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BioMed Research International
Volume 2014, Article ID 154106, 23 pages
Review Article

Essential Oils and Their Constituents as Anticancer Agents: A Mechanistic View

1Centre for Environmental Science and Technology, School of Environment and Earth Sciences, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda, Punjab 151001, India
2Centre for Biosciences, School of Basic and Applied Sciences, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda, Punjab 151001, India

Received 26 February 2014; Accepted 11 April 2014; Published 9 June 2014

Academic Editor: Kota V. Ramana

Copyright © 2014 Nandini Gautam et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Exploring natural plant products as an option to find new chemical entities as anticancer agents is one of the fastest growing areas of research. Recently, in the last decade, essential oils (EOs) have been under study for their use in cancer therapy and the present review is an attempt to collect and document the available studies indicating EOs and their constituents as anticancer agents. This review enlists nearly 130 studies of EOs from various plant species and their constituents that have been studied so far for their anticancer potential and these studies have been classified as in vitro and in vivo studies for EOs and their constituents. This review also highlights in-depth various mechanisms of action of different EOs and their constituents reported in the treatment strategies for different types of cancer. The current review indicates that EOs and their constituents act by multiple pathways and mechanisms involving apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, antimetastatic and antiangiogenic, increased levels of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS/RNS), DNA repair modulation, and others to demonstrate their antiproliferative activity in the cancer cell. The effect of EOs and their constituents on tumour suppressor proteins (p53 and Akt), transcription factors (NF-κB and AP-1), MAPK-pathway, and detoxification enzymes like SOD, catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and glutathione reductase has also been discussed.