There are many health conditions which are successfully treated with essential oils, and many more which are being evaluated scientifically. Unlike most conventional drugs or botanically based remedies, essential oils work through one (or both) of two distinct mechanisms of action. Essential oils have a physical effect on the mind and body through sensory memory. Essential oils also produce physical effects on the body through chemical actions, just like other drugs and botanical products.
Cancer is a major public health problem in many areas of the world. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide, in both men and women. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer after lung cancer. Breast cancer, is the most frequently occurring cancer in women and the major cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Several agents including life habits, exposure to chemical agents, and diet have been correlated with risk of cancer development. Besides, pharmacological or nutritional intervention can signiﬁcantly affect patients’ quality of life by delaying cancer progression.
Traditional ways of treatment of lung, prostate and breast cancers have been proven effective but there are many highly undesirable side effects. Thus, there is a need for alternative chemotherapeutic agents with efﬁcacy similar to that of conventional chemotherapy and minimal side effects.
The plant-derived products usually produce lesser side effects compared to synthetic drugs. Many anticancer drugs in current clinical use have been isolated from plant species or are based on such substances . A plant-derived compound, essential oil, is one of the most valuable plant –derived products used in medicine and complementary treatment strategies is an essential oil. Extensive researches about biologically active compounds from essential oils have proven to be potential antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant agents. Accumulating data have revealed the anticarcinogenic activity of plant-derived monoterpenes. Thymol (2-isopropyl-5-methylphenol) is a major phenolic compound which is present in the essential oils of various plants, including Thymus vulgaris. Several biological properties of thymol were reported, namely that it has anti-inﬂ ammatory, antibacterial, antispasmodic, and antioxidant effects. It is also a compound that actively inhibits cancer cells. Recent studies investigated the effects of thymol on non-small cell lung cancer cell line (KLN205), human prostate cancer cell lines (PC-3 and DU145) and highly metastatic breast cancer cell line (MDA-MB-231). A particular attention has been paid to the antimutagenic, antiproliferative, and anticancer properties of thyme essential oil.
Several studies have been performed with extracts of Thymus spp., and a number of studies have evaluated the therapeutic effects of thymol. According to these studies, thymol shows concentration- and time-dependent antiproliferative and apoptotic effects on non-small cell lung cancer, prostate cancer and highly metastatic human breast cancer cell lines. Not only does thymol inhibit proliferation, it also induces apoptosis in cancer cells.