Does Frankincense Have Anti-Cancer Properties?


Does Frankincense Oil Have Anti-Cancer Properties?
Have you heard the latest about Frankincense oil?
We hadn’t … until people started coming into the moon haven cottage looking for Frankincense oil to help them deal with various cancers.


While I knew that the oil was excellent for a whole list of conditions, cancer was not normally one of them.
So I decided to look into the claims by sourcing the original research and analyse exactly what the clinical results meant.

I’m A Sceptic -I Need To See Proof

You see, I’m a sceptic… I’m reluctant to accept what “people”, “the internet” and popular belief tell me.
I have to satisfy myself, before I pass the information on to our Moon Haven family, that what I am being told is based in fact.
This is important, as so many of our clients rely on what my team and I recommend to them. We have to be so sure that the information we pass on is accurate and effective.

Checking The Facts

Clinical trials on extracts of Frankincense Resin show some promise

So when I started to hear the buzz about Frankincense Essential Oil I immediately hit PubMed and my scientific journal resources.

The results of my research surprised me.

Resin vs Oil

You see, most of the research deals with the anti-cancer effects of the resin of Frankincense (and its close cousin Myrrh).

The clinical trials and tests found that frankincense resin contains compounds that have been found to be helpful in colon, breast, prostate and ovarian cancers.

Unfortunately frankincense essential oil was not found to be helpful in killing cancer cells in humans – other than in a test tube environment  where direct exposure of high concentrations of the oil to the cancer cell was possible.

Are We Being Misdirected?

I am sorry if I sound like I’m squashing the idea of using essential oils for treating cancer but I feel that so many of our clients have been misdirected.

If I was facing a specific cancer diagnosis…

If I was facing a bowel, ovarian or colon cancer then  I would definitely be finding out as much as possible about using the resin (and NOT the oil) of Myrrh and Frankincense and how these may be useful in treatment.

Of course I would be using Frankincense Essential Oil to help me with my stress and anxiety, to assist with boosting my immunity and help to deepen my breathing and oxygenate my blood.

If you would like to go deeper into my reasoning, I have summarised and referenced the  research I have undertaken on this subject below

The Research – Links, References and Conclusions

researchI have completed some preliminary research on this subject and provide references to the original clinical trials and the article published in the journal “Cancer” with regard to the treatment for brain swelling in brain cancer patients below.


  1. Volume 117, Issue 16, pages 3788–3795, 15 August 2011 (The full article can be found at
  2. And again when the university of Leicester found that Boswellic Acid was also instrumental in destroying ovarian cancer cells.
    In 2013, Leicester University researchers announced findings that AKBA (acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid), a chemical compound in the resin, has cancer-killing properties and has the potential to destroy ovarian cancer cells. The lead researcher from the University’s Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine announced the findings after a year studying the AKBA compound with ovarian cancer cell lines in vitro that showed it is effective at killing late stage cancer cells. Kamla Al-Salmani noted that among surprising findings were that some cells that had become resistant to chemotherapy were killed during the in vitro study.
  3. The efficacy of AKBA as a potential medicine for treatment of cancers (colon, breast and prostate) has been tested. The results are based on the preliminary and unverified findings of the laboratory study, which marked the first study to identify an ability to fight ovarian cancer. It is in early stages and, as of 2014, yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal

Boswellic Acid found in Frankincense Resin found to be the anti-cancer compound for ovarian cancer

In the above  cases the beneficial effects were attributed to a component of Frankincense “Boswellic Acid” which can be extracted from the resin but not the essential oil.

Boswellic acid not found in Frankincense Essential oil

Unfortunately Frankincense Essential oil does not contain any Boswellic Acid and so would not, I’m afraid have the same effect as taking the resin in whatever form it was given in the studies. Apparently this was the  extract H15 of the standardised gum resin from the species Boswellia serrata taken in capsule form.

You can see more on the extracts here along with dosage and indications.

Frankincense and Myrrh

As with Frankincense Resin so it is with Myrrh Resin.  The active anticancer properties are mainly to be found in the resin and not the essential oil.
Having said this ..there is some ability of the complete essential oils to interfere with the growth of cancer cells in vitro…that is in the test tube.

The study link is below.

Frankincense and Myrrh Essential Oil

Composition and potential anticancer activities of essential oils obtained from myrrh and frankincense Oncol Lett. 2013 Oct; 6(4): 1140–1146.

Published online 2013 Aug 8. doi:  10.3892/ol.2013.1520


This clinical study isolated specific cancer cell lines (for very specific cancers) placed them in a test tube and exposed them to a high concentration of the distilled oils .  It was found that myrrh had a more detrimental effect on the cancer cell lines than frankincense.

In vitro versus taking an essential oil orally

Unfortunately there is a significant difference between an invitro  trial and one where a substance is taken orally.  Anything that has to travel through the digestive system and then be absorbed into the body is exposed to a number of physical and chemical changes before it is absorbed into the blood stream for distribution .  So that the chemical ingested is highly unlikely to be the chemical that is delivered into the blood stream.

I hope this helps to clarify some of the hype surrounding the anti-cancer effects attributed to Frankincense Resin and Oil.
Of course if you have any questions or would like further information  please email me.

Til next time -Leonie of moon haven

This article was written by Moon Haven’s aromatherapist and founder Leonie Gully and as such represents her personal opinion on the given subject.

Subscribe to the Moon Haven Newsletter where each month Leonie and the Moon Haven Team share articles just like this one plus fill you in on all the happenings at the Moon Haven Cottage.
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While any advice provided is general in nature, it is not intended to replace medical diagnosis or treatment.  If you are at all concerned about your condition, it is important that you do consult your medical practitioner of choice for an individual consultation and treatment plan.



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