Posts tagged: myrrh

Frankincense And Myrrh Essential Oils Found To Suppress Multiple Cancers In Lab Studies

Frankincense And Myrrh Essential Oils Found To Suppress Multiple Cancers In Lab Studies
Frankincense And Myrrh Essential Oils Found To Suppress Multiple Cancers In Lab Studies. Graphic © Photo © Shutterstock 176330732 (under license)

Here’s some fascinating research just notified to us by our esteemed friends over at Eden Prescription: Scientists have demonstrated that Frankincense and Myrrh Essential Oils suppress multiple cancers in lab studies. [1]

In the most recent in vitro study, the essential oils of both frankincense and myrrh were shown to potently suppress human breast cancer, lung cancer, cervical cancer, liver cancer and skin cancer – slashing growth rates by at least 50% at surprisingly low concentrations!

Myrrh was the most potent cancer killer of the two, and breast cancer cells were the most easily killed by both essential oils. But how do these medicines of the ancients stack up against other known anticancer herbs?

It turns out that this has already been tested: A fascinating 2009 study [2] compared 374 herbal extracts against neuroblastoma and found that frankincense and myrrh ranked in the best 15 of all 374 extracts! They easily outperformed green tea, oregano, garlic, sage, ginger, rosemary, olive leaf and many others.

I dug this study up and thought the results were worth listing: The “top 15” herbs out of the 374 in the study, in order of potency against neuroblastoma were randomly dispersed across the plant kingdom:

1. Wild Yam Dioscorea villosa (Dioscoreaceae)
2. Bloodroot Sanguinaria canadensis (Papaveraceae)
3. Teasel Dipsacus asper (Dipsacaceae)
4. Balsam Poplar Populus balsamifera (Salicaceae)
5. Frankincense Boswellia carteri (Burseraceae)
6. Guar Bean Cyamopsis psoralioides (Fabaceae)
7. Buckthorn Rhamnus cathartica (Rhamnaceae)
8. Creosote Bush Larrea tridentate (Zygophyllaceae)
9. Blue Evergreen Hydrangea Dichroa febrifuga (Hydrangeaceae)
10. Alkanet Root Batschia canescens (Boraginaceae)
11. Burning Bush Kochia scoparia (Chenopodiaceae)
12. Yellow-fruit Nightshade Solanum xanthocarpum (Solanaceae)
13. Sweet Myrrh Opoponax chironium (Umbelliferae)
14. Blue Cohosh Caulophyllum thalictroides (Berberidaceae)
15. Dryopteris crassirhizoma (A type of fern) (Dryopteridaceae)
16. Malabar tamarind Garcinia cambogia (Clusiaceae)
17. Chaste Tree Vitex agnus-castus (Verbenaceae)
18. Dragon’s Blood Calamus draco (Arecaceae).

Other studies indicate positive results for Frankincense: Earlier research (2006) found cytotoxic effects of frankincense-derived compounds against neuroblastoma – with 15 of the 18 compounds demonstrating potent cytotoxic activities in vitro. [3]

A 2011 study found that the action of Frankincense Essential Oil was selective against breast cancer cells, whereas normal human breast cells were more resistant to essential oil treatment! The researchers concluded that Frankincense (Boswellia sacra) essential oil should be tested for safety and efficacy as an actual therapeutic agent for treating breast cancer. [4]

Frankincense and myrrh are the dried resin (sap) from small trees (closely related to each other) that grow in the Middle East and Northeast Africa. Frankincense and myrrh are most commonly used in incense – and widely available as incense and essential oils, in soaps, skin lotions, aromatherapy, body scrubs and are even found in a rubbing oil for the prevention of cold and flu due to their potent antibacterial and antiviral properties!

They’ve also been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years; for relief from pain, fever, coughing, sore throat, swelling, and digestive problems.

Safety / use note: Please note that in general, in vitro studies (i.e. lab studies conducted on cell cultures) such as these do not demonstrate that the substances tested are in any way safe or effective to use medicinally.

It is also not ascertained to what extent the active compounds from the herbs would survive digestion / skin absorption and make it to the places in the body where they would need to go to work, however positive in vitro results are the first indicators that further trials might be conducted with a view to the creation of new medicines.

Some of the substances mentioned may be available as herbal products but for legal reasons we have to “cover our butts” and can make no actual medicinal recommendations as to their use. We do not claim that ingestion of the substances tested is either safe or effective.

It does appear however from the studies that frankincense and myrrh show very interesting potential for investigation as potential cancer medicines.

Further Reading: Check out also our full herbal research pages on Frankincense and Myrrh Essential Oil.


[1] Composition and potential anticancer activities of essential oils obtained from myrrh and frankincense. (2013) Oncol. Lett.

[2] In vitro screening for the tumoricidal properties of international medicinal herbs. (2009) Phytother Res.

[3] Cancer chemopreventive effects and cytotoxic activities of the triterpene acids from the resin of Boswellia carteri. (2006) Biol Pharm Bull.

[4] Boswellia sacra essential oil induces tumor cell-specific apoptosis and suppresses tumor aggressiveness in cultured human breast cancer cells. (2011) BMC Complement Altern Med.