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. 2013 Oct;6(4):1140-1146.
doi: 10.3892/ol.2013.1520. Epub 2013 Aug 8.

Composition and Potential Anticancer Activities of Essential Oils Obtained From Myrrh and Frankincense

Free PMC article

Composition and Potential Anticancer Activities of Essential Oils Obtained From Myrrh and Frankincense

Yingli Chen et al. Oncol Lett. .
Free PMC article


The present study aimed to investigate the composition and potential anticancer activities of essential oils obtained from two species, myrrh and frankincense, by hydrodistillation. Using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), 76 and 99 components were identified in the myrrh and frankincense essential oils, respectively, with the most abundant components, 2-Cyclohexen-1-one, 4-ethynyl-4-hydroxy-3,5,5-trimethyl- and n-Octylacetate, accounting for 12.01 and 34.66%, respectively. The effects of the two essential oils, independently and as a mixture, on five tumor cell lines, MCF-7, HS-1, HepG2, HeLa and A549, were investigated using the MTT assay. The results indicated that the MCF-7 and HS-1 cell lines showed increased sensitivity to the myrrh and frankincense essential oils compared with the remaining cell lines. In addition, the anticancer effects of myrrh were markedly increased compared with those of frankincense, however, no significant synergistic effects were identified. The flow cytometry results indicated that apoptosis may be a major contributor to the biological efficacy of MCF-7 cells.

Keywords: antiproliferative activity; apoptosis; essential oil; frankincense; gas chromatography mass spectrometry; myrrh.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Isobologram and combination index curves at 50% effect level using combinations of myrrh and frankincense essential oils.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Flow cytometric analysis of myrrh, frankincense and the mixture of essential oils-induced apoptosis in the MCF-7 cell line following 24 h of treatment with 0, 10 and 40 μg/ml, respectively. Data are presented as the mean ± SD.

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