Monday, December 7, 2015

Medicine of the Future? It Might Just Be Essential Oils

Note: At the time of this post, I am not affiliated with any essential oils companies or sales efforts. I am, however, a Masters of Public Health student. I have seen the dramatic effect of essential oils of several different brands for myself and read the research behind them and am very enthusiastic about the possibilities. Thus, this post. =)

Once upon a time, antibiotics and pesticides were lauded as the answer to diseases. Antibiotics promised to cure diseases with a simple spoonful of medicine for a few weeks. Pesticides were supposed to kill all the disease carrying bugs and we would enter a brave, new world where old age would be the only foe left to the health of humankind.
Of course that didn't happen.
We found out that rampant pesticide use poisoned people, animals and the environment. (Certain pesticides like DDT were outlawed in the wake of Rachel Carson's revealing book Silent Spring.) Now, we're facing the fallout from antibiotics in the form of candida infections, gut imbalances and antibiotic resistant bacteria. It's a pretty serious problem since the CDC estimates that every year 2 million people are infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria and of those 23,000 will die from the infection.
It doesn't have to be that way. In fact it never did. With antibiotic resistance becoming more and more of a problem both in the United States and less developed countries, more research has been done on natural alternatives. And there is a lot of good news! Essential oils and herbs can take on some of the nastiest antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria without the side effects of antibiotics. Here's a brief glimpse of some of the recent findings:
Haemophilus Influenzae B (Hib): This bacteria can cause meningitis and is the cause of most ear infections. However, you can use some powerful essential oils to combat it. A study from the Oxford Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy found that Hib is actually very susceptible to a number of diffused essential oils, though cinnamon bark, lemongrass and thyme required the smallest dose to kill the bacteria. This study found that these oils were effective against a number of other bacteria, including a strain of penicillin resistant s. pneumoniae. Lemongrass proved to be very powerful against Hib. Another fascinating study from the Oxford Journal of Infectious Diseases found that rats who had acute otitis media (ear infection) caused by Hib or pneumococcus bacteria recovered quickly when 2 drops of sweet basil essential oil was placed on a cotton ball, inserted into the ear canal and sealed with plugs.
Streptococcus pneumoniae: S. pneumoniae causes pneumococcal pneumonia, meningitis and several other types of infections. The aforementioned study from the Oxford Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy found that s. pneumoniae was most susceptible to cinnamon bark essential oil and red thyme essential oil. In fact, the penicillin resistant strain of the bacteria was even more susceptible to cinnamon bark essential oil than the non-penicillin resistant strain.
Streptococcus pyognes: This is the bacteria that causes Group A Streptococcus infections. This was also in the Oxford study, which found that red thyme essential oil was most effective against this particular bacteria. Another study from France found that Ceylon cinnamon essential oil, lemongrass essential oil, oregano essential oil, and winter savory essential oils along with thyme essential oil, were also effective in killing s. pyogenes .
Staphylococcus aureus: This nasty bug is responsible for most cases of mastitis. It's also a frequent cause of pneumonia and skin, blood and joint infections. Worse still, a methicillin resistant strain has developed (frequently called MRSA for methicillin resistant s. aureus.) However, cassia, Peru balsam, and red thyme essential oils have been found to kill s. aureus  very effectively. Another study found that a combination of tea tree and geranium essential oils was highly effective at killing s. aureus.  Concerned about MRSA? This same study found that a combination of Citricidal brand grapefruit seed extract and geranium essential oil worked very well for killing MRSA. 
I had a great experience with my sister and essential oils for mastitis. She had a nasty recurring case of it and really wanted to avoid an antibiotic because then her baby would get thrush. After reading these studies, I suggested she use some blends with cassia and thyme topically and very diluted (one drop in a 8 oz cup of water) as a cleanse for my niece's mouth. I suggested she dip in a toothbrush in the essential oil water and just brush her baby's mouth with it very gently. Then discard any extra water to avoid any contamination. It worked. The mastitis cleared up without an antibiotic and she was able to keep breastfeeding for several more months. =)
Foodborne illnesses: Lemongrass, cinnamon and a compound called geraniol (an extract from geranium essential oil) all kill e. coli, salmonella enteriditis, and listeria innocua. An even bigger study compared 96 different essential oils and 23 oil compounds against campylobacter  jejuni, e. coli, listeria monocytogenes, and salmonella enterica. Marigold, ginger and jasmine were among the most effective essential oils for killing campylobacter. (It might not be a bad idea to have some of these around if you drink raw milk since campylobacter is one of the most common bacterial infections spread by raw milk.) Oregano, cinnamon and thyme were most effective against e. coli. Gardenia, cedarwood and bay leaf  were most effective against listeria. Thyme, oregano and cinnamon were most effective against salmonella.
Waterborne illnesses: In 2011 the Journal of Advancements in Environmental Biology published a study showing that the ajowan essential oil is a very powerful tool for combatting waterborne bacteria, including e. coli, salmonella typhirium, vibrio cholerae and shigella dysenteriae. Another study found that lemon scented thyme essential oil was effective against certain strains of e. coli  and s. dysentariae and s. typhirium.

Candida albicans: Antibiotics often kill off the good gut flora and then open up the body for colonization by candida, leading to nasty gut and skin infections and thrush. A Japanese study found that lemongrass essential oil has a lot of potential for fighting candida infections. I've used lemongrass essential oil diluted with vegetable oil topically for skin infections and I think it's the best thing, especially when paired with tea tree essential oils.

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