Are you setting back aromatherapy if you do this?
Warning - Graphic Photo

Unless you are a Veterinarian...

It is just not okay to do this.



It has become somewhat of a disturbing trend in that past few years.  Essential oil users have heard of some pretty astonishing results in tumor regression when essential oils (particularly Frankincense) have been injected into a tumor.  Unfortunately, these pet owners have taken it upon themselves to inject tumors on their own.  And, animals ARE suffering.   

The case that is pictured above is much of the driving force behind people injecting tumors with Essential Oils.  This case was of a young man with a very malignant melanoma tumor on his neck, which was growing very rapidly.  The case had been treated traditionally with no improvement.  As a "last ditch effort" multiple natural remedies were attempted, along with injecting the tumor base with Frankincense Essential Oil.  As you can see below - the tumor started to die and eventually could be debrided (or surgically scraped away) and separated from the body.  In essence the tumor died and fell off.  I remember this story being presented and re-presented at multiple educational lectures that I attended - and of course it is an impressive thing to hear about.  The next cases of essential oil injection that I recall hearing about - were in horses with malignant melanoma in their rectums.  One particular case was reported to have a cantaloupe sized tumor, that reduced down to a mere few centimeters via essential oil injections.    


This original case occurred in 1985 - and in the time since - there have been several other cases and reports of using injections of essential oils in various tumor types.  From Anal Gland Tumors in dogs to Sarcoids in horses.  Certainly, some of the case results, make me sit up and take notice.  This is exciting information - that could lead to new ways to "kill" tumors.  But - excitement about new information, often results in poor handling of the true facts.  As a veterinarian - I understand that case selection and the EXACT technique of how a procedure is carried out - is vital to safe and effective results.  Unfortunately - for whatever reason - essential oil users have taken it upon themselves to inject their own animal's tumors with essential oils in an effort to destroy and remove the tumor.  And, I am here to tell you - this just cannot be condoned.  

The few people who perform this experimental technique responsibly - ALWAYS consult a veterinarian, have a veterinarian perform the injection, and have a large understanding of the event that will take place once a tumor is injected.  I cannot tell you how many times I am contacted by concerned pet owners, hoping that a tumor on their animal can be injected as a therapy.  At least these people ASK if it can be done, or should be done, before moving forward...  But disturbingly - many people contact me AFTER they have already injected their dog, goat, horse, or cat with an essential oil - and it is usually because things are going badly.  In the few cases where people are reporting what they perceive as positive results - there are often flaws that need to be discussed.

If you are reading this - and you are someone (a non-veterinarian) who has injected their animal - please do not feel that I am attacking you.  Let's take this opportunity for education.  I urge you to hear a veterinarian's experience and view point on the subject.

First - case selection is INCREDIBLY important when considering essential oil injection into a tumor.  This is the same criteria or skill level that would be needed to inject chemotherapy into a tumor.  No owner would ever be encouraged or allowed to inject a chemotherapy chemical into their animal's tumor - and the same should be considered for essential oils.  Essential oils are indeed chemicals.  Natural or not - chemicals are not meant to be injected into the body.  Severe inflammation and immunologic responses are often initiated when foreign materials of any kind are introduced via an injection.  My rule of thumb is that if you do not want the part of the body with the tumor - to die, shrivel up, and fall off - then you should never inject a tumor in that location.  A common example of the type of tumor that should NOT be injected - would be lymph node tumors associated with Lymphosarcoma.  Certainly killing the lymph nodes and possibly infiltration of that "death" into the lymph system - is not desired.  Any sort of internal tumor, such as one on a spleen - should also not be injected - as having dying tissue inside the body, is NOT okay.

An example of a tumor that may respond to an injection - would be one that is discrete and more separate from the body.  A bladder tumor may be one of the only internal tumors, that may be amenable to injections - as it really has more of a special "external" type of criteria.  A tumor that has a "stalk" or basically just looks like you would like to "lop it off the body" - are more similar to the description of a tumor type that could even consider an injection.  However, I would say that less than 1% of the tumor cases that express an interest in this procedure - would EVER be considered (even remotely) as a candidate for essential oil injection.     

Second - the injection of essential oil into a tumor - often causes severe pain and inflammation.  Some animals have become painful enough to need Morphine administered.  Animals do not show pain readily - and by nature's design - hide their pain so that they will not become targeted by predatory animals.  It is not okay in any way, shape, or form - for someone to cause pain to an animal - without taking into consideration - adequate pain management.  If a veterinarian were known to do a spay or neuter surgery without pain control - they would, and should, be harshly punished - and maybe even lose their license.  Doing any action to an animal that causes pain - should be looked at as animal abuse.  And, essential oils injected into the body can cause SEVERE pain.      

Third - sometimes cases that are perceived to go well - have not been accurately assessed.  Many of the tumors that "regress" were indeed never biopsied nor confirmed as cancer or even a true tumor.  Without an accurate diagnosis - the results of the case are often of little quality.  Another common thing that I see, is that although the case seems to be better - it really isn't.  Yes, a fatty tumor may shrink slightly, become hard, and weep fluid from a draining tract caused by the injection.  However, this is not a beneficial thing in actuality.  A tumor of this nature (a lipoma) is a giant lump of fat - with little blood supply and little innervation - so pain recognition will be minimal.  The tissue death and change in appearance is not due to tumor regression per se - but from liquifaction of the fat and tissue death caused by direct insult from the foreign material injected into the tissues.  Also - without sterile technique - many of these injections could run the risk of secondary infection.  

Fourth - the bottom line is - if you are not a veterinarian - you should not be injecting anything into your animal without a veterinarian's supervision and distinct instruction.  Imagine if you heard that the man "down the street" injected his dog with battery acid!  Would you report him to animal welfare?  Of course you would!  That is absurd.  Well, I am going to tell you that injecting essential oils into your dog - will be viewed in much the same way by authorities.  If you are not a veterinarian - and you inject an "experimental" foreign substance into an animal - you could be convicted of animal cruelty.  But - it is a natural substance you say???  Well - what if the man down the street injected his dog (or kid...) with Apple Juice?  That is natural...  No, it does not matter.  It is a foreign substance that does not belong in the body, and legally, it would be viewed as animal abuse far before it would ever be viewed as "practicing without a veterinary license."

Fifth - this procedure being done out of a medical and research setting - will set back medical aromatherapy in a horrible way.  There is already a struggle between different modalities of aromatherapy in regards to something as basic as ingestion of oils, or the use of essential oils with cats.  Having anyone just "willy nilly" inject essential oils into an animal - well - it really does sound crazy.  And it should!  Animals should have the same protection against harmful acts as children do.  If anyone injected their child with essential oils, even if it was into a tumor, do you think they would be tried in a court of law?  Likely they would.     

I am not saying that injections may not enter into medical therapies, or that they may not hold extreme value in the future.  The sad fact that people are so desperate to save their animal from a tumor or cancer situation, can mean that people do desperate things.  The intense love that we hold for our animals, should mean that we also have the obligation to never do any harm to them, and to fully understand the choices we are making in their care.  I have personally witnessed a mole injected with Frankincense (in a human), shrivel up to a little scab and fall off, with barely a scar!  The results were so fantastic, that even though the procedure resulted in so much pain that a t-shirt could not be tolerated over the site, this person opted to try it again.  The second mole injected, not only failed to remove the mole, but also caused severe cellulitis.  This cellulitis was not just contained to the location of the injection, either.  It spread to all areas of the body, and resulted in multiple emergency room stays and hospitalization.  Even 2 years after that second injection, cellulitis continues to surface in places that were not even near the injection site.  And, even more odd is the fact that the areas of cellulitis, form around other moles.

You need to know, that even I, as a veterinarian - have been accused of teaching people to do injections of essential oils - and was threatened to "be reported."  Because injections are listed as a topic that will be covered in my Animals & Oils Training Course - the assumption was made that I was actually training people in this modality.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Because it is such a popular question, I definitely cover the concept.  However, it is not in an effort to teach anyone to do the procedure.  In fact, it is to encourage that only proper and accurate information be shared with others - so that no one hurts an animal.  

As of September of 2015 - I have updated this newsletter - and still most of the information as was reported in 2013 holds true.  Essential oil injections into tumors is still widely discouraged.  Since the initial publication of this newsletter, a cat was injected with essential oils for a Vaccine Related Sarcoma in 2015 - and I was authorized to share this story so that other animals may not suffer.

This kitty was a Sphynx cat (the hairless ones), and although it is hard to make out in the photo - the cats head is off to the right, and the large lump in the center of the photo is the cancerous tumor.  These tumors have a very poor prognosis, and removal tends to only result in the quick return of an even larger, more aggressive tumor.  The tumor had been removed once, and was back with a vengeance when it was decided to inject Frankincense essential oil into it.

I was contacted after the injection was made, as the cat had a glassy stare, and seemed to be doing really poorly.  Those involved with the injection, were concerned that the cat would not make it...and quite honestly, so was I.

We had to take a wait and see approach really, the only other option being to surgically remove the tumor again, along with the injected "depot" of Frankincense essential oil.  It was quite likely that the essential oil had already penetrated the entire body, and so local irritation and death of the tumor tissue, was our next biggest concern.  Death of that much tissue, is also unlikely to be healthy or "good" for the body - and anaphylaxis and toxicity due to the foreign substance injected or in response to dead tissues became a valid concern.

The injection site did become inflamed and almost "abscessed" to some extent, and so surgical removal of the tumor was performed.  

Even in the absence of the essential oil injection, this cat did not have a good prognosis.  It is one of the worst tumors that we see in cats.  However, the essential oil injection only created additional hardship and pain for the cat - and she did not do well after the additional removal of the injected tumor.  It was decided to humanely euthanize her.

I share this case in the hopes that we can detach ourselves from the poor information that is portrayed about essential oils.  Especially in cases of cancer and life or death situations - we want so badly for there to be an answer, that we are willing to try anything - even something that sounds a bit far fetched or dangerous if we were to really think about it.  The marketing machine that can be associated with some Essential Oil Companies - does a great disservice by spreading around a few great stories of success.  Often preying upon the hopes and prayers of the desperate.

I will always be willing to try essential oils, especially for those "hopeless" cases.  However, it always has to be done in a safe manner, without harm to another.

Please visit my website devoted to essential oil blend created specifically for animals -

Until Next Time!
Melissa Shelton DVM

Disclaimer:  This information was provided for educational purposes only.  It is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or treat any illness.  If you or your animal have a health concern, you are encouraged to seek the counsel of a health care professional who is knowledgeable in your area of interest.

Where in the world is...
Melissa Shelton?


Home in Howard Lake, Minnesota.
Catching up with "kid time" and
starting on Frankincense Research projects.

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