Perillyl Alcohol

Reviewed on 6/11/2021
Other Name(s):

Acide Dihydropérillique, Acide Périllique, Alcohol Perílico, Alcool Périllique, Dihydroperillic Acid, Monoterpene Perillyl Alcohol, Monoterpène, Perillic Acid, Périllique, Perillyl, Perilyl, Perrillyl, POH.


Perillyl alcohol is a chemical found in certain plants such as lavender and citrus fruits.

People take perillyl alcohol for cancer including lung cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and brain cancer. It is also used for cancers that don't seem to respond to treatment.

Perillyl alcohol is sometimes applied directly to the skin as a mosquito repellent.

How does it work?

There isn't enough information to know how perillyl alcohol might work against cancer. Test tube research and research in animals suggest that perillyl alcohol might prevent cancer cells from growing. But there is not enough information to know if perillyl alcohol has this effect in people.

Perillyl alcohol seems to repel mosquitoes. There isn't enough information to know how perillyl alcohol might do this.


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Uses & Effectiveness

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Colorectal cancer. Early research suggests that taking perillyl alcohol by mouth does not keep cancer of the colon or rectum from becoming worse.
  • Brain cancer. There are some reports that putting perillyl alcohol solution in the nose might shrink a certain type of brain tumor called oligodendroglioma.
  • Ovarian cancer. Early research suggests that taking perillyl alcohol by mouth does not keep ovarian cancer from advancing or increase overall survival in people with ovarian cancer.
  • Prostate cancer. There is some evidence that taking perillyl alcohol does not keep prostate cancer from advancing. But the results of this study are unreliable because many of the patients enrolled in the study dropped out early. They couldn't tolerate the side effects of perillyl alcohol.
  • Lung cancer.
  • Breast cancer.
  • Use as a mosquito repellent, when applied to the skin.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of perillyl alcohol for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Side Effects

Perillyl alcohol is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth with medical supervision. Don't use it on your own.

Perillyl alcohol can cause several serious side effects including stomach upset, reflux, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, fatigue, and headache. Higher doses are more likely to cause more side effects. Many people who take perillyl alcohol have to stop because they can't tolerate the side effects, even at usual doses.

There have been reports of pancreatitis, increased bilirubin (which is a measure of liver function), increased white blood cell count, and low potassium levels in people taking perillyl alcohol.


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Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking perillyl alcohol if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.


The appropriate dose of perillyl alcohol depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for perillyl alcohol. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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Ripple, G. H., Gould, M. N., Arzoomanian, R. Z., Alberti, D., Feierabend, C., Simon, K., Binger, K., Tutsch, K. D., Pomplun, M., Wahamaki, A., Marnocha, R., Wilding, G., and Bailey, H. H. Phase I clinical and pharmacokinetic study of perillyl alcohol administered four times a day. Clin Cancer Res 2000;6(2):390-396. View abstract.

Ahn KJ, Lee CK, Choi EK, et al. Cytotoxicity of perillyl alcohol against cancer cells is potentiated by hyperthermia. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2003;57:813-9. View abstract.

Azzoli, C. G., Miller, V. A., Ng, K. K., Krug, L. M., Spriggs, D. R., Tong, W. P., Riedel, E. R., and Kris, M. G. A phase I trial of perillyl alcohol in patients with advanced solid tumors. Cancer Chemother.Pharmacol. 2003;51(6):493-498. View abstract.

Bailey HH, Wilding G, Tutsch KD, et al. A phase I trial of perillyl alcohol administered four times daily for 14 days out of 28 days. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol 2004;54:368-76. View abstract.

Bailey, H. H., Levy, D., Harris, L. S., Schink, J. C., Foss, F., Beatty, P., and Wadler, S. A phase II trial of daily perillyl alcohol in patients with advanced ovarian cancer: Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Study E2E96. Gynecol.Oncol. 2002;85(3):464-468. View abstract.

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Berchtold, C. M., Chen, K. S., Miyamoto, S., and Gould, M. N. Perillyl alcohol inhibits a calcium-dependent constitutive nuclear factor-kappaB pathway. Cancer Res 9-15-2005;65(18):8558-8566. View abstract.

Burke, Y. D., Ayoubi, A. S., Werner, S. R., McFarland, B. C., Heilman, D. K., Ruggeri, B. A., and Crowell, P. L. Effects of the isoprenoids perillyl alcohol and farnesol on apoptosis biomarkers in pancreatic cancer chemoprevention. Anticancer Res 2002;22(6A):3127-3134. View abstract.

Cerda, S. R., Wilkinson, J., Branch, S. K., and Broitman, S. A. Enhancement of sterol synthesis by the monoterpene perillyl alcohol is unaffected by competitive 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase inhibition. Lipids 1999;34(6):605-615. View abstract.

Chan, N. L., Wang, H., Wang, Y., Leung, H. Y., and Leung, L. K. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-induced CYP1B1 activity is suppressed by perillyl alcohol in MCF-7 cells. Toxicol.Appl.Pharmacol. 11-21-2005; View abstract.

Chen, Y. and Hu, D. Effects of POH in combination with STI571 on the proliferation and apoptosis of K562 cells. J Huazhong.Univ Sci Technolog.Med Sci 2004;24(1):41-44. View abstract.

Chung, B. H., Lee, H. Y., Lee, J. S., and Young, C. Y. Perillyl alcohol inhibits the expression and function of the androgen receptor in human prostate cancer cells. Cancer Lett. 7-16-2005; View abstract.

Clark SS, Zhong L, Filiault D, et al. Anti-leukemia effect of perillyl alcohol in Bcr/Abl-transformed cells indirectly inhibits signaling through Mek in a Ras- and Raf-independent fashion. Clin Cancer Res 2003;9:4494-504. View abstract.

Clark SS. Perillyl alcohol induces c-Myc-dependent apoptosis in Bcr/Abl-transformed leukemia cells. Oncology 2006;70:13-8. View abstract.

Da Fonseca CO, Masini M, Futuro D, et al. Anaplastic oligodendroglioma responding favorably to intranasal delivery of perillyl alcohol: a case report and literature review. Surg Neurol 2006;66:611-5. View abstract.

Elegbede, J. A., Flores, R., and Wang, R. C. Perillyl alcohol and perillaldehyde induced cell cycle arrest and cell death in BroTo and A549 cells cultured in vitro. Life Sci 10-17-2003;73(22):2831-2840. View abstract.

Fernandes J, da Fonseca CO, Teixeira A, Gattass CR. Perillyl alcohol induces apoptosis in human glioblastoma multiforme cells. Oncol Rep 2005;13:943-7. View abstract.

Hohl, R. J. and Lewis, K. Differential effects of monoterpenes and lovastatin on RAS processing. J Biol Chem 7-21-1995;270(29):17508-17512. View abstract.

Hudes, G. R., Szarka, C. E., Adams, A., Ranganathan, S., McCauley, R. A., Weiner, L. M., Langer, C. J., Litwin, S., Yeslow, G., Halberr, T., Qian, M., and Gallo, J. M. Phase I pharmacokinetic trial of perillyl alcohol (NSC 641066) in patients with refractory solid malignancies. Clin Cancer Res 2000;6(8):3071-3080. View abstract.

Liston BW, Nines R, Carlton PS, et al. Perillyl alcohol as a chemopreventive agent in N-nitrosomethylbenzylamine-induced rat esophageal tumorigenesis. Cancer Res 2003;63:2399-403. View abstract.

Liu G, Oettel K, Bailey H, et al. Phase II trial of perillyl alcohol (NSC 641066) administered daily in patients with metastatic androgen independent prostate cancer. Invest New Drugs 2003;21:367-72. View abstract.

Loutrari H, Hatziapostolou M, Skouridou V, et al. Perillyl alcohol is an angiogenesis inhibitor. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 2004;311:568-75. View abstract.

Meadows, S. M., Mulkerin, D., Berlin, J., Bailey, H., Kolesar, J., Warren, D., and Thomas, J. P. Phase II trial of perillyl alcohol in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. Int J Gastrointest.Cancer 2002;32(2-3):125-128. View abstract.

Morgan-Meadows S, Dubey S, Gould M, et al. Phase I trial of perillyl alcohol administered four times daily continuously. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol 2003;52:361-6. View abstract.

Murren, J. R., Pizzorno, G., DiStasio, S. A., McKeon, A., Peccerillo, K., Gollerkari, A., McMurray, W., Burtness, B. A., Rutherford, T., Li, X., Ho, P. T., and Sartorelli, A. Phase I study of perillyl alcohol in patients with refractory malignancies. Cancer Biol Ther 2002;1(2):130-135. View abstract.

Omolo MO, Okinyo D, Ndiege IO, et al. Repellency of essential oils of some Kenyan plants against Anopheles gambiae. Phytochemistry 2004;65:2797-802. View abstract.

Omolo, M. O., Okinyo, D., Ndiege, I. O., Lwande, W., and Hassanali, A. Fumigant toxicity of the essential oils of some African plants against Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto. Phytomedicine. 2005;12(3):241-246. View abstract.

Rajesh, D. and Howard, S. P. Perillyl alcohol mediated radiosensitization via augmentation of the Fas pathway in prostate cancer cells. Prostate 9-15-2003;57(1):14-23. View abstract.

Rajesh, D., Stenzel, R. A., and Howard, S. P. Perillyl alcohol as a radio-/chemosensitizer in malignant glioma. J Biol Chem 9-19-2003;278(38):35968-35978. View abstract.

Samaila, D., Toy, B. J., Wang, R. C., and Elegbede, J. A. Monoterpenes enhanced the sensitivity of head and neck cancer cells to radiation treatment in vitro. Anticancer Res 2004;24(5A):3089-3095. View abstract.

Satomi, Y., Miyamoto, S., and Gould, M. N. Induction of AP-1 activity by perillyl alcohol in breast cancer cells. Carcinogenesis 1999;20(10):1957-1961. View abstract.

Stark, M. J., Burke, Y. D., McKinzie, J. H., Ayoubi, A. S., and Crowell, P. L. Chemotherapy of pancreatic cancer with the monoterpene perillyl alcohol. Cancer Lett. 9-4-1995;96(1):15-21. View abstract.

Stayrook, K. R., McKinzie, J. H., Burke, Y. D., Burke, Y. A., and Crowell, P. L. Induction of the apoptosis-promoting protein Bak by perillyl alcohol in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma relative to untransformed ductal epithelial cells. Carcinogenesis 1997;18(8):1655-1658. View abstract.

Stearns V, Coop A, Singh B, et al. A pilot surrogate end point biomarker trial of perillyl alcohol in breast neoplasia. Clin Cancer Res 2004;10:7583-91. View abstract.

Unlu, S., Mason, C. D., Schachter, M., and Hughes, A. D. Perillyl alcohol, an inhibitor of geranylgeranyl transferase, induces apoptosis of immortalized human vascular smooth muscle cells in vitro. J Cardiovasc.Pharmacol. 2000;35(2):341-344. View abstract.

Wei, X., Si, M. S., Imagawa, D. K., Ji, P., Tromberg, B. J., and Cahalan, M. D. Perillyl alcohol inhibits TCR-mediated [Ca(2+)](i) signaling, alters cell shape and motility, and induces apoptosis in T lymphocytes. Cell Immunol. 4-10-2000;201(1):6-13. View abstract.

Xu M, Floyd HS, Greth SM, et al. Perillyl alcohol-mediated inhibition of lung cancer cell line proliferation: potential mechanisms for its chemotherapeutic effects. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 2004;195:232-46. View abstract.

Yuri T, Danbara N, Tsujita-Kyutoku M, et al. Perillyl alcohol inhibits human breast cancer cell growth in vitro and in vivo. Breast Cancer Res Treat 2004;84:251-60. View abstract.

Zhang, Z., Chen, H., Chan, K. K., Budd, T., and Ganapathi, R. Gas chromatographic-mass spectrometric analysis of perillyl alcohol and metabolites in plasma. J Chromatogr.B Biomed.Sci Appl. 5-14-1999;728(1):85-95. View abstract.