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Anticancer Activities of Myrrh & Frankincense

Are Myrrh & Frankincense really effective against cancer?

So, I have heard the praise of how Frankincense kills cancer cells and I do believe it works but what I had not heard is just how well Myrrh works. In fact in some types of cancer Myrrh was found to be even more effective.

One such study was published in:
Oncology Letters 2013 Oct; 6(4): 1140–1146.
Published online 2013 Aug 8. doi:  10.3892/ol.2013.1520

"The present study aimed to investigate the composition and potential anticancer activities of essential oils obtained from two species, myrrh and frankincense, by hydrodistillation.

The effects of the two essential oils, independently and as a mixture, on five tumor cell lines, MCF-7, HS-1, HepG2, HeLa and A549, were investigated using the MTT assay. The results indicated that the MCF-7 and HS-1 cell lines showed increased sensitivity to the myrrh and frankincense essential oils compared with the remaining cell lines. In addition, the anticancer effects of myrrh were markedly increased compared with those of frankincense, however, no significant synergistic (both oils together) effects were identified."


MYRRH - Commiphora myrrha has a yellow oleo-gum resin that exists in its stem and is used worldwide for the production of myrrh, particularly in China and Egypt. The constituents of myrrh, include volatile oil (2–8%), resin (23–40%), gum (40–60%) and bitter principles (10–25%). Previous studies have shown that myrrh exhibits cytotoxic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antiparasitic and hypolipidemic activities ().

FRANKINCENSE - is an aromatic resin obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia and has been hypothesized to exhibit a number of health supporting properties, including the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal and anticancer activities (). According to previous studies, the constituents of frankincense oil vary according to the climate, harvest conditions and geographical sources of the frankincense resin ().

Notably, these two resinous drugs  (essential oils) are always prescribed simultaneously in traditional Chinese medicine and are primarily administered for the treatment of blood stagnation and inflammation diseases, as well as for the relief of swelling and pain (). A previous study identified that the combination of frankincense and myrrh oils exhibited synergistic effects on Cryptococcus neoformans and Pseudomonas aeruginosa().

The present study investigated the chemical composition of hydrodistilled frankincense and myrrh oils from Ethiopia. In addition, the anticancer activities of the prepared essential oils against the MCF-7, HepG2, HeLa, HS-1 and A549 cell lines were investigated to determine whether synergistic effects were observable in vitro. The results illustrated that certain cells (MCF-7 and HS-1 cells) demonstrate increased sensitivity to the two essential oils, and the anticancer effects of myrrh is superior to frankincense. No synergistic effect was observed.

In the present study, the constituents of the essential oils of myrrh and frankincense were identified to include monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, alcohols and esters.

Using cancer cell apoptosis induction trials, previous studies have identified that specific components of myrrh and frankincense essential oils are capable of inducing cancer cell apoptosis. For example, sesquiterpenes (found in these two essential oils) have anticancer activities that are likely to arrest the proliferation of prostate cancer cells in the G0/G1 phase (). In addition, β-elemene (also found in these two oils) has been reported to show pharmacological effects (,).  Notably, the cell lines were more sensitive to β-elemene, indicating that β-elemene is important for the antitumor activity of the frankincense and myrrh essential oils.


Using both Myrrh and Frankincense in your fight against cancer is a very important part of your anti-cancer regime.


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