Essential Oil with Anticancer Activity: An Overview



An increased interest by consumers toward pharmacologically active plant-derived natural products as alternatives to synthetic drugs has increased the attention of global scientists. Among the various plant-derived natural products, essential oils have gained popularity because of its use in food, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical industries. Constituting an array of many lipophilic and highly volatile components, derived from a wide range of different chemical classes, essential oils are characterized by a wide range of biological activities, such as antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, sedative, analgesic, and anesthetic. A growing interest has recently focused on the potential of essential oils as an anticancer treatment to overcome the development of multidrug resistance and important side effects associated with the currently used antitumor drugs. The anticancer potential of essential oils has been widely explored till date. A recent Medline survey on PubMed for “essential oil and cancer” retrieves 926 results with a remarkable surge in publications over the last 16 years (688 out of 926 studies), while a search for “essential oil and cytotoxicity” has shown 434 results, of which 392 were published in the last 10 years. These numbers suggested that the studies in this field have been initiated rather lately, even though essential oils have been known since ancient times. The aim of the present chapter is to provide an overview on the scientific reports published for in vivo and in vitro studies in reference to essential oils of a wide variety of plants, viz., Cymbopogon flexuosus, Eucalyptus benthamii, Laurus nobilis, Melissa officinalis, Myristica fragrans, Rosmarinus officinalis, Salvia miltiorrhiza, Satureja thymbra, Thymus broussonetii, etc., or their main constituents. Moreover, the various mechanisms of action of different essential oils and their constituents having anticancer properties are also discussed.


Antioxidants Antiseptic property Biological activity Chemical constituents Cytotoxicity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemistry, Biology and BiotechnologyUniversity of PerugiaPerugiaItaly
  2. 2.Institute of BotanyUniversity of UrbinoUrbinoItaly
  3. 3.Department of BotanyGandhi Faiz-e-Aam CollegeShahjahanpurIndia
  4. 4.Faculty of BiotechnologyUniversity of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of BucharestBucharestRomania
  5. 5.Master Medicina Estetica, Dip to di Medicina dei SistemiUniversità di Roma ‘Tor Vergata’RomaItaly

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