A key component of citrus essential oils may be a natural way of preventing liver cancer, according to a new study from the Ruhr University Bochum, published in the journal Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics.
Terpenes, a chemical component found in many essential oils, has been shown by this study to prevent and even slow down the growth of cancer cells. Essential oils, which are made using large amounts of plant matter, are found in most health food stores and naturopaths offices.
But they may have even more health benefits than previously known. In the Ruhr University Bochum study in Germany, researchers focused on analyzing the effects of citronellal – the chemical compound which gives citrus its signature lemony scent – on the growth of cancer cells.
What they found was that citrus essential oil, in addition to having a long history of medicinal use from being used to treat asthma to being used as a sleep aid, may also inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the human body.
Protective Effects Of Essential Oils
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There are almost a hundred different types of essential oils, all with their own unique sets of benefits. Essential oils are designed for external use only – not for ingestion.
Essential oils occur naturally in plants, protecting them through natural fungicidal, antibacterial and antiviral properties, and through the process of extracting and utilizing essential oils, those protective properties can extend to humans as well.
Because scent receptors exist all over the body – not just in the nose but in the skin, bladder, spine, gut and even sperm – essential oils can provide marked health benefits without ever being actually ingested, by activating cell reactions triggered by the responses of scent receptors to the terpenes in essential oils.
Researchers from Bochum used a cellular model of a common liver tumour and exposed the tumour cells to terpenes in various different concentrations. Of the eleven terpenes utilized in the study, two – citronellal and citronellol, terpenes commonly found in citrus essential oils – resulted in “a significant increase in calcium concentration in the cells”, according to a press release about the study.
The scent receptors found in liver cells was responsible for the detection of and cellular reaction to the citrus scent, reducing cell growth by increasing calcium concentration inside the cells.
The study conclusively proved that cancer growth and carcinogenesis is inhibited by the terpenes found in common citrus extract.
Until now, the function of terpenes with regards to cancer cells, including liver cancer, had not been fully understood – now, the results of this study “give rise to the hope that new drugs with no severe side effects may be developed for cancer therapy”, the researchers said.