Alternative Therapies: Essential Oils Show Promise in Cancer Research

By Harriet Bliss

The Concerns of Cancer Make Top News

At the top of the list of American concerns is most likely the development of cancer. Headlines from magazines, newspapers and websites denote a rise in cancer among young and old alike. Concerns vary from cancer being an inevitable death sentence, to how to pay for this disease if diagnosed, as well as how to choose from the myriad of methods in preventing the development of cancer in the first place.

Another shift in headline news is alternative treatments to often expensive and sometimes invasive forms of health care. More and more individuals are seeking ways to gain freedom from dependence upon pharmaceuticals, intensive scans and often impersonal treatments to both body and soul.

Essential oils are non-invasive and a highly effective method of treating ailments and supporting overall good health. These plant extractions are low in cost compared to often overarching methods of modern medical treatment and can be used safely by all ages.

This paper specifically addresses the rising interest of essential oils in research, specifically on the effectiveness in preventing and treating cancer. It also addresses how essential oils when used in conjunction with conventional cancer treatment can decrease the side effects of these modern methods.

What really is Cancer?

Cancer in general terms is growth of abnormal cells. The mechanism (found in the mitochondria of the cell) to stop the growth of the cell is interrupted or turned off. Once this process begins, these abnormal cells either invade or replace normal tissue. Such a process can occur within any parts of the body.

There are two main groupings of cancer cells: solid and non-solid. Cancers that form in solid tissues like the liver, bone or brain are solid, whereas cancers that do not form solid structures and proliferate in the blood and lymph systems, such as leukemia and lymphomas are of course non-solid in nature.

Causes of cancer formation within the body can originate from various sources. Most cancers are now attributed to an unhealthy lifestyle; dietary choices such as a diet rich in processed foods; genetics, as well as hazardous chemical exposure either though air, water or direct contact.

According to a 2005 paper produced by the American Cancer Society , over one million new cancer cases were expected to be diagnosed in the United States alone. According to this publication, cancer is the second leading cause of death, taking the lives of one in four Americans.

Essential Oil Research

With the rising cost of orthodox medical care and the escalating interest of Americans to seek alternative treatments to bodily ailments, medical researchers are expanding their interests to other forms of potential treatment, specifically essential oils.

European medical practitioners have used essential oils as part of their treatment regime for years, even centuries. Yet, it has only been in the last few years that essential oils have gain recognition and heightened awareness by American medical researchers for their remarkable medicinal properties.

A Look at the Current Research

Numerous studies looking at various essential oils on the cytotoxic (their ability to kill cancer cells) properties of cancer cells have been conducted. The results are promising and hopeful. In the last three years alone, studies have found isolated compounds in essential oils to have noticeable cyotoxicity on cancer cells.

In 2007, a study published in the September/October Anticancer Research jounal performed at the University of Calabria, Italy, noted that essential oils from the Lauraceae families inhibit human tumor cell growth in vitro (out of living cells, such as in a test tube or Petri dish) environments. In the January 2006 Journal of Ethnopharmacol, University of Quebec, Canada researchers identified compounds in the leaf essential oil of Croton flavens L. that are cytogentic against tumor cells.

Published in the February 2009 Natural Product Communications, University of Alabama researchers found compounds within the leaf essential oils of Oreopanax nubigenus, and Schefflera rodrigueziana (plants found in Costa Rica) that showed notable in-vitro cytotoxicity. A recent study conducted by Canadian researchers found aromatherapy with essential oils, such as balsam poplar, when combined with Taxol (a chemotherapy drug) increases anti-tumor activity more than four times.

The above studies had similar conclusions - essential oils have effective anti-cancer properties. It is also evident that essential oils can increase the effectiveness of conventional cancer treatments as well as reduce their side effects. Such findings are stirring and of great value to the future of medical research and caner treatment. - 30540

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