Health Benefits of Essential Oils to Fight Superbugs
Antibiotic resistance is a global threat1 according to the World Health Organization.
Over the last few decades, overuse of antibiotics and antibacterial products has created what scientists refer to as “superbugs.” These are viruses, fungi, and bacteria that are antibiotic resistant to the drugs we currently have available and they’re creating massive problems in hospitals worldwide.2
Can the health benefits of essential oils help this growing problem?
MRSA – A Dangerous Epidemic
Let’s talk a bit about the worst offender. Meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is the biggest superbug threat on the scene. Also known as staph infection, this type of bacterial contamination can be fatal and directly leads to more than 10,000 deaths every year.3
These bacteria fester on the skin and in the soft tissue of the nose. What begins as small pimple-like bumps – similar in appearance to a spider bite – can abscess to the point that they must be medically drained and treated.
It is the most common form of skin infection in the United States and leads to pneumonia, surgical complications, and blood/bone infections.
The majority of MRSA infections happen in the hospital among those who have weakened immune systems. They’re called hospital-associated MRSA cases. Those that happen outside a hospital environment are called community-associated MRSA.4
Risk factors for MRSA:
- Weakened immunity
- Working in a hospital environment or living with someone who does
- Contact sports
- Crowded or non-hygienic living conditions5
In a world that has become dependent on antibiotics, essential oils are an ancient solution that has scientists optimistic.
During the Edinburgh meeting of the Society for General Microbiology, research was presented by representatives from the Technological Educational Institute of Ionian Islands in Greece on the efficacy of essential oils in fighting superbugs.6 Their findings were fascinating.
Thyme essential oil killed most traces of the drug-resistant bacteria in less than one hour. Cinnamon was nearly as effective against MRSA.7
The antimicrobial health benefits of essential oils have been used since ancient times by cultures all over the world. Though little scientific research has been done on their benefits for humans in the modern world, they are well tolerated and effective against many forms of fungus and bacteria. Used as regular topical treatment for acne, dandruff, bug bites, and head lice, essential oils are widely available, inexpensive, and powerfully effective.
The data from the Greek institute at the Edinburgh meeting was clear. Professor Yiannis Samaras explained, “Not only are essential oils a cheap and effective treatment option for antibiotic-resistant strains, but decreased use of antibiotics will help minimize the risk of new strains of antibiotic resistant micro-organisms emerging.”
It will be fascinating to see additional studies in the future!
More Health-Boosting Benefits of Essential Oils
Most essential oils require a carrier oil to avoid irritation when applied topically. Coconut oil is an excellent choice that is also highly beneficial to human skin on its own. In addition to thyme and cinnamon oils, here are five more powerful oils that can help protect you against sickness.
5 Essential Oils You Need in Your Home
- Lavender oil is the most well-known essential oil, it has long been used to ease the pain, itching, and healing time for scrapes, bug bites, and various stings. Safe to use without a carrier oil, lavender can be applied topically or used for relaxation by adding drops to your bath or even to your pillow for better sleep.
- Peppermint oil requires a carrier oil and is excellent to combat fever, nausea, and as a natural insect repellant. A few drops blended with coconut oil and rubbed into the temples or used as a massage oil will ease tension headaches, improve breathing, promote relaxation, and cool you down. Peppermint oil is not taken internally.
- Eucalyptus oil also requires a carrier oil for application to the skin. Used in many cold and flu products, eucalyptus is ideal for use in a vaporizer to clear lungs, open bronchial passages, and unclog the sinuses. A handkerchief with a few drops is a good way to avoid excessive germs during the winter months and help you breathe easy. Not to be used internally.
- Tea tree oil is ideal for bug bites, fungal infections, warts, and dandruff, tea tree oil should be mixed with a carrier oil for application to the skin. It is so effective as a germ-killer that a few drops mixed with water creates a natural cleaning product that will disinfect as well as chemical-laden store bought products.
- Rosemary oil is one of the most powerful (and natural) insect repellants that is quickly and safely made by mixing with a carrier oil and rubbing into the skin or shaking in lukewarm water and applying with a spray bottle. It improves circulation and can be added to shampoo to boost health of the scalp and hair.8
The primary benefits of essential oils are that they are naturally antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial. They are generally safe to use if you’re not allergic to the base plant and well tolerated by most from small children to the very aged.
Quality product can be pricey but very little is needed due to their high concentration. Make sure the essential oils you choose are not blended with other compounds as it decreases their efficacy.
1 World Health Organization: Antibiotic resistance
2 NCBI: The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis
3 Mayo Clinic: MRSA Infection
4 NCBI: The incidence of MRSA infections in the United States
5 Healthline: MRSA (Staph) Infection
6 EurekAlert: Top microbiology experts meet in Edinburgh at SGM Spring Conference 2010
7 Science Daily: Essential oils to fight superbugs
8 NCBI: Antimicrobial Properties of Plant Essential Oils against Human Pathogens and Their Mode of Action: An Updated Review