Frankincense Kills Cancer Cells

Traditional Use of Frankincense

Frankincense has it’s uses in traditional medicine of various cultures.  While not native to China, frankincense has been adapted into the Chinese Materia Medica.  I had previously blogged about it in my previous post. (link) It is traditionally used like other aromatic herbs – to clear stagnations and quite frankly (no pun intended), to get things “moving”.

Currently, I would like to show at least one bit of research that shows evidence for use of frankincense in cancer treatment.

The Study

According to research published in 2009 (link), the oil derived from the frankincense gum resin has long been known to have anti-neoplastic properties.  The goal of the study was to, and I quote, “evaluate frankincense oil for its anti-tumor activity and signaling pathways in bladder cancer cells.” (Frank, 2009).

The stated methods were:

Frankincense oil-induced cell viability was investigated in human bladder cancer J82 cells and immortalized normal bladder urothelial UROtsa cells. Temporal regulation of frankincense oil-activated gene expression in bladder cancer cells was identified by microarray and bioinformatics analysis. (Frank, 2009)

What this means is that they wanted to check how the oil affected the ability of certain types of bladder cancer cells and normal bladder cells.

Immortal Beloved?

“Immortalized” might be confusing to the casual reader.  What it means is that the particular cells don’t “grow old” anymore and die.  They just keep on dividing.  Unlike cancerous cells though, they maintain their genetic code and don’t become mutant monster cells.  If individual cells are normal human beings, then cancer cells are all those zombies you see in walking dead movies.  Immortalized cells mean they don’t die, but still remain normal human beings.

Gene Expression

It was postulated that instead of killing cells directly, frankincense oil affects gene expression.  All cells have genes that regulate it’s activities.  Viruses work by hijacking cells and inserting it’s own genetic code, thus using the cell’s own mechanisms to express it’s genes instead of the cells.  Hence, ways to stop viruses include ways to prevent it’s code from being expressed, or manifested.  Another way is to activate genes that tell the cell to go kill itself, a process called apoptosis.  The same thing can be done with cancer cells.

Normal cells grow old and are pre-programmed to die, giving way to new cells.  Cancer cells don’t do that.  Virus infected cells die when they burst, releasing new viruses.  If only there was a way to get virus infected cells to bite the bucket before they release their cargo.  Normally we have white blood cells to help with that.  But sometimes the good guys need backup.  That’s where altering gene expression comes in.

Long story short, the frankincense oil has an effect on the evil zombie mutant cancer cells but not on the good guy cells.  It activates  the genes that stop the cell cycle, that triggers cell growth suppression, and activates apoptosis.  Namely, it stops the cancer cells from going on with their daily lives, from growing, and it induces the cell suicide genes.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

The fun part is that frankincense oil only does this to the BAD guys.  The problem with conventional chemotherapy is that it hits all dividing cells indiscriminately.  It’s like having a dude with a machine gun spraying bullets all around.  It’ll kill the bad guys, but take down some good guys too.

In this case, we have a set of guided missiles that hit only the bad guys.  Or you could say, holy water that burns the baddies but blesses the good guys.

However, the study also says that we don’t drink the oil to kill cancer cells.  They must be used “intravesically”.  This means that we put the oil into the bladder using a catheter.

Not fun.

But better than having bladder cancer take it’s toll.


Frank, et al. Frankincense oil derived from Boswellia carteri induces tumor cell specific cytotoxicity. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2009 Mar 18;9:6. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-9-6. (


Dr. Philip Nino Tan-Gatue

Dr. Philip Nino Tan-Gatue MD, CAc, CMA,is one of the leading experts in Traditional Medicine and Chinese Medicine in the Philippines. Currently, he is a Clinical Associate Professor in the University of the Philippines College of Medicine and is Director of Acupuncture Services at The Medical City. Find Dr. Philip on Google Plus , Facebook, Twitter and on

  • Interesting that it was only tested on human bladder cancer cells. Any reason why?

    • Well, that’s how they do studies – one at a time. Maybe next time they’ll try it out on something else.

  • This is good way than letting the disease eat-up your body system. any cure is good when it’s give an excellent results.

  • Joy

    i am very much interested in reading medical info. and it is great that i have found your site Doc, a reliable source to feed my curiosity 🙂

  • If it’s oil can be used to avoid or fight tumor, this can help a lot of people. Great info to know Doc!

  • why this sounds very insteresting. Immortalized sounds fantastic to me. it was like the priest in the movie i’ve seen the other he wants to be a vampire so he can live forever and never gets old. this medicine sounds very promising.

  • must not be fun at all, but the only way to prolong a cancer patient would something they might consider.

  • Very interesting. A friend’s sister recently died of cancer and it is a sad thing that many die early. I hope treatments like this be used to save lives.

  • Very interesting read once more, Dokie! Thanks so much for sharing this very informative piece with us.

  • yes, hopefully, they’ll try it out into some other parts as well that are commonly affected by cancer cells, but this is very interesting and also promising, thanks for the information.

  • Indeed, a very beneficial medical discovery. Hope they do more studies .

  • partydollmanila

    Doc Philip, I like reading your blog because you make it easier for us – non medical people – understand these kind of stuff.

  • I do not take regular medicine when I get sick 🙂 I am hard headed that way, I remember growing up, my Mom only used herbs and it cured our sickness. I hope this study is a success and will help people that prefer alternative medicines 🙂

  • Very interesting read once again. I hope that more and more tests and research like this one are conducted and the mainstream medical community be more open to alternative treatments to compliment the usual mode of treating cancer.

  • Oh! That’s why the wise man gave Jesus frankincense! No wonder! It has awesome medicinal properties!

  • This is interesting Doc. It’s also surprising.

    Frankincense really has better uses.

    Your blog posts keep me coming back for more.

    I wonder about the acupuncture though. I’d like to know if you know someone in Cebu that offers this therapy.