Anti-microbial effects of essential oils

Essential oils have come “under the microscope” of research scientists and medical doctors over the last few decades because of their immensely powerful action against various pathogenic germs, including fungi, bacteria, and even viruses which – by standard means of modern allopathic approaches – have proven to be more and more resistant against a large variety of anti-biotics.

Numerous scientists and medical doctors have compared in their publications the advantages of what they call the “eu-biotic” approach of medical Aromatherapy versus the allopathic or anti-biotic approach of Western medicine. They have pointed out the complex action of a aromatic molecules on the germ, the milieu and the immune system in general versus the extremely limited anti-microbial properties of chemical weapons with their numerous unwanted side-effects.

Antibiotic resistance is increasing with the result that standard treatments are loosing their efficiency. The methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) for example is a known element in this context and contributes largely to this helpless situation.

“Quorum sensing” bacteria (a subtle ability of bacteria to communicate with each other) – this we know today – are using their own language in their strategies in releasing toxic molecules which are able to weaken the immune system and create severe damage to host tissues. They are largely responsible for mortality – and difficult to neutralize with standard anti-biotics.

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It is true that anti-biotic resistance as such is not a totally new phenomenon, but it is rather the drastically growing over-exaggerated use of antibiotics that has given rise to an increasing number of pathogenic organisms which have developed their own defence system against major ??anti-biotic drugs in recent years.

But WHY – if we want to speak of a “war” between humans and bacteria (whatever may be its evolutionary “side-effect”) – yes, WHY do we still think that the enemy would not find (or better : would not have found since long) its own defence mechanisms if we always use the same weapons ?

“Essential oils could kill the deadly MRSA hospital ‘superbug” ….scientists have claimed not long ago. At the University of Manchester researchers analyzed 3 essential oils which destroyed methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli bacteria in two minutes. One of the scientist who did this research pointed out that a “more pleasant” inhalation therapy, with these oils

“were likely to have a much higher success rate than the current treatment, which is only effective in around 50% of cases….We believe that our discovery could revolutionize the fight to combat methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus and other superbugs.”


Are these findings totally new for us ?

Actually, the theme of essential oils and their anti-microbial efficiency is much older than we think. It is only that – under the grip of modern allopathic medicine (with the known keen interest groups and lobbies in the background) – we have simply preferred to ignore the fact that Nature has her own strategies since millions of years against “superbugs”. “Anti-microbial warfare” – if we want to call it like this – is certainly as old as plants exist on this planet.

If plants, by means of essential oils, are able to defend themselves against parasites, fungi, bacteria, viruses….if they are able with their help to communicate among each other, attract pollinators, thermo-protect and energize themselves etc., it would have been strange if we as human beings would not have come to use this precious gift of the plant Kingdom for our own well-being. Actually, we have done this since long……

We have always used medicinal plants through the ages – and many of these plants are endowed to a high degree with anti-microbial essential oils. Aromatherapy is just a modern version of an age old plant medicine in its most compact form. It uses the powerful energy and bio-chemistry of numerous medicinal plants around the globe for a new approach to “healing with Nature”. The advantage today is that we have access to a real “world pharmacy” of the Plant Kingdom. Ethno-medical knowledge from all cultures is available to everyone due to the marvellous exchange of cultures from all continents. And essential oils which are among the prime healers can be found in every town today – organic stores, drug stores, pharmacies, internet etc.

Can we imagine how many severe epidemics we would have avoided if we have had available our own “home pharmacy” equipped with major anti viral and anti-bacterial essential oils diffused in the air or administered directly via local skin applications or oral intake? Of course, in certain areas of Europe fumigation, ointments, pills as well as essential oils, all based on medicinal plants, were sometimes used – but unfortunately not in a systematic way.

In early 16th century the famous astrologer and physician Michel de Nostredame, known as Nostradamus fumigated whole villages with essential oils carrying aromatic plants to fight off the plague. The “Black Death” had come back after its furious attack on Asia and the old Continent in the 14th century, when more than 100 million people had died from it within a few years and 1/3 to 1/2 of the European population perished.

Michel de Nostredame – Nostradamus

Or the 1918 flu pandemic 100 years ago : “It infected 500 million people across the world, including remote Pacific islands and the Arctic, and resulted in the deaths of 50 to 100 million (three to five percent of the world’s population, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.” (Wikipedia)…..hard to imagine what would have happened with the powerful anti-viral oils of modern Aromatherapy collectively made available.

During the great waves of plague those who were in touch with aromatic medicinal plants or essential oils were often found to be immune against the disease, while others around them were dying. This was the case with the farmers or workers in the Lavender fields in Provence and those in Grasse who were tanning the leather gloves and bags for the rich ladies in Savoy-Italy using essential oils to perfume the stinky rough leather – they escaped from the plague untouched – whereas their masters perished like flies!

…and then, from here, in the 17th century the perfumery industry in Grasse started. The perfuming of the leather amazingly enough gave a new signal for a large reawakening of a special plant medicine through “Aromas”. And then the scientists appeared…..

Waves of research started over hundred years ago

Especially starting with the beginning of the 20th century a considerable number of research studies in France brought to light interesting health effects of a number of essential oils. Professor Griffon studied the anti-septic properties of essential oil blends, among which Lemon oil played a major role. Morel and Rochaix proved that the evaporated particles of Lemon oil are capable of neutralizing

  •  the meningococcus (Meningitis – blood infection) within 15 minutes
  • the Ebert bacteria (Typhus) in hardly 1 hour
  • the Pneumococcus (Pneumonia etc.) in 1 – 3 hours
  • the Staphylococcus aureus (skin- and respiratory infections, food poisoning) in 2 hours
  • the hemolytic Streptococci (breaks down red blood cells – pneumonia, blood poisoning (septicemia), inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) etc….. within 3 – 12 hours.

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…and then now, and since not more than 1- 2 decades, more and more research all over….. In their Annual Research Report for 1996, Weber State University cites 19 oils which displayed a 100% kill rate against T7 phage, and three oils which displayed a 100% kill rate against Staphylococcus aureus phage. Jane Buckle PhD, in her famous book “Clinical Aromatherapy – Essential Oils in Health Care” has given highly interesting summaries of the numerous research studies made over the last decade on anti-microbial effects of essential oils.

Aromatherapy uses essential oils, carrier oils and hydrosols from all kinds of ethno-medical traditions around the globe. We can truly say again : For the first time in history – and this also due to our global connectedness – we have access to the traditional healing treasures of the world in our hands, many of them even in our own «home-pharmacy» for powerful preventive self-care and self-healing.

So, we can take responsibility in many ways for our own health, become our own guardians of personal well-being. A simple investigation on numerous ailments can derive hundreds of scientific data today on on-going or achieved clinical research with regards to essential oils. But even more precious for our understanding than the scientific validation are the countless personal testimonials of essential oils users. This should be the basis for a «corpus» of a new aroma-therapeutic science of healing.

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Some more examples of Aromatherapy

  • An essential oil extracted from Coriander seeds has shown dramatic results against all major food-borne bacteria like the pathogenic forms of Escherichia coli and many others.
  •  In Japan engineers have started to incorporate aroma systems into new buildings. Fragrances such as Lavender or Rosemary are pumped into customer areas in order to reduce the stress and possible bacterial contamination during waiting….
  • Other research has shown that diffusing Rosemary oil in a class room improved memory performance of the group by up to 75 %.
  • Scientifc research clearly indicates that Clove essential oil is highly antifungal towards all tested fungal species such as candida albicans, penicillium citrinum, etc. strongly anti-bacterial – and the most powerful known anti-oxidant in Nature !

Clove essential oil is widely understood to be generally antibacterial, but the University of Buenos Aires took the time to pinpoint bacteria that Clove was especially able to target. They found that Clove essential oil was particularly efficient against

  •  Eschericia coli
  • followed by Staphilococcus aureus
  • and Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Microbicide activity of clove essential oil  (Eugenia caryophyllata). Nuñez L1, Aquino MD.

With all of these connected to significant illness, skin infections, and pneumonia, Clove oil is an extremely valuable tool for disease prevention and treatment.

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Indonesian Shaman preparing medicine with Clove bud, one of the ancient medicinal plants of South-East-Asia, already used in China 2 000 years ago

Nature works synergistically

Due to their rich bio-chemical profile essential oils are multi-functional. It is this aspect of Aromatherapy which makes essential oils so polyvalent. It makes it impossible for bacteria and viruses to become resistant to the impact of such a powerful molecular and energetic diversity.

Plants need this diversity because they are constantly exposed to large microbial threats from the environment. Their essential oils in multiple synergistic blends, and always slightly changing from year to year due to climatic fluctuations offer,     as we have seen, a perfect defence against a large range of numerous pathogenic aggressors. This is also the reason why Peppermint oil, for example, helps simultaneously against immunological, nervous, hepatic, skin, circulatory, intestinal and psychological disorders etc.

Rose oil contains up to 500 different compounds. Lavender not much less. Each and everyone of these molecules has developed over the endless corridor of time or – also possible – even emerged during the special alchemy of distillation. We can trust that Nature knows best why and how….. This intrinsic complexity AND balance of bio-chemical compounds is one of the major aspects defining the special healing effects of a medicinal plant and its essential oil.

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‘Rose is the only thing you can take with you when you die because it’s not of this world.’  – old Persian saying

We need to learn more from the secrets of “Nature’s medicine” – everything else may lead to heavy mistakes against the cosmics laws of balance and progress in creation. This means also : any one of the numerous compounds of a medicinal plant or its essential oil contributes to its healing properties. This is what “holistic” and “natural” mean in contrast to the “isolative” approach of modern medicine with its “single-directed molecules” and its obsessive research for the so-called “active ingredients”. There are no “passive ingredients” anyway, they are all interlinked for some hidden reason. Isolating compounds for medicine can be a Pandora box – and create mad-icine instead of medicine….

There is a subtle balance in the arrangements of bio-chemical compounds perfected by the invisible hand of Mother Nature. These compounds reflect also on the modes of energy which medicinal plants and their essential oils can convey to us humans….Why neglect this amazingly complex network of time tested healing impulses worked out through millions of years by only prescribing “linear” chemical drugs ?

If we want to make medicine more potent, we better look for a better understanding of Nature’s bio-chemistry and acquire deeper knowledge of the hidden connections between Plant and Man. Their tremendous promise of holistic healing  is one of the keys for a quantum leap of human culture going hand in hand with the intelligence of an evolving Universe !

Dr. Malte Hozzel

and to finish with a nice testimonial :

Our farmer friend Guy who often helps distilling with us at our OSHADHI Aromatherapy Center in High Provence / France ( when we receive or intl. groups was not answering the phone for quite some time – finally we got him and were shocked to hear his very weak voice, very unfamiliar for him. He told us he was in bed since days with sth. like a severe gastro-enteritis, also strong diarrhea as a symptom. Doctors did not know what to do. He did not eat any more……We grabbed 5-6 essential oils from our lab and straight made with the car the 1 hour drive to his home.

He was really not in good shape – had never seen him like this. At his age 77 he looked nearer to death than to life. I asked him for some small jar of honey and mixed into it essential oils of Oregano, Thyme thymol type, Mountain Savory, Cinnamon bark, holy Basil, Tarragon….sth. like 3 % of essential oils in the blend with honey. (Nostradamus would have liked this ! J)

Then told him to put his finger tip into it every hour and lick it……..Next morning he called us, his voice much better and he said : “first thing I did not today I went to fridge and prepard my breakfast, I was hungry again.” After a few days he had completely recovered.

Malte Hozzel – summer 2015

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