Derived from essential oils in various botanicals including lavender, peppermint, cherries, sage, and lemongrass, perillyl alcohol is used to prevent and treat cancer. It is a cyclic monoterpene that causes G1 cell cycle arrest, induces apoptosis, and inhibits posttranslational modification of signal transduction proteins (1) (2).
In vitro studies show that perillyl alcohol has antiangiogenesis (9) and anticancer (11) (12) effects.
Data from clinical trials are conflicting: Perillyl alcohol did not benefit patients with pancreatic cancer (10), skin cancer (13), or in those with treatment-refractory breast cancer (14), but preliminary results from a study of patients with malignant gliomas reported regression of tumor size (15). Further research is needed.
Side effects include nausea, early satiety, and fatigue (3). Dose limiting toxicities, reported at higher levels, included stomatitis, hypokalemia, nausea, and fatigue (2) (8).