top of page

Exploring the Relationship Between Aromatherapy, Essential Oils, and Cancer

The Benefits of Aromatherapy for Cancer Patients

Dealing with cancer can be a difficult and isolating experience for both the patient and their loved ones. Aromatherapy is a popular complementary practice for those undergoing treatment, as it provides a sense of relief and control.

Recent research has shown that essential oils have a positive impact on cancer patients, helping to alleviate symptoms such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, pain, and stress, as well as improving sleep quality. Hospitals and cancer support groups are increasingly incorporating aromatherapy into their treatment plans, and it has become a popular choice among patients.

Safe Practices for Aromatherapy

Essential oils are completely natural, but are also highly complex and potent substances. As such, it is crucial that patients obtain the consent of their primary treatment provider (i.e. doctor) before using aromatherapy. Additionally, it's important to consult with an aromatherapist who specializes in working with cancer patients.

There is some debate around using essential oils alongside chemotherapy and radiotherapy, as certain oils have protective and antioxidant effects on cells. While they can protect healthy cells, they may also protect cancer cells and reduce the effectiveness of treatment. Also, the oils may speed up or inhibit the rate of chemotherapy drug metabolism, leading to either reduced effectiveness or more severe side effects.

However, some argue that essential oils do not interfere with anti-cancer drugs and certain oils like Peppermint and Spearmint have been shown to be effective against nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.

Again, this is an area that should be discussed with the patient's doctor

Massage as a Beneficial Treatment for Cancer Patients

Many studies have demonstrated that massage can significantly alleviate pain, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, and depression, while also improving sleep quality and overall quality of life for cancer patients. Additionally, it may help to reduce swelling in the limbs, enhance range of motion, and promote the health of scar tissue. Despite concerns regarding the possibility that massage can stimulate the lymphatic system and spread cancer cells via the lymph, no scientific evidence supports this claim. In fact, a specialized form of massage therapy called Manual Lymphatic Drainage is commonly utilized to address lymphoedema, a condition often caused by cancer and its treatments that results in an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the body.

It is widely agreed that gentle, soothing, and relaxing massage can be safely administered and can provide considerable comfort and benefits to patients at all stages of cancer. Even a simple hand or foot massage can offer significant relief to those who are seriously ill or weak.

However, it is essential to seek out a massage therapist who is properly qualified and experienced in treating individuals with cancer. Aggressive deep tissue massage should be avoided. According to Macmillan UK, massage should not be performed:

  • Directly over a tumor site or lymph nodes affected by cancer

  • On sensitive or bruised areas

  • On areas receiving radiotherapy, both during and for several weeks following treatment

  • Around intravenous catheters and pain relief patches

  • On areas impacted by poor circulation, blood clots, or varicose veins

Extreme caution should be exercised if cancer has metastasized to the bones or if the patient has a low platelet count. In both cases, the patient should obtain permission from their physician before undergoing massage therapy.

Using Essential Oils to Support Cancer Patients

Aromatherapy can be beneficial for both physical and emotional symptoms in cancer patients. It's important to consult with an experienced aromatherapist to determine the best oils and dilution rates for the individual's needs. In most cases, normal to low doses of oils are safe to use, but for advanced cancer or weakened patients, halving the normal dose is recommended.

Creating a Relaxing Massage Blend

When it comes to crafting a calming massage blend, I like to use Frankincense, Geranium, and Green Mandarin. Frankincense aids in slowing down breathing, counteracts panic attacks, and promotes a peaceful, meditative state. Geranium adds a floral fragrance and balances out emotions. Meanwhile, Green Mandarin adds a gentle boost to fight off exhaustion that often arises from illness. Other

Essential Oils I have found effective to promote relaxation, calm the emotions and reduce stress and anxiety are, Benzoin, Bergamot, Lavender, Sweet Marjoram, Neroli, Patchouli, Petitgrain, Rose, and Ylang Ylang. The pain-relieving properties of lavender essential oil are widely known and it can be safely used in conjunction with conventional medication. Lavender, Roman Chamomile, and Neroli are three of the most effective oils for promoting a restful night's sleep.


bottom of page