5 Effective Antibacterial Essential Oils

5 essential oils with antibacterial propertiesScientists at Washington State University recently found that a close relation of the spice cinnamon, known as cassia, can help to prevent some of the most serious foodborne illnesses.

It has been suggested that cassia essential oil (Cinnamomum cassia) could be used as a natural antibacterial agent in the food industry after it was proven to kill several strains of Escherichia coli known as non-O157 STEC. According to scientists, ten drops of oil diluted in a litre of water killed bacteria within 24-hours.

Co-author of the study and a graduate student in the School of Food Science, Lina Sheng, said: “The essential oil can be incorporated into films and coatings for packaging both meat and fresh produce. It can also be added into the washing step of meat, fruits or vegetables to eliminate microorganisms.”

This study provides further evidence proving how effective essential oils can be when used as natural antibacterial agents in everyday life to protect and promote our health and wellbeing. However, this particular essential oil which is also known as Chinese cinnamon is not used much in aromatherapy since it is a severe skin irritant. There are other, safer oils that provide powerful antibacterial qualities that can be used in therapy.

The medicinal properties of essential oils

As many of our readers will know, essential oils have a long history of use as antibacterial medicines. In the publication Antibacterial activity of essential oils and their major constituents against respiratory tract pathogens by gaseous contact, Shigeharu Inouyea, Toshio Takizawab and Hideyo Yamaguchia explained: “Essential oils produced by plants have been traditionally used for respiratory tract infections, and are used nowadays as ethical medicines for colds.

In the medicinal field, inhalation therapy of essential oils has been used to treat acute and chronic bronchitis and acute sinusitis. Inhaling essential oils augmented the output of respiratory tract fluid, maintained the ventilation and drainage of the sinuses, had an anti-inflammatory effect on the trachea and reduced asthma.”

Studies have also proven the antibacterial properties of essential oils in fighting Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella typhimurium, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Shigella dysenteria, Bacillus cereus and Staphylococcus aureus. Essential oils known for their antibacterial properties are most commonly used in cleaning, body hygiene, disinfecting wounds, and for inhalation with respiratory tract infections.

Other effective antibacterial oils

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum vera) This essential oil is contains around 80 per cent phenols and is well-known for its antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and immune-boosting properties. It holds great protective powers that can be used to protect against colds, flu, and the spread of airborne bacteria. To use cinnamon essential oil as a protective inhalation, fill a bowl with almost boiling water and add three or four drops of the oil. Close your eyes, lean over the bowl and breathe slowly. For the best results, place a large towel over your head and ensure it surrounds the bowl. Cinnamon oil can irritate skin so use half the normal concentration when adding this oil to cream or lotion blends to be used on skin.

Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) – Well known as an antibacterial and antifungal, this essential oil is applied to the skin after appropriate dilution to treat infected wounds or skin eruptions such as boils and acne. In an emergency 1 or 2 drops of neat tea tree essential oil can be applied to a wound to protect from infection until suitable treatment can be sought.

Researchers from the University of Wolverhampton found that mixing tea tree oil and silver nitrate or adding them to liposomes as a delivery system increased their antimicrobial activity further. Add four to five drops of tea tree essential oil to 10ml of carrier oil or lotion when treating skin infections or conditions.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) – Researchers have found lemongrass to be an incredibly effective antibacterial oil, especially against drug resistant organisms. Indeed, experts think lemongrass could be helpful in treating infections caused by multidrug resistant organisms. For treating skin infections, mix four to five drops of lemongrass essential oil with 10ml of carrier oil or base lotion and massage gently into the affected area.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) – Basil essential oil has been found to be effective when used to treat standard gram-negative bacteria including Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and gram-positive ones including Bacillus cereus and Staphylococcus aureus. Add four to five drops with 10ml of carrier oil, or lotion when applying to the skin.

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