Using Essential Oils as Natural Anticeptics

Posted on Thursday 29 April 2010

Many of us have early childhood memories, perhaps even fond ones, of antiseptics. Grandma getting the bottle of iodine tincture to dab a little on our wounds, with an almost reassuring “this will only hurt a little.” Followed by the true reassurance of a few M&M’s. Now we have the tools to make these memories even more fond for our children; imagine their recollection of a dab of Lavender and a bribe of a strawberry fruit roll – that might not even hurt at all. Here’s a review of the antimicrobial nature of essential oils, and some simple home remedies to use aromatherapy as part of your natural health and wellness program at home.

It turns out that nature has been doing a remarkable job of therapeutic blending of essential oils as antiseptics. Plants have evolved these volatile chemical mixtures called essential oils in-part as defense mechanisms against bacteria, viruses and fungi. The antiseptic properties of the oils provide the plant with protection from disease and microscopic invaders. We have significant advantages in using oils for our own microbial defense as humans: The defense mechanisms of plants have been evolving throughout history; these mechanisms are up-to-date with the evolution of the microbes being defended against. Combinations of chemical constituents found in essential oils have been shown in laboratory studies to be some of the most potent antibacterial agents available today.

Research exists describing the effective, broad-spectrum of antimicrobial action from essential oils, yet it is important to select the right oils in the right amounts. Topical application of Oregano may be the best solution for a case of stubborn nail fungus, yet this is far too intense for use on soft tissue of any kind, particularly for children. Often, home mand formuals of a potent antiseptic with a known soothing oil can improve the overall effectiveness. Here we will briefly profile these highly-regarded oils, and look at some recipes and methods of application: Tea Tree (Maleluca alternafolia), Lavender (Lavendula angistifolia), Oregano (Oregano vulgar), Geranium (Geranium asperum) and Lemon. (Citrus limon).

Tea Tree essential oil is known throughout the world for its protective properties against infections. The leaves have been used for centuries to heal wounds and skin infections by indigenous Australians. Tea Tree is a must for every natural first aid kit, both for the home and for the traveling family. One of the safest and most effective ways of controlling minor infections is the immediate intervention action of Tea Tree. The oil is well tolerated, and cases of irritation by this oil are almost unheard of. A drop on the gauze before applying a bandage can keep the reddening indication of infection from children’s cuts and scrapes. Also for the young ones, Tea Tree can be diluted to 5% in any carrier like Jojoba oil or Aloe Vera for a gentle topical antiseptic.

Lavender essential oil is an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory (AND stress reducer, especially for kids), and is helpful in the healing of small burns, cuts and insect bites. Lavender is a brilliant soothing agent for nearly every situation; its aroma will bring calm – a useful effect in many situations where an antiseptic is required. For healing unbroken skin such as burns, apply Lavender ‘neat’ to the wound several times a day; insect bites also get a ‘neat’ treatment. For cuts and scrapes, keep a one-to-one blend of Lavender and Tea Tree essential oils available for the best all-purpose antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and pain relieving solution. for the young ones. This soothing, antiseptic formula can be applied directly to the skin in small amounts, or applied to dressings before application.

While the Tea Tree and Lavender blend gives us a formula for regular use, Oregano is the all-time heavy-hitter of essential oils for antimicrobial action. Oregano is serious medicine; it has been the subject of many successful scientific evaluations. Interest in the oil’s efficacy growing in amongst the world’s medical practitioners as infectious microbes become more and more resistant to synthetic antibiotics. Pure oil of Oregano is exceptionally strong – too strong for topical application except in the most stubborn cases, and then only with careful attention. Oregano holds the most promise as a systemic antimicrobial; Oregano oil can be found in enteric-coated (for targeting parasites and bacteria in the intestines) and regular capsules for support of the immune system during illness. Consult a qualified medical practitioner for dosage recommendations.

Also a highly-regarded antimicrobial, but with gentler action and scent, Geranium essential oil is a very worthwhile addition to the home medicine chest. Geranium has exceptional healing properties for the skin, creating balance between oily and dry states, and is useful for both over-oily and over-dry conditions.. A non-drying, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, and general tonic, Geranium is described in the aromatherapy literature as a cure for acne, general dermatitis and eczema. Geranium essential oil is one of the few that has been used successfully against the MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) bacteria in laboratory studies (see Pub Med for research abstracts on this suject). Geranium may also be used as a local antiseptic for small wounds; there are many Geranium varieties available, though the oil produced in Egypt may be the most potent antimicrobial, with a brilliant sweet and herbaceous aroma accompanying its healing effects.

Lemon essential oil is a powerful antiseptic and bactericide that performs many tasks around the house, as well as for your health. Lemon has a tonic action on the lymphatic system and a stimulating action on the digestive system, additionally providing relief from insect bites and tension headaches. Use this pleasant antimicrobial blend with confidence to clean counter tops, windows, and door handles: 2 drops each of Lemon, Pine, and Eucalyptus Radiata essential oils in 4 ounces of distilled or spring water (distilled water dries without leaving haze from mineral deposits). Keep a spray bottle of this solution handy for your day-to-day cleaning.

These are but a sampling of the antiseptic and antimicrobial essential oils available. They are easy to use, and offer a excellent means of bringing natural medicines and cleaners into your life. Many oils have specific action against certain microbes; if you or a friend or loved one needs more directed treatment, seek the advice of a licensed or degreed natural health professional, and consult a doctor to ensure the safety of any complimentary essential oil application. The acceptance of essential oils as valid medicines continues to grow. If you’re new to the field, dive in with some of the suggestions here – you’re sure to enjoy these great gifts of nature.

More information on essential oils and aromatherapy carrier oils is available at the Ananda Apothecary.

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