Monday, 10 September 2012

Essential oils and cancer

Essential oils are best known for their antiseptic and immunostimulant properties.

Perhaps the most suprising thing in essential research is the lack of investigation of the anti cancer effects of essential oils. No one would suggest such research could provide a cure for cancers or anti cancer properties can be routinely claimed for essential oils. However essential oils use may well throw light on useful lines of enquiry for researchers.

Essential oils are mixtures of upto 300 small chemicals.  The steam distillation process limits the molecular weight of these chemicals to some 440.  They are composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.  Some constituents are really tiny.  So it is more correct to say a study of some essential oil constituents may throw light on anti cancer properties.  If it were a matter of particular essential oils or their major chemical constituents there would have been progress long ago in identifying what essential oil constituents have anti cancer effects and in understanding why.

There are plenty of signposts from users of essential oils pointing to an anticancer effect.  Not only in the late medieval herbals when essential oils were the state of the art tools of medicine but today in the reports of practising aromatherapists using essential oils as alternative treatments.

Speaking at Imperial College in May 2012 Robert Tisserand described work on brain tumours in Brazil with essential oil constituents apparently being used to shrink tumours.

Medicine uses naturally occurring substances in the treatment of brain cancer.  For example 140 uranium sources are used to create a focussed beam of energy to smash the DNA of cancer cells and eradicate a tumour.  There is no reason to suppose that equally discriminating chemical means cannot be employed to focus on the removal of tumours once we understand the biology, chemistry and the physics involved.

The science required is an understanding of the chemical intelligence of the body and how DNA actually works.  Viruses hold clues.  Viruses commandeer the cells they invade to create more viruses.  We know certain chemicals including antibiotics are carcinogens and can turn cancer genes on.   The day to day working of body tissues, why inflammation rises, how cells communicate at the molecular level - all this is needed.  Already an impressive list.

Unfortunately because of the economics of identifying essential oil constituents and patenting them progress in this area is patchy with no clear way ahead.  Why spend time on essential oil research if the result cannot be patented?  The research required is of a pure disinterested nature and cannot be left to the market. The not for profit sector funding cancer research can be of great assistance here. 

Science has a better understanding of why cancer genes can lie dormant and then be switched on.  If a gene can be switched on then it can be switched off.  With a better understanding of the chemistry of what switches cancer genes on comes closer the day when they can be switched off by chemical means.

Science also has a better understanding of essential oils.  It is now commonplace to analyse the essential oils being used and to source essential oils as close to the date of their first distillation as possible as well as using whole unprocessed oils.

It is possible to survive cancer and there is no doubt diet plays a vital part.
Here is the excellent work of Jane Plant.

Cancer incidence by age

Cancer support

Ian Brealey


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