Altern Med 2011; 11: 129.
- Takahashi M, et al. Boswellic acid exerts antitumor effects in colorectal cancer cells by modulating expression of the let-7 and miR-200 microRNA family. Carcinogenesis 2012; 33(12): 2441-9.
- University of Leicester. Christmas gift brings treatment hope for cancer patients. Available at: http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/press-releases/2013/december/christmas-gift-brings-treatment-hope-for-cancer-patients.
- Yuan Y, et al. Acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA) prevents human colonic adenocarcinoma growth through modulation of multiple signaling pathways. Biochim Biophys Acta 2013; 1830(10): 4907-16.
- Zhang YS, et al. Acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid (AKBA) inhibits human gastric carcinoma growth through modulation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. Biochim Biophys Acta 2013; 1830(6): 3604-15.
Dr. Lin's Publications:
- Frank, M. B., Yang, Q., Osban, J., Azzarello, J.T., Saban, M.R., Saban, R., Ashley, R.A., Welter, J.C., Fung, K.-M., and Lin, H.-K.: Frankincense oil derived from Boswellia carteri induces tumor cell specific cytotoxicity. BMC Comple. Altern. Med. 9: 6, 2009. PMID: 19296830.
- Wu, S., Patel, K.B., Booth, J.L., Metcalf, J.P., Lin, H.-K., Wu, W.: Protective essential oil attenuates influenza virus infection in MDCK cells. BMC Comple. Altern. Med. 10: 69, 2010. PMID: 21078173.
- Suhail, M.M., Wu, W., Cao, A., Mondalek, F.G., Fung, K.-M., Shih, P.-T., Fang, Y.-T., Woolley, C., Young, G., and Lin, H.-K.:Boswellia sacra essential oil induces tumor cell-specific apoptosis and suppresses tumor aggressiveness in cultured human breast cancer cells. BMC Comple. Altern. Med. 11: 129, 2011. PMID: 22171782.
- Woolley, C.L., Suhail, M.M., Smith, B.L., Boren, K.E., Taylor, L.C., Schreuder, M.F., Chai, J.K., Casabianca, H., Haq, S., Lin, H.-K., Al-Shahri, A.A., Al-Hatmi, S., Young, D.G.:Chemical differentiation of Boswellia sacra and Boswellia carterii essential oils by gas chromatography and chiral gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. J Chromatogr A. 1261, 158-163, 2012. PMID: 22835693.
- Ni, X., Suhail, M.M., Yang, Q., Cao, A., Fung, K.-M., Postier, R.G.,Woolley, C., Young, G., Zhang, J., and Lin, H.-K.: 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 Comple. Altern. Med. 12, 253, 2012. PMID: 23237355.
- Fung, K.-M., Suhail, M.M., McClendon, B., Woolley, C.L., Young, D.G., and Lin, H.-K.:Management of basal cell carcinoma of the skin using frankincense (Boswellia sacra) essential oil: A case study. OA Altern. Med. 1, 14,
- Lin, H.-K., Suhail, M. M., Fung, K.-M., Woolley, C.L., and Young, D.G: Extraction of biologically active compounds by hydrodistillation of Boswellia species gum resins for anti-cancer therapy. OA Altern. Med. 1, 4, 2013.