Frankincense and Colon Cancer

Frankincense and Colon Cancer

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There have been some promising studies (sources below) done lately on what, if any, effects frankincenseco2 extract has on colon cancer. All these studies were conducted via a petri dish- not on live humans or live anything.

Now this is NOT frankincense essential- this is something else. yes, it is extracted from the same resin and smells similar and its uses are similar but its chemical constituents-the chemicals that that are is ‘makeup’ are different in some profound ways. It has some chemicals in it that do not exist in the essential oil and it is produced differently.

two of the cited research papers claim to have distilled frankincense oil containing, 0.1% – 3% boswellic acids (Ni et al 2012, Suhail et al 2011). Even if this was true, it only happened in the lab – there is no commercially produced frankincense oil that contains any boswellic acid.

So if anyone is trying to peddle their wares at you (or the world at large) by saying that frankincense essential helps with colon cancer- they are wrong. It has been studied right along the extract and it does not have the same properties nor the same effects on colon cancer cells.

In other words frankincense oil DOES NOT contain boswellic acid – the antitumoral active ingredient in frankincense gum resin and the extract.


There are several boswellic acids found in frankincense gum resin, and they have molecular weights in the 450 – 500 range. However, volatile molecules – those capable of evaporation – all have molecular weights below 300. It cannot be distilled, that is, steam lifted and deposited into a bottle, its too heavy. So it must be extracted.

So how do we use the extract to help? Well first either get permission from the team of doctors that your clients is probably seeing to use the extract in your massage practice with the client. if the client is still going through either chemo or radiation the health team may say no and you will have to wait for permission. if your client is not having those treatments or is done with them then adding the extract into your practice should be safe.

Make sure you are diluting the extract.

if you are wanting an essential oil or extract help treat cancer, look to turmeric/curcumin, to cannabis/cannabinoids, to garlic/garlic oil, and to frankincense Co2 extract (finding the extract may be hard, there are some capsules and a few companies selling the co2 extract in a bottle).

Following that, I would consider essential oils of cinnamon bark, lemongrass, citronella, orange, lemon and bergamot. Some of these CANNOT be used during radiation, in fact unless you have a better understand of essential oils, do not use any during cancer treatments.


Ahmed, H. H., Abd-rabou, A. A., Hassan, A. Z., & Kotob, S. E. (2015). Phytochemical analysis and anti-cancer Investigation of Boswellia serrata bioactive constituents in vitro. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, 16, 7179–7188.

Chen, Y., Zhou, C., Ge, Z. et al (2013). Composition and potential anticancer activities of essential oils obtained from myrrh and frankincense. Oncology Letters, 6(4), 1140–1146. doi:10.3892/ol.2013.1520

Dozmorov, M. G., Yang, Q., Wu, W., Wren, J., Suhail, M. M., Woolley, C. L., Young, D.G., Fung, K.M., Lin, H.K. (2014). Differential effects of selective frankincense (Ru Xiang) essential oil versus non-selective sandalwood (Tan Xiang) essential oil on cultured bladder cancer cells: a microarray and bioinformatics study. Chinese Medicine, 9(1), 18.

Frank, M. B., Yang, Q., Osban, J., Azzarello, J.T., Saban, M.R., Saban, R., Ashley, R.A., Welter, J.C., Fung, K.M., Lin, H.K. (2009). Frankincense oil derived from Boswellia carteri induces tumor cell specific cytotoxicity. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 9, 6.

Fung, K., Suhail, M., & McClendon, B., Woolley, C., Young, D.G., Lin H.K. (2013). Management of basal cell carcinoma of the skin using frankincense (Boswellia sacra) essential oil: a case report., 1(2), 1–5.

Hussain, H., Al-Harrasi, A., Al-Rawahi, A., & Hussain, J. (2013). Chemistry and biology of essential oils of genus boswellia. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: eCAM, 2013, 140509.

Ni, X., Suhail, M., Yang, Q., Cao, A., Fung, K.M., Postier, R.G., Woolley, C., Young, G., Zhang, J., Lin H.K. (2012). Frankincense essential oil prepared from hydrodistillation of Boswellia sacra gum resins induces human pancreatic cancer cell death in cultures and in a. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 12, 253.

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