Ornamental Thistle Root Essential Oil

While not commercially available as essential oils, the hydro-distilled oils of Marsh and Ornamental Thistle roots (relatives of Milk Thistle) were examined for their anti-proliferative effects on adenocarcinoma breast cancer cells. Adenocarcinoma means cancer of cells lining organs and tissues.

The essential oils were concluded to have moderately anti-proliferative effects, limiting proliferation at concentrations below concentrations which did the same to healthy cells.

What's really remarkable is that this is one in a long list of essential oils noted effective against cancer cells, some of which are noted to cause cell death to cancer cells at concentrations which leave healthy cells 'healthy'

Boswellia trees, source of Frankincense resin.

Most notably, Frankincense essential oil has been found effective in causing cell death in breast cancer cells (post to follow soon!).

Several other essential oils have shown this effect as well, on a variety of cancer cell lines. The take home message is that many essential oils show anti-carcinogenic effects, and are worth investigating to a point where protocols are developed for their use.

And now the abstract regarding the Thistle root essential oils...

Published In: Natural Product Communications, 2012 Feb;7(2):269-72.

Title: The chemical composition of the essential oils of Cirsium palustre and C. rivulare and their antiproliferative effect.

By: Nazaruk J, Karna E, Kalemba D.

Source: Department of Pharmacognosy, Medical University of Białystok, Poland.

Abstract: The composition of the essential oils of Cirsium palustre and C. rivulare and their antiproliferative activity against breast adenocarcinoma cells (MCF-7 and MDA-MBA-231) were investigated. The essential oils obtained by hydro-distillation from the roots (yield 0.2 and 0.1% v/w, respectively), leaves and inflorescences (yield below 0.01%), were analyzed by gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC-MS). The composition of the essential oils in the respective organs of each plant differed considerably. On the other hand, similarities were observed in the composition of root and leaf oils. In C. palustre and C. rivulare root oil, 50 and 39 constituents were identified, accounting for 95.3% and 92.4% of the total content. The main components were aplotaxene and its derivatives, representing 78.6% and 46.6% of the total content. In leaf oils of both species, 59 and 49 compounds, respectively, were identified, representing 67.4% and 78.3% of the total content. The major constituents were beta-damascenone (4.1% and 13.4%, respectively) and beta-ionone (6.7% and 5.3%, respectively). Short-chain saturated and unsaturated aliphatic alcohols and aldehydes constituted another important group of compounds (17.7% and 9.0%, respectively). The essential oils of the roots have moderate anti-proliferative activity, with IC50 values ranging from 110 to 140 microg/mL. These concentrations were below the level able to inhibit the proliferation of healthy cells.