Lemongrass as an herb has been used for centuries for its positive health effects. In Ayurvedic medicine, it has been used for relief of menstrual discomfort and nausea. The fresh grass is used in indigenous medicine systems around the world. Recently, the essential oil has been the subject of scientific studies regarding its effects on cancer cells. One of the features of cancer cells is the upset of natural cell death. Lemongrass appears to be effective as a form of chemotherapy, causing cell death to occur as it should: “Our results indicate that the oil has a promising anticancer activity and causes loss in tumor cell viability by activating the apoptotic process”. These studies indicate that Lemongrass essential oil, with its low toxicity, has the potential of being an inexpensive ‘alternative’ treatment in the future.
Several essential oils have been investigated for their anti-cancer effects, most notably Frankincense, Lemongrass, and the common constituent “linalool”, which adds a sweetness to many essential oil varieties. In one study, human cancer cell lines were examined for their susceptability to lemongrass essential oil as a chemotherapeutic agent. In-vivo analysis was also performed using tumor models in mice — which further enhances the investigation by not only providing an in-vitro (test tube) analysis. A previous study examined the cause of cancer cell death, particularly of human leukemia HL-60 cells. The cause of death was determined to be the formation of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and a loss of mitochondrial membrane stability — leading to a loss of abiltiy of the cells to make their own energy and to defend themselves against oxidative radicals formed during natural metabolic processes.
Electron microscopy identified that the cancer cells had lost their normal surface projections, meaning that the cells were no longer viable because they were unable to intereact with their environment. They could no longer receive nutrients or communicate with other cells nearby. Further, the nuclei of the cells exhibited condensation and fragmentation typical of cell death. The amount of Lemongrass needed to inhibit proliferation of the cancer cells was relatively low, with an IC50 of only 30 micrograms per milliliter.
Lemongrass oil amazingly was effective against all 12 cancer cell lines tested, though some were more susceptable than others. And although isointermedeol was implicated in these first studies as the ‘active’ agent, Israeli researchers reported in the May 2005 publication of Planta Medica that common Citral — a lemon-scented component of MANY essential oils — also induced apoptosis in several cancer cell lines.
This important factor, notably that more than one chemical of the same essential oil can cause cancer cell death, is extremely interested, pointing out the potential for many essential oils to hold promise as anti-cancer therapies. Linalool, for example, has been shown in a recent study to cause cell death of liver cancer cells at very small concentrations. Linalool is found in a great many oils, most notably Lavender, and any oil which there is even a hint of sweetness. Does this mean other constituents do not have this effect, or do not work in concert with Linalool? Certainly not, and it seems most appropriate not to seperate out what science considers the ‘active ingredient’ — there may certainly be more than one, and without extensive examination, it will be difficult to determine the synergy between all the constituents in these highly complex natural mixtures. It is crucial to recognize the importance of true, authentic essential oils, such as those from Ananda Aromatherapy and other manufacturer’s dedicated to the craft, as the foundation of these natural healing compounds. Single chemicals can simply be manufactured in the laboratory, but it is the plant-based complete medicine that can create a harmony within the organ systems and psychology that may in-fact have the greatest healing effect.
The body of evidence of essential oils as cancer treatments continues to grow. One only need search pubmed.gov for ‘essential oils cancer’ to find an extensive list of abstracts to pique one’s interest. As of today, this search produces 409 results. So why the great resistance to utilizing these fantastic medicines? It is a shame that even within the conventional medical community that many MD’s are resistant to suggesting these ‘alternative’ therapies to their patients, even alongside ‘conventional’ treatments. The time for natural medicine has returned, and essential oils can be seen as a cornerstone for these natural therapeutics, given the large body of evidence supporting their use.