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October 30, 2015 4 min read

Frankincense has become a “hot button” of sorts around the aromatherapy community recently with many touting claims of curing cancer and other diseases. Recently on more than one occasion I was told that drinking Frankincense would cure cancer. On another occasion, I had a friend tell me she heard that cancer could be cured with Frankincense after discovering someone close to her has cancer.

Like everyone else, cancer has affected me in some way whether it is a friend, a family member, or a friend’s family member. I know some survivors and unfortunately lost others to it. I have even lost loved ones to cancer. It is a terrible disease and affects everyone in some way.

While I do believe that when Frankincense is used safely, it can be a wonderful healing aid for our body, I have to be honest. I want to believe that there is something out there that can cure cancer, but I want to see the proof. Not the claims.

Frankincense Essential Oil

For many centuries, Frankincense has been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine using the resin or gum from the trees it is found on. In regards to essential oil, the resin or gum from the tree is steam distilled to create Frankincense. There are several different species of Frankincense and each species has varying properties and chemical constituents to consider. Due to the nature of each species and each batch that is distilled, the many chemical constituents that make up each can vary in their percentages. Each of the chemical constituents combine to make a wonderful healing synergy that is specific to that batch and that specific species for the essential oil created.

Common Species

Boswellia carterii: This species typically shows a high amount of alpha pinene. As far as its potential properties, they include skin healing, immune stimulating, and tension relief properties. Depending on how it is use and any synergistic blends created using Boswellia carterii, it displays other wonderful properties.

Boswellia frereana: This species has a noticeable amount of alpha pinene similar to the carteriiand offers a few differing properties when compared to the Boswellia carterii species. Some of its potential properties include anti-inflammatory, menstrual pain relief properties, and can be calming to the digestive system. This is also a great one to blend with other oils during colds affecting the respiratory system.1

Boswellia serrata: This species of Frankincense has a high amount of alpha thujene different that the two previous mentioned species. The serrata has a much more appealing smell that is worth mentioning as well. The resin for this species has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for a long time, although the essential oil has varying uses that are not as widely notated.2

There are more species than just these three, so I encourage you to do your research to learn more. For now, this will give you a small base of information.

Does Frankincens Cure Cancer

The Research

The actual research on uses and properties of Frankincense is ongoing. Some of this research is even noted in Schnaubelt’s “The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils.” In regards to antitumor and chemopreventive effects, those are mentioned on page 158. Before you get too excited, here is the information you really need to know. The specific research mentioned  was related to Boswellia carterii’s alpha- and beta-boswellic acid acetate that were isolated and used in high doses via injection to cancerous cells and topical applications to the skin of animals.3 There are other studies regarding Sandalwood (Santalum album) and Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) that show potential using high doses of specific isolated components of those oils.4 There is more research being conducted and also some published articles of the research, but it all shows the same findings. Only in high doses of specifically isolated constituents, were any effects potentially antitumoral. 

Here is something else to note, boswellic acid is too heavy of a chemical component to be found in any essential oil. The same is true of the other components that have been tested. In fact, the boswellic acid is only obtainable by special processes like that of creating a tincture or other herbal remedy using the resin. Another important fact to note is that all of these studies have not been carried out on humans. Therefore, we can not even begin to assume that this new research using components not found in essential oils will absolutely work.

Can Frankincense Cure Cancer?

So when you hear something as fantastic as “Frankincense can cure cancer,” always do your research. For now, I will leave you with this message from Dr. Pappas who makes it clear to those who want to hear the truth. “Essential oils will not cure cancer.5” Based on all of the research I have poured over, I tend to agree with him. While essential oils may be helpful in some capacity to cancer patients, there is no definitive proof with our current research that Frankincense or any other essential oils specifically can cure cancer.


 Cited Information:

1Tisserand & Young. Essential Oil Safety. Pages 287-288

2Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Science:

3Schnaubelt. The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils. Page 185

4Chinese Medicine:

5Essential Oil University Facebook page: