Essential oils for smelly cancer patients.
Subject: Cancer (Care and treatment)
Cancer (Prevention)
Cancer patients (Health aspects)
Essential fatty acids (Health aspects)
Pub Date: 12/22/2006
Publication: Name: Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism Publisher: National Herbalists Association of Australia Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2006 National Herbalists Association of Australia ISSN: 1033-8330
Issue: Date: Winter, 2006 Source Volume: 18 Source Issue: 4
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Australia Geographic Code: 8AUST Australia
Accession Number: 174817374
Full Text: Warnke PH, Sherry E, Russo PAJ, Acil, Wiltfang J, Sivananthan S et al. 2006. Antibacterial essential oils in malodorous cancer patients: clinical observations in 30 patients. Phytomed 13:7;463-7. (AC)

Primary or metastatic tumour ulcers of the skin are often associated with purulent necrosis and increasing malodour. Bad smelling necrotic ulcers in cancer patients are of major concern as it leads to social isolation and poor quality of life. Current medications and topical therapies have proven inadequate in their ability to reduce foul smell to acceptable levels.

Tea tree, eucalyptus and other essential oils have gained acceptance as safe and effective antiseptics and clinical trials have demonstrated the potent antibacterial activity of these oils. This trial used pleasant smelling oils on 30 patients with inoperable squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck suffering from the offensive smells resulting from superinfection. The trial used a mixture consisting of (per g) 70 mg eucalyptus oil, 50 mg tea tree oil, 45 mg lemongrass oil, 45 mg lemon oil, 7 mg clove oil and 3 mg thyme oil on a 40% ethanol base.

The study observed not only an antibacterial effect but also an anti-inflammatory effect. The topical use of the oils promoted a small degree of re-epitheliazation of neoplastic facial ulcers, improving the aesthetic appearance of the patient.

Some patients experienced pain relief after application of the oils, indicating that there may be some anesthetic properties associated with the mixture. Others reported a sensation of cold on the skin and mucous membranes, a probable reaction with peripheral nerve receptors. Some patients report a burning sensation in the first seconds of oil application which resolved within the first minute. No allergic reactions were observed in the 30 patients.

One patient described had a significant reduction in pus formation and a complete resolution of the smell within 2 weeks of the essential oil regimen. After 6 weeks the fistula had completely closed. Unfortunately the tumour growth continued and by the eighth week it had grown along the path of the former fistula to the skin surface. Despite this, the new fistula did not become superinfected and the offensive smell did not recur.

The study recommends a two fold strategy for supurative cancer ulcers; in addition to a 5-10 day course of systemic antibiotic cover, the ulcers should be rinsed with 5 mL of the eucalyptus based oil mixture twice daily. The essential oils appear to have low toxicity and great efficacy in reducing the morbidity associated with ulcerating neoplastic ulcers of the face.

Jerome Sarris

3 Widgee Place, Chapel Hill Qld 4069

Cara Barnes

20 Brendon Street, Tarragindi Qld 4121
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.