The Science Of Aromatherapy: Essential Oils Eradicate The Superbug

Posted on Tuesday 7 September 2010

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 bacteria has been such a challenge that a significant amount of research has been done investigating the efficacy of natural treatments. Browsing the research abstracts at, one will find a large number of papers investigating the use of essential oils, both in liquid and in vapor phases. Essential oils naturally present themselves in ways that can be of help: Because infections are found in the nasal cavities and respiratory system, as well as at wound (broken skin) sites, both inhalation and topical application of these natural antibiotics can be useful.

The efficacy of one of the most popular means of using essential oils as a preventative measure was elucidated by researchers testing oils in their vapor phase. By using a nebulizing diffuser — a device that makes an evaporating mist of an oil or oil blend — it was found that a blend of lemongrass and geranium could limit the growth of MRSA bacteria in a petri dish within the same enclosed space. And further, the airborne bacterial count in an office environment was reduced by eighty-nine percent by over fifteen hours using this same blend.

When reviewing the data, it appears in most studies, no single essential oil was truly effective — rather a blend of oils did the trick. Tea tree was the oil most tested individually, with mixed results. In some cases it showed promising inhibition in the lab, but in more “real world” experiments, it didn’t seem to measure up. Geranium and thyme essential oils were also often promising, but also did not provide complete results.

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.

This is only a small selection of the available data, yet the vast majority of results confirm that essential oils can be effective at eradicating MRSA bacteria. What is wonderful about these results is that essential oils are readily available, inexpensive, and virtually non-toxic. Treatment of such infections with essential oils should clearly be done with the guidance of a qualified medical professional, as the illness can be deadly. Individuals with weak immune systems, and those exposed regularly to MRSA or other bacterial pathogens can protect themselves with a nebulizing aromatherapy diffuser. One can make a simple blend of lemongrass, geranium and thyme essential oils and regularly diffuse this in their space for such support.

Visit the website for more on essential oil research, Lavender essential oil and more.

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1 Comment for 'The Science Of Aromatherapy: Essential Oils Eradicate The Superbug'

    September 9, 2010 | 8:45 am

    Actually the type of Thyme you mention above, Benchmark Thyme, developed by Maggie Tisserand, is available in the US.

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