Frankincense essential oil and cancer: Why EOs and chemotherapy don’t always mix

My friend just started taking chemo for colon liver cancer and she was taking therapeutic Sacra Frankincense from Young Living before she started. I read somewhere that you should not take the essential oil with 5FU if you are taking it for skin cancer because it will drive it in the skin deeper and make the chemo 10 times greater. That sounded good to me, but for some reason they say not to use Frankincense with 5FU. Since she has colon liver cancer, and not skin cancer, should she just rub it on her feet and side, stop taking it, or take it internal, or not at all. I am not sure how to direct her at this time, but she has heard so much good about the Sacra Frankincense killing the cancer cells. Any help or suggestions would be welcomed and appreciated. Also, have you heard anything about stopping essential oils when you are on chemo. Someone also said, stop 2 days before your treatment and then start back 9 days later. My friend takes chemo for three days in a row using a pump and then 14 days later she starts again, so it gives her no time to use her oils.

My thanks,
Patti F.

Hi Patti,

Many essential oils have protective & antioxidant effects on our cells, and there is a reasonable chance that they will do the same for cancer cells – protect them from the chemotherapy – which of course would not be a good thing. This opinion is shared by many. It probably sounds odd – you’re thinking that frankincense oil should kill cancer cells and not protect them – but the only evidence for killing cancer cells (apart from one skin cancer report) comes from a few lab tests when high concentrations were used.

Moderate amounts of EO will not kill cancer cells, but could protect them. And taking large amounts of essential oil could very well interfere with the chemotherapy itself, by increasing or decreasing the concentration of drug-metabolizing enzymes in the liver. By causing a chemo drug to be metabolized more quickly, you reduce the duration of its effect. On the other hand if you inhibit its metabolism you reduce the efficacy of the drug. Neither of these is desirable, and chemo drugs are very carefully dosed for each patient.

For all these reasons, I suggest avoiding essential oils for one week before until one month after chemotherapy. After that time, frankincense oil may help with recovery of white blood cells, as also spearmint, dill and other essential oils.

Incidentally, almost all of the research on frankincense and cancer is on the extract, which contains boswellic acid, and not the essential oil, which does not. Frankincense extracts contain around 50% boswellic acid, which is a widely-studied antitumoral agent. However, getting such remedies to the target site in sufficient concentration to be effective is a challenge.


Thank you so much for the info and for taking the time to help in this matter. I will let her know to immediately stop the Frankincense until she is finished with the chemo.


Learn more about Frankincense essential oil and cancer here:

By | 2017-03-03T17:50:59+00:00 March 26th, 2015|Q & A, Safety|15 Comments

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  1. PJ March 26, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    My friend treated at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and her oncologist had no problem with her using Frankincense EO topically while she was having intravenous chemo. During her first round without the Frankincense the tumors continued to multiply all over her body plus she was very sick and could hardly function. During her second round she used the Frankincense EO topically on her feet and topically in all the areas she knew there were tumors. She felt great and had little side effects. After 5 weeks all the tumors from the neck down were gone and the ones on her brain shrunk 30%. I know what I would be doing and it does not include chemo.

  2. Audrey Li March 26, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    Hi there, I would like to know if the same applies to radiotherapy. Thank you.

  3. Alicia March 27, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Hi, I found your response very informative and eye opening. Question, what do you suggest with people who are drinking NingXia Red while on Chemo? I have one friend whose daughter’s blood levels rebounded rapidly after each session of chemo for Leukemia, leaving her MD’s stunned. Since the NingXia Red has Orange, Tangerine and Lemon I would like to know your thoughts before suggesting this to others on Chemo. Thanks so much.

  4. robert March 28, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    Thank you for your comment PJ, and your account could be very useful and encouraging if you could provide some detail, such as how long ago this happened, what the diagnosis was, where the primary and secondary tumors were, what the chemo protocol was, what happened in between the two sessions of chemo, how much frankincense oil was used, in what dilution, and over what period, and how your friend is doing now.

  5. robert March 28, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    Hi Audrey, yes exactly the same applies to radiotherapy.

  6. robert March 28, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    Alicia, it’s difficult for me to comment as I don’t know mow much essential oil is in this product, or how much was being taken. In any event I would always suggest consulting with the oncologist before using essential oils or a herbal supplement, especially one which is a powerful antioxidant. Rebounding white blood cells is great, really, but that’s not the only consideration.

  7. Charles April 2, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Hi Robert, thank you so much for such an informative post. I was hoping you could help – I understand that your recommendation for using oils is 1 week before and 1 month after the chemo treatment which makes great sense, but what could I offer in the case when someone is using chemo for daily for the rest of their lives, and also want to use the oils to address some other symptoms?

    She is looking to use oils to help with her sleep and mild depression only, and not looking to interfere with her cancer treatment which is daily chemotherapy taking Sprycel due to Chronic Mylogenist Leukemia. She has discussed with her doctor and decided to address the sleep issue naturally. Would you recommend using oils in this case?
    Thank you for your time!

  8. robert April 4, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    Hi Charles, essential oils that could interact with Sprycel are CYP3A4 inhibitors These include blue (German) chamomile, blue tansy, yarrow and possibly peppermint and cornmint, so I suggest not using these oils – anything else should be fine in regard to interactions. Otherwise, light use of EOs topically or from diffusion should be fine. Essential oils that have showed in vitro activity against myelogenous leukemia cells include clary sage, Deodar cedarwood, Atlas cedarwood and lemongrass. Marjoram, Australian sandalwood and holy basil oils may also have some activity due to their constituents.

  9. Christine August 13, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Hi Robert –

    Can you advise what oils you recommend for those wishing to prevent the re-occurrence of cancer? Specifically breast? Having finished treatment and receiving a clean bill of health, I would love to know what oils you recommend to be used and how often, topically. I have been using Helichrysum for the scars with apricot and evening primrose. I also use frankincense, myrrh and rose otto as an all over body oil every evening to help with hormonal balance and per-menopausal symptoms. Thank you.

  10. robert August 17, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    Hi Christine, here’s a recent facebook post that addresses your question and also a blog post

  11. Mun September 1, 2015 at 12:07 am

    Hi Robert,

    Is it safe to apply diluted sacred frankincense around the eye areas of a 7 year-old kid everyday, hoping that it can alleviate her ever increasing degrees of short-sighted problem?

    Thank you!!

    Kind Regards,

  12. Lisa Harris September 1, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Hi and thank you for this post. I have a friend who is aggressively treating breast cancer-both breasts removed as well as lymph nodes, and is undergoing chemo at this point with radiation to follow in a couple of months. I am looking to help her with the deep bone ache and also have an anti-germ blend (a light 1%) to help ward off sickness. She has had prior thyroid cancer and has difficulty with inhalation so I’m trying to stick with topical application. She is allergic to oranges, which is disappointing after reading the recent article. I don’t want to inhibit her chemo treatment with the use of essential oils but would really like to help with the pain. Any ideas appreciated!! Thanks!

  13. Tammy September 2, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    My dad has been taking F5U since March and takes the frankincense in a capsule 2X’s a day throughout his entire treatment. He also rubbed it on. He had stage 4 incurable cancer that they were going to treat with chemo just to prolong his life. He started frankincense 3 1/2 weeks before chemo and now after 6 treatments of chemo his CT shows there is no visible sign of cancer. They are doing 6 more treatments in case there are microscopic cells. He will be done with the chemo at the end of Sept but he will continue to take frankincense. There are also medical oncologists in our health system that support the use of frankincense while taking the chemo. So there are definitely varied opinions out there. Gotta do what feels right for you. It is your life after all!

    • San February 5, 2016 at 6:38 am

      Hi Tammy,

      Can you please explain how many drops were taken in a capsule and how many times a day? My father has been diagnosed with cancer in liver, lungs and throat. Please any answer would be highly appreciated, he starts his first chemo today.

  14. Amy September 5, 2015 at 6:36 am

    Hi Robert – I am new to essential oils and must admit I’m intrigued but am not very knowledgeable. My mother was diagnosed with mucinous adenocarcinoma colon cancer a month ago. We are going to the oncologist on the 8th. I have no idea of stage or treatment yet. However, I do know there is metastatic adenocarcinoma in 4 of 19 regional lymph nodes removed. There is also an abdominal wall tumor which is mucinous adenocarcinoma, invading skeletal muscle and fat consistent with metastasis from the primary tumor in her colon. There is also spread to her appendix which was removed during surgery along with the right side of her colon. The tumor on her abdominal wall was removed but not all of the cancer was. She then developed a strep infection in her incision post-op and now has that wound to heal. I am extremely interested in using frankincense to help treat the cancerous cells left in her abdominal wall muscle and fat along with her wound prior to chemo/radiation treatment. What would be your recommendation for doing that?

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