How essential oils can support cancer patients in their wellness journey through aromatherapy.

Cancer and Essential Oils: How to Leverage Aromatherapy in Your Wellness Journey

Welcome to our detailed exploration of how aromatherapy can support wellness for those impacted by cancer. This blog will delve into the soothing world of essential oils, offering you insights on how these natural wonders can enhance your quality of life, alleviate symptoms, and provide comfort during challenging times.

Understanding Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy involves the use of essential oils extracted from plants to promote physical and psychological well-being. Historically, civilizations have used the aromatic properties of plants for healing and spiritual practices. Modern aromatherapy combines these ancient traditions with contemporary science to understand how the fragrances from essential oils can influence our mood and health.

Understanding the Relationship Between Cancer and Essential Oils

Cancer patients often endure various symptoms like pain, insomnia, anxiety, and nausea due to both the illness itself and its treatments. Aromatherapy doesn’t cure cancer, but it can significantly assist in managing these side effects. Essential oils, such as lavender for relaxation and peppermint for nausea, provide non-invasive support alongside conventional treatments.

Choosing the Right Essential Oils

When selecting essential oils, quality and purity are paramount. Here are a few commonly used oils in cancer care:

  • Lavender: Known for its calming effects, it’s ideal for reducing stress and improving sleep.
  • Peppermint: Helps in reducing nausea and improving digestion.
  • Ginger: Another excellent choice for nausea and also aids in reducing inflammation.

Always ensure your oils are 100% pure and consult with a professional to avoid any adverse reactions, especially when undergoing treatments.

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Methods of Using Essential Oils

Essential oils can be used in several ways, including:

  • Topical application: Diluted with a carrier oil and applied to the skin.
  • Inhalation: Breathing in oils through a nebulizing diffuser.
  • Direct inhalation: Sniffing directly from the bottle or a cotton ball.

Each method serves different purposes and should be chosen based on personal comfort and specific health goals.

Interview with a Cancer Patient

Meet Julien Griffault, who has been battling testicular cancer and using aromatherapy as a complementary treatment. Here’s what Julien shared with us:

photo of Julien Griffault, a cancer survivor

Organic Aromas: Julien, it’s a pleasure to talk to you. Your journey has inspired and encouraged many people from all walks of life. Briefly share your background with us; where were you born and where did you attend school?

Julien: It is so nice to speak with you as well. My family traveled quite a bit while I was growing up. My parents are French, and I was born in New York. So far, I have been fortunate to live in the US, Italy, Holland, France and even spent a few years in Mauritius. I went to both high school and university in Paris, France.

Organic Aromas: Awesome. When and how did you find out that you had cancer?

Julien: I found out I had cancer in November of 2018. I had been experiencing some abdominal pain and swelling for quite some time and believed it to be an ulcer. I had been to several doctors, but no one really knew what to make of this swelling in my abdomen. Eventually a full scan was done along with a biopsy.

Several weeks later the results came back, it was testicular cancer which had spread to my abdomen, liver, kidney, and neck. My wife and I were devastated. I was 42 years old.

Organic Aromas: Why did you decide to make your journey with cancer public?

Julien: I started a small website as a form of personal therapy. Writing can be very helpful especially when you are in a hospital bed for long periods of time. You see, up until that moment I had lived what most would consider to be a very healthy life. I ate an all-organic diet, took vitamins and minerals specific to my needs and even did regular detoxification procedures.

What I was not tending to was my emotional and mental health. I was stressed, bitter, angry, and blaming everyone outside of myself for my unhappiness. Cancer came as a major wake up call to make a change.

So, one part of the site is personal reflections on why I feel cancer came into my life, what I have learned so far. The other is more practical where I talk about many of the alternative therapies I followed in addition to intensive chemotherapy. Getting a cancer diagnosis is quite terrifying. I hope what I share can help someone else one day.

Organic Aromas: In your online cancer resources, you share a lot of information about using essential oils when battling cancer. How has using these oils helped in your journey? Also, does essential oil quality and method of application matter?

Julien: I have been using essential oils for well over 15 years now. I used to be a massage therapist and they were a big part of my sessions. Essential oils have supported me so much in my healing journey. I used them daily, especially when I was stuck in the hospital.

I used essential oils for immunity support, for nausea relief and for emotional support among others. Somehow it felt comforting to inhale some of those precious oils, especially during the more difficult moments.

Quality is crucial. If you are not able to use high quality, pure essential oils then might as well not use them at all. This applies to anyone but especially those with lowered immune systems.

Once applied to the skin it takes less than 15 minutes for the oils to enter the bloodstream and for their frequency and properties to affect every cell in the body. You want clean oils without any additives, even if you only intend to use them in a diffuser.

I like to apply oils to the bottom of my feet, my wrists, and the back of my neck. It is important to be aware of the ‘heat’ of each essential oil. Some oils like clove or cinnamon are very ‘hot’ and can burn. Oils need to be diluted properly. They are highly concentrated so less is more.

My overall favorite thing to do is diffuse essential oils. Using a Nebulizing diffuser that uses only essential oils, no water, no heat, just pulsed air. This is key to enjoying all the benefits of your high-quality oils.

Organic Aromas: In your experience, what are the 5 best essential oils for cancer patients and why? 

Julien: Great question. I can’t speak for everyone but here are 5 best essential oils for cancer patients based on my experience.

Cypress. This one may come as a surprise, but it was probably the most helpful. You see when I was undergoing Chemotherapy, I would experience sudden and abundant nosebleeds. Applying a few drops of Cypress to my wrists and the bridge of my nose helped stop the flow within a couple of minutes. I always had it with me.

Frankincense. I applied this powerful essential oil undiluted to tumor areas and ears daily. I also took several drops under my tongue regularly. That is another reason to only buy the highest quality oils. When you are dealing with cancer you need to be quite aggressive and support the body on multiple levels. Several studies have shown frankincense to be effective against certain cancer cells.

Frankincense is also anti-inflammatory (which is so important for cancer patients), supports circulation, promotes skin health, and even supports proper digestion. The ears have acupressure points that connect to every part of the body. Massaging them with an essential oil helps to support and stimulate internal organs. This has similar benefits to rubbing your feet with oils.

Peppermint. It is no secret that chemotherapy patients experience horrible nausea. I had a very strong chemotherapy regimen, yet my nausea levels were mild. I attribute this to many of the alternative therapies I was following.

However, when I did get nauseous, I would rub a couple of drops of peppermint on my abdomen and take a drop internally and the nausea would go away within seconds. I still use peppermint in that way if ever I experience discomfort after a meal.

Bergamot. I love bergamot essential oil. It is citrusy with floral undertones. I would put a couple of drops of this beautifully fragrant essential oil on a tissue and inhale whenever I felt anxious or stressed (which was quite often). It is both uplifting and relaxing and a great oil to use when you feel stressed.

I would breathe it in at night when I had a hard time sleeping and needed some emotional support. I would recommend diffusing bergamot in your bedroom in the evening an hour or so before bedtime, so the fragrance is there, but it is not overpowering.

Finally, I would recommend a protective blend that contains some of the most powerful antiviral and antibacterial essential oils. Different companies have different names for them, but they are all very similar. They often have names like Thieves, Bandits etc… inspired from a blend of herbs a group of thieves used to protect themselves when stealing from homes where people died from the plague.

I used one of those blends daily. They are quite ‘hot ‘so diluting them 50/50 is recommended. I applied the diluted blend generously to my chest, neck and feet for protection and immune support. Cancer patients tend to have very low immunity so natural support and protection is key especially if one is going to a hospital or infusion center. 

I hope this helps!

Organic Aromas: You speak of feeling overwhelming stress, anger, and anxiety prior to getting sick. In your experience, what are the 5 best essential oils for stress relief? 

Julien: What a great question! There are many uplifting essential oils out there, I’ll try to narrow it down to my 5 favorites.

Bergamot. I love Bergamot essential oil as stated earlier. It is citrusy with floral undertones. I put a couple of drops of this beautifully fragrant essential oil on a tissue and inhale whenever I feel anxious or stressed. It is both uplifting and relaxing. When I was at the hospital, I would breathe it in at night for a little emotional support. 

Frankincense. In addition to being good for cancer patients, this precious oil is a champion when it comes to helping me feel more energized and uplifted. Just breathing it in for a few moments helps me let go of stress and focus on the present moment. Highly recommended!

Lemon and/or Orange essential oil. Citrus oils just make me happy. I love diffusing them in the house, they seem to make any room feel cleaner, brighter, and happier. They are like rays of sunshine you can bring out anytime you are feeling a little low.

Ylang Ylang. This one is very exotic and reminds me of a tropical vacation. I find this essential oil uplifting, relaxing and a great tool to dissolve stress anytime. I like to reach for ylang ylang anytime I feel trapped in a negative thought loop. Within minutes I drop the negativity and have a much easier time focusing on the positive.

My final pick for most uplifting essential oil must be Sandalwood. This oil is one of my all-time favorites. It’s warm and spicy aroma seems to naturally draw me into the present moment. I find it to be relaxing, balancing, uplifting, and grounding. I like to use sandalwood when I need a little help getting out of my head (fear, anxiety) and back into my body. I really enjoy diffusing it during meditation. 

There are many others such as Rose, Lemongrass and even Lavender. I find essential oils to be very helpful tools for emotional and mental wellbeing. I would suggest your readers experiment with different oils and see how they make them feel. Our connection to essential oils is deeply personal.

Organic Aromas: Talk to people who have just gotten that cancer confirmation from their doctor. What is the most important thing/things that they should keep in mind?

Julien: Wow, how much time do you have? That is a tough one. If I could speak to them directly, I would say: You are much stronger than you think. It is normal to be afraid but don’t give up. Often, cancer is a message that something needs to change. From this moment onwards you can choose to make YOU important. You can decide that you matter, that your feelings matter, that your dreams matter, even if they are inconvenient to others.

So, what does that look like? What would you like to do differently in your life? Starting today, decide to laugh more and spend time doing the things you love with the people you love. Laughter is powerful, being surrounded by people we love and who love us is healing. 

Another really important piece is to find someone to talk to. Most insurance covers mental health and finding someone you can be vulnerable and brutally honest with is so important. This is not always possible with family and friends as they are dealing with their own fears about the situation.

There is a lot more, but I’ll stop there. I understand that my perspective may not resonate with everyone and that is fine. I have seen many cancer patients and while they certainly could have led healthier lives, almost all of them felt a deep sense of sadness, or experienced prolonged high levels of stress. I was at death’s door when I started treatment.

Three years later, after receiving so many prayers from family and friends, endless energy healing from my amazing wife, following alternatives in addition to conventional treatments, I am still here, there is always hope.

Organic Aromas: As you share your final thoughts, tell us how you are feeling now and where you are in the journey.

Julien: I feel good. Physically I am not as strong or as resilient as I was before, but I can’t complain, and I feel that I am getting stronger every day. This may seem strange to some but even though it was hard, I feel like this cancer was a blessing. I was living in my own bubble of negativity and stress. I was so unhappy, something had to give, and it did. Without this experience and forced break, I would probably still be in that bubble even more miserable than I was back then. Cancer forced me to stop and look at my life differently. 

I did several types of therapy focused on anxiety, PTSD and on dissolving past traumas. I still work on understanding the root of my anger and bitterness and especially becoming more in tune with my feelings giving them more importance. There is always more to uncover, life brings up new opportunities for growth all the time.

I feel that I am slowly moving out of what I would call ‘victim mode ‘into a more empowered version of myself. I am starting fresh, looking to get back to work and hopefully support others on their healing journeys. I feel like I am embracing a new version of myself, and I am excited to see what is to come. This has been fun, thanks so much chatting with me today, I really enjoyed it.

cancer and essential oils

Excellent Essential Oil Formulas for Cancer Patients

In her book, The Best Natural Cures Using Essential Oils, KG Stiles (BA, CBT, CBP, LMT) documents up to 100 remedies for insomnia, colds, anxiety and so on. Below, we highlight great formulas for people who are battling cancer as stated in this insightful book.

Pain Relief Formula

Peppermint: 20 drops
Helichrysum: 20 drops
Sweet marjoram: 20 drops
Ylang ylang: 10 drops
German chamomile: 30 drops

Method: Add all the above oils to a 5 ml colored glass dropper bottle. After capping the bottle, shake well and leave the blend for about 8 hours. 

Application: You can nebulize several drops and enjoy the blend, or you can use 3 drops of the blend in a smell strip or cotton ball to inhale for about 15 seconds. This blend has been observed to help relieve acute or chronic pain by promoting natural healing. 

Nausea Relief Formula

Lemon: 20 drops
Ginger: 20 drops
Peppermint: 60 drops

Method: Using a 5ml colored glass dropper bottle, add the oils and shake vigorously after capping. It is best to leave the blend for 8 hours or more for better oil synergy. 

Application: You can diffuse a few drops to enjoy excellent results. Just make sure to use a nebulizing diffuser for 100% essential oil rendering. If you prefer inhaling the blend, use a smell strip or a cotton ball and add up to 3 drops. Sniff for 10 to 15 minutes. 

Mood Lifting Formula

Clary sage: 20 drops
Geranium: 10 drops
Ylang ylang: 20 drops
Bergamot: 40 drops

Using the same method and application given in the above formulas, boost your mood instantly and have a better outlook on life. These oils come with properties that facilitate mood shifting to brighten your day. If you are dealing with too much stress, consider oils like vetiver, spikenard, chamomile, myrrh, frankincense and more.

Cancer and Essential Oil Survey

Organic Aromas conducted a survey to find out whether people are using essential oils as a complementary/alternative treatment for cancer. We surveyed a group of adults who have had cancer in the United States and this is what we found out:

59% of respondents stated that essential oils worked fairly well to extremely well in their experience. The most commonly used oils being lavender, lemon, peppermint, rose, bergamot, frankincense and cypress in that order. 20% of respondents also said that they used blends of all or some of these oils as well. 54% of people surveyed highly recommend the use of essential oils as a complementary and alternative medicine for cancer.

Practical Tips for Integrating Aromatherapy into a Cancer Wellness Plan

If you’re considering incorporating aromatherapy into your wellness routine, here are a few tips:

  • Consult with healthcare providers to ensure safety.
  • Start with one or two oils and observe how your body responds.
  • Consider a consultation with a certified aromatherapist for personalized advice.
A woman sitting at a desk with flowers and a laptop engages in work with her diabetes management.

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Final Thoughts

Like with all difficult situations, it is important to have the right mindset when dealing with cancer. Staying positive may be hard but it is a choice one must make. Making better choices for health and wellness will be easier when you are hopeful. In the words of Peter Kuzmic, “Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future. Faith is the courage to dance to it today.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can essential oils directly reduce cancer cells or tumors?

While essential oils are beneficial for managing symptoms and improving overall well-being, there is no scientific evidence that they can directly reduce cancer cells or cure cancer. They should be used as complementary therapies alongside conventional treatments.

What are the safest essential oils to use for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy?

Some safe options include lavender for relaxation, ginger for nausea, and frankincense for its calming properties. However, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new therapy, as individual circumstances can vary.

Are there any essential oils that should be avoided by cancer patients?

Yes, certain essential oils like clary sage or rosemary may interfere with hormonal therapies or have stimulating effects that might not be suitable for all cancer patients. Always consult with an oncologist or a trained aromatherapist before using essential oils.

How can essential oils be used to manage pain related to cancer?

Essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, and eucalyptus can be diluted with a carrier oil and applied topically to areas of pain, or used in a diffuser to create a soothing environment that may help reduce perception of pain.

What are the benefits of using a diffuser with essential oils for a cancer patient?

Using a diffuser helps distribute the essential oil evenly in the air, providing continuous relief from symptoms like anxiety, stress, and nausea, and promoting a restful environment conducive to healing.

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  1. A pleasant aroma is so soothing to the body and in turn, a healing factor. This I have felt as being true for many years personally. And even people with allergies to scents can find some aroma that will not bother them, but soothe them.

  2. Stage 4 and looking for alternatives. Which oils have a higher efficacy of HER- , HR+ breast cancer that has spread to the entirety of the abdominal cavity.

  3. So much wisdom from earlier times is overlooked as new medicines and treatments are discovered but it’s best never to ditch treatments such as essential oils as they can be synergistic with the modern treatments.

  4. Essential oils have a pleasing smell, the mind can get into happy thoughts when there is a pleasing odour, therefore, the brain works better (the brain works better when it is happy) causing the immune system to work better as well, meaning the essential oils will not only have a great impact on mental health, but it will also have an enormous impact on physical health because the physical system cannot live without the mental system

  5. I’m wondering what was the hospital’s first reaction when you used essential oils/aromatherapy. Were they supportive or did they give you a hard time & had to convince them.

    1. Hi Roy, Julien here. The hospital staff was open about oils and most really loved walking into my room as it smelled so nice. I would not have used them if I was not in a private room.

  6. I love that the idea of aroma therapy is becoming more popular. I’m a certified crystal therapist and I’ve always used them in my practice. My first oil that I remember obsessing over was lavender to help calm my kids. We all still use it a lot today.

  7. Thank you for this wonderful article.
    Eye opening advice about dealing with emotional and mental health issues, and not letting them fester. The essential oil blend recipes are ones I look forward to trying. I’m happy you’re healed.

  8. I love the benefits I get from essential oils and I enjoy the uplifting scents and aromas. My only concern is are they also safe for pets. I use them all the time but I need to find more information about how or if they affect my pets.

  9. I love EO’s!!! Unfortunately, they are expensive for me. I wish I could buy more, but at $20-30 a pop I can’t do it. And not all EO’s are the same. If you want a good one you have to pay for it.

  10. Interesting, I live bergamot and cedar essential oils. I’ve heard about frankincense. Glad he was able to find something helpful for stress and anxiety which we all deal with at some time or other.

  11. Essential oils are very therapeutic. I’ve been using them for a long time. I was diagnosed with diabetes over 20 years ago and soon discovered that food is only one part of our health journey. Food isn’t the only thing that can affect us. Stress, smoking, drinking, allergies, depression, anxiety, unhealthy relationships, pain, illness, infection, surgery, lack of sleep and movement, dehydration, some medications and even high intensity exercise can temporarily affect our health.

  12. This is such an informative and interesting post, thank you so much for sharing! My Aunt passed away from Cancer, but she loved her essential oils and I believe that they at least helped her some of the time.

  13. My husband is being treated for liver cancer. I am going to try the mixture for nausea. The nurses gave him pills and gives him nausea shots before his chemo. It still doesn’t work. Thank you for sharing!

  14. Even if a person does not utilize any form of aromatherapy or meditation, they can probably admit that the smell of something they enjoy can make the day better.

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