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Phytother Res. 2014 Oct;28(10):1423-46. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5165. Epub 2014 May 16.

Anticancer activities of essential oils constituents and synergy with conventional therapies: a review.

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Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, ICR UMR 7273, 13397, Marseille, France.


Many studies have shown that a large number of terpenoids and aromatic compounds contained in essential oils have significant anticancer activities, both on cell lines and on tumors in animals. The activity of these constituents is related to the activation of cell death (apoptosis) induced by the caspases proteins in cancer cells, with minor modifications of healthy cells. Many phenomena seem to occur, among which are as follows: overexpression and regulation of liver detoxification enzymes, changes in the membrane potential of cancer cells and mitochondria, production of free radicals in cancer cells, inhibition of angiogenesis, and modification of tumor-inducing genes. These active essential oil constituents appear to act synergistically with conventional chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and some clinical studies in humans are beginning to be realized. In this review, we discuss about the antitumoral activity of 13 essential oil components selected among the most studied in the literature, with a focus on their possible mode of action. We also report current data on the anticancer properties of several total essential oils.


apoptosis; essential oils; membrane potential; oxidative stress; terpenoids

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