Essential Oils In Mainstream Medicine: Treating MRSA
You’ve more than likely heard of MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a strain of bacteria known as a “superbug”. It has also been referred to as “multi-drug resistant” and “oxacillin-resistant”, and by definition it is any strain of Staphyulococcus aureus bacteria that has grown resistant to what are known as “beta-lactam” antibiotics (which include the penicillins). Having grown resistant to powerful synthetic antibiotics, infection with this microbe is now responsible for many thousands of deaths annually — primarily in hospitals where patients are already immuno-compromised.
The search for a cure for this infection has lead a great many research teams to investigate the efficacy of essential oils. It has long been the contention of leading medical aromatherapy practitioners that the greatest gift of essential oils for mankind will be their ability to prevent and treat infectious illness — and research is positively supporting this contention.
Essential oils have the great feature of being able to be used both as vapors and as topical solutions — useful because MRSA infections are commonly found in the respiratory tract as well as a the site of broken-skin wounds.
In one study, which included both laboratory and “real-world” experiments, diffusing a blend of essential oils was found to be effective in eradicating bacteria. In closed boxes, the vapor was found to inhibit the growth of MRSA on agar plates by 38%. In an office environment, after running the diffuser for fifteen hours, the total bacterial count in the air was reduced by 89%. The blend was a simple combination of two highly regarded antibacterial essential oils: lemongrass and geranium.
After running the diffuser for fifteen hours, the total bacterial count in the air was reduced by 89%
While a number of studies have evaluated the efficacy of tea tree essential oil, as it has historically been a highly effective and well-tolerated antiseptic, it is clear that tea tree is not the most effective oil for this purpose. For example, in a “dressing model” study (where preparations were made using wound dressings), the most effective formulas were either a blend of tea tree AND geranium, or of geranium and grapefruit seed extract. Several other studies have found blends of essential oils to be more effective than any single oil alone.
It’s interesting that no single essential oil has been found in all the research to be superior to synthetic antibiotics, but blends of essential oils have been. From this information, a company in the UK has developed a new strain of the herb thyme for distillation into an essential oil. Thyme essential oil is commonly available in 4 chemotypes, meaning it naturally has 4 distinct chemical profiles depending on the kind of thyme herb the oil has been distilled from. This new strain produces an essential oil with a chemical profile that mimics an essential oil blend, containing natural chemicals found in both thyme and tea tree essential oils. It preliminary studies, this essential oil alone has been found to be effective against MRSA — while it is not yet available in the US, keep watch for this new type of thyme essential oil.
A complex blend of eucalyptus, tea tree, clove, lemongrass and thyme essential oils was reported to successfully treat individuals with MRSA infections. The blend, diluted in alcohol, was topically applied to two individuals where traumatic injury sites incurred infections — the result was complete eradication of MRSA infections. In a third individual, MRSA infection was present in bone structure, and was not responding to any antibiotic treatment. Using a slow-release system, the essential oil blend also resulted in complete eradication of the infection.
The possibility of using essential oils for treatment of serious infectious illness is real. The data supports the use of oils for both prevention (by diffusion in your living and working spaces) and treatment of MRSA infections — and it follows that the vast majority of common bacterial illnesses can be successfully prevented and treated with essential oils as well. The versatility, safety, and availability of essential oils should make them the choice for such treatment in the future, as their acceptance becomes more widespread.