The idea that citrus flavonoids, antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients can have beneficial and specifically anti-cancer properties is one that is gaining wider and wider acceptance.
But, what about the luscious scent of lemons? An oft-quoted Japanese study, for example, found that typists made over 50% fewer errors when they could smell lemon.
A German study suggests that the benefits of the scent of lemon could go well beyond state of mind and productivity.
Researchers at Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum published a study in 2015 where they posited that the scent of lemons could inhibit the growth of liver cancer cells. The paper was published in the journal Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics.
They used the most common type of liver cancer cells for the study, conducted in a laboratory environment. Liver cancer is the third most common cause of tumor-induced death.
The Terpene Effect
Essential oils occur naturally in plants to protect them from bacteria, viruses and fungus. Terpenes are a major component of essential oils.
- They trigger a signalling process by activating olfactory (scent) receptors;
- Olfactory receptors occur mainly in the nose, but they are also present in other types of human tissue, including the skin and prostate.
The researchers looked to find the specific molecular mechanism that comes into play between the scent of lemon and liver cancer cells. They say that the terpenes, which, as a component of essential oil, helps to create lemon’s unique scent profile, follows a specific mechanism to stop cancer cells from growing.
- After applying (-)-citronellal, their study showed it interacts with olfactory receptor OR1A2 to specifically target liver cancer cells.
Using this information, new therapies can be developed that will avoid the problems associated with many current cancer treatments.
“These results are yet another example for the significance of olfactory receptors outside the nose, and they give rise to hope that new drugs with no severe side effects may be developed for cancer therapy,” the researchers conclude.