My Research on Essential Oils and Their Anti-Microbial Properties

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Olivia Amitrano

Founder at Organic Olivia
After facing many health issues early in life and getting no answers from our modern medical system, Olivia turned to self healing. She studied Traditional Chinese Medicine and investigated all she could on what we eat and the pitfalls of the standard American diet. She created Organicolivia.com to document her journey and spread the truth aboutingredients, GMOs, nutrition, avoiding toxins and alternative medicine. In collaboration with her Mentor Lily, Olivia has launched a Parasite cleanse kit and the new and improved version will be available soon.
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ALL views in this post are my own. The links to oils at the end of this post simply go to Amazon. The information you are about to read below is nothing but a collection of my research, and you’ll find that each and every statement is backed up by a published medical/scientific study that is linked to after said statements. The information on this page is not meant to diagnose or treat any ailment as this should be done by a competent, experienced naturopathic doctor or medical doctor. Nothing on this web site is legal advice, medical advice or treatment. The use of herbs, oils, and other remedies is a natural right.

My Research on Essential Oils and Their Medicinal/Anti-Viral Aspects

Essential oils are potent therapeutic oils extracted from plants. They are the component of the plant that provides protection, fragrance, and so much more. Although essential oils are not approved by the FDA or intended to cure disease, I would love to share with you the countless studies I’ve found concerning their use:

Research conducted at the University of Manchester has found that three essential oils usually used in aromatherapy destroyed MRSA and E.coli bacteria in two minutes flat. Source.

This study found that Lemongrass Essential oil is effective against antibiotic resistant Staph infection. It also displayed anti-biofilm activity; “biofilm” refers to the slimy wall that different pathogens create together to hide from antimicrobial substances. It makes them much harder to kill, and makes you realize they are very clever at hiding and surviving in our bodies.

Professor Samaras and Dr. Erioto, from the Technological Educational Institute of Ionian Islands tested the antimicrobial activity of eight essential oils. They found that Thyme Essential Oil was the most effective and was able to almost completely eliminate bacteria within 60 minutes. The essential oils of thyme and cinnamon were found to be particularly efficient antibacterial agents against a range of Staphylococcus species. Source.

This study from the Flavour and Fragrance Journal tested 91 single essential oils and 64 essential oil blends. Of the 91 single oils, 78 exhibited zones of inhibition against MRSA. Lemongrass, lemon myrtle, mountain savory, cinnamon and melissa essential oils showed the highest levels of inhibition. Of the 64 blended essential oils, 52 exhibited inhibitory activity against MRSA. These results indicate that essential oils alone and in combination can inhibit MRSA in vitro.

This review summarizes recent developments in the understanding of the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities of Tea Tree Oil and its components, as well as clinical efficacy. Specific mechanisms of antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory action are discussed.

DoTerra’s “OnGuard” essential oil blend was found to significantly attenuate influenza virus PR8 infectivity in vitro without affecting viral binding or cellular internalization in MDCK cells. Oil-treated-virus continued to express viral mRNAs but had minimal expression of viral proteins, suggesting that the antiviral effect may be due to inhibition of viral protein translation. Source.

Georgetown University researchers have found that oil of oregano appears to reduce infection “as effectively as traditional antibiotics.” Source: Science Daily

Researchers at the Department of Food Science at the University of Tennessee reported that, among various plant oils, oil of oregano exhibited the greatest antibacterial action against common pathogenic germs such as Staph, E. coli and Listeria. [Source: Journal Food Protection, Volume 64, July 2001] British researchers reported oregano oil had antibacterial activity against 25 different bacteria. [Source: Journal Applied Microbiology, Volume 88, February 2000] A clinical study in Italy has shown that oil of oregano can be used to treat intestinal parasites. [Source: Phytotherapy Research, Volume 14, May 2000]

Eucalyptus, tea tree and thyme were able to reduce viral infectivity of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) by >96%. See the study/source here.

These studies highly suggest anti-microbial features of essential oils. There are many more being published, no matter how long Western medicine would rather ignore the existence of easy, inexpensive natural treatments.

I’m quite the curious person (as you might be able to tell), so naturally I had to unearth information about why essential oils work so well. Are there any studies examining that?

One word: terpenes.

Most compounds found in essential oils are terpenoid molecules. Terpenoids are forms of terpenes. Terpenes are aromatic compounds that are found in thousands of plant species, and are responsible for the various flavors and fragrances in everything from lavender to cannabis. They are important building blocks for odors, hormones, vitamins, pigments, steroids, resins, essential oils, and even cannabinoids! Everything in our bodies (especially our hormones) depends on terpenes. In nature, they are naturally released from plants when temperatures are higher, helping to seed clouds, which then in turn cools the plants. Terpenes also protect the plant from predators and enhance its survival. Chemically speaking, terpenes are a large class of naturally-occurring organic compounds called “natural products”; they are also known as isoprenes, as their structure is based on repeating isoprene (C₅H₈) units. Below are examples of the different terpenes found in essential oils (and thus in plants):

essential oils - terpenesTable Source: cyberlipid.org

For example, “myrcene” is a monoterpene. It is the most abundant terpene in cannabis, making up over 60% of the essential oil in some strains. Myrcene is also found in bay leaves, wild thyme, hops, ylang-ylang, lemongrass and verbena. Another plant that contains myrcene is Myrcia sphaerocarpa, native to Brazil and has long been used there as a treatment for dysentery, diarrhea, diabetes and hypertension (source).

Myrcene possesses antimicrobial, antiseptic, analgesic, antioxidant, anti-carcinogen, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxing effects.

Guaiol” is a sesquiterpenoid found in cypress and Guaiacum (a genus of shrubs). Guaiacum itself has been in use as a treatment for coughs, arthritis and syphilis for centuries. Guaiol, the terpene itself is a known anti-inflammatory, as are all sesquiterpenes.

Common terpenes of various plants & what they do:

  • Borneol: menthol, camphor, pine, cannabis; woody.  Considered a “calming sedative” in Chinese medicine. Is directed for fatigue, recovery from illness and stress.
  • Cineole/Eucalyptol: spicy, refreshing, minty; camphor, cannabis, rosemary, eucalyptus. Used to increase circulation and provide pain relief.
  • Limonene: orange, tangerine, lemon, grapefruit, rosemary, juniper, peppermint. Repulsive to predators, antiparasitic. In the presence of certain other terpenes, limonene can be an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-depressant and anti-carcinogen.
  • Linolool- floral (spring flowers), lily, citrus and candied spice.  Possesses anti-anxiety and sedative properties.
  • Pinene- Alpha: pine needles, rosemary Beta: dill, parsley, rosemary, basil, yarrow, rose, hops, pine. Can increase mental focus and energy, as well as act as an expectorant, bronchodilator, and topical antiseptic. Due to the presence of pinene, rosemary and sage are both considered “memory plants.” Concoctions made from their leaves have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine to retain and restore memory.

(Source: Marijuana Medical Handbook, p. 220: Terpenes)

Terpenes as our medicine

Animals instinctively know the medicinal benefits of terpenes.

In 1840, John Hoxsey discovered a cancerous tumor on the leg of his favorite horse.  John couldn’t bring himself to kill the horse and just decided to let him roam the farm at will until he died.
Each day, when all the horses were let out to graze, that particular horse would separate from the herd and go graze by himself in another part of the farm. After several months of this daily grazing habit, John discovered that the tumor literally fell off the horse’s leg, revealing fresh healthy skin underneath! It was then, that John Hoxsey decided to go over to that special section of the farm to see exactly what his horse was eating, and made a list of all the herbs in that “special” little grazing patch. Using his Veterinary knowledge, John began treating other horses with cancer very successfully, using those same herbs that his horse had been instinctively eating!

hopiquoteToday John’s recipe is known as “The Hoxsey Treatment.” The horse instinctively knew which wild herbs to eat because he could smell the unique terpenes in each plant. In fact, drug sniffing dogs are able to smell odorous terpenes, not THC. Since THC does not have a smell, drug dogs are trained to find one, very smelly molecule called Caryophyllene-epoxide! As the Hopi Elders say, “follow the animals, they know where the medicine is.”

Even Vicks uses terpenes in the form of “turpentine.” Turpentine is pine essential oil and is filled with the terpene a-pinene. That is why you hear that grandmothers put Vicks on everything – the terpenes make Vicks a medicine for many ailments, considering that terpenes improve an organism’s chance at survival and fighting infection.

And did you know that aspirin is actually made from willow bark? Willow bark is used for the treatment of pain, headache, and inflammatory conditions. Its properties are anti-inflammatory, fever-reducing, antiseptic, and immune-system-boosting. Why? Because willow bark is filled with salicin, enzymes, minerals, and antiseptic terpenes. Salicin elicits bitterness like quinine when consumed. Quinines are compounds very similar to terpenes, and are found in many tree barks. Quinines also have antiviral, antiparasitic, and antimicrobial activity. Tonic water got its name because it was a “tonic” for ailments, especially malaria – due to its active ingredient, quinine, derived from Cinchona bark.

Terpenes as anti-viral agents

“Triterpenes frequently exhibit bioactivity as antifungals, antivirals, and antibacterials.” – Source.

“The terpene ozonides seem to be effective not only against HIV infection, but also appear to be effective in the treatment of other retroviral infections, such as Herpes lesions, including chicken pox, EBV infection, or CMV infection.”http://www.google.com/patents/US5086076

Yes, that second quote is from an actual government approved patent. There are tons of patents online that talk about the antiviral activity of terpenes, you just have to look for them!

To look at what will kill viruses within us, we must look to what kills viruses for other plants and animals, since we are all connected.

“Look at the forest or bush-land trees. Some of their greatest enemies are viruses, fungi, pathogens, and parasites. As a defense, they developed various chemical strategies to kill or repel these attackers. We know and use these biochemicals as eucalyptus oil, neem oil, tea tree oil, pau d’arco extract, olive leaf extract, turpentine and other essential oils. Most of these oils are composed of hydrocarbons [terpenes are hydrocarbons], just like kerosene. The main chemical in turpentine, alpha-pinene, is also present in the oils of rosemary and eucalyptus.” – Source

Back in the day, kerosene used to be used as a “cure-all.” Turpentine was also considered a cure-all, especially during the time of slavery in America. Slaves could not afford or access medicine in stores, so they passed turpentine down through generations. The slave masters used to come to the quarters when they were incredibly ill – they would take a teaspoon of turpentine and go on their merry way, healthy again. You can learn more about this in Dr. Jennifer Daniel’s interview. I have taken turpentine myself (as per Dr. D’s dosage advice) as an anti-parasitic with fantastic results. The poison is in the dose. Everything is a medicine in small quantities.

The reason turpentine and kerosene were “cure-alls” is because they were said to eradice viruses, fungi, pathogens, parasites, etc. They are said to be antiseptics for the entire body. Why? Because turpentine and kerosene are both composed of hydrocarbons. You guessed it – terpenes are aromatic hydrocarbons!

This is a screenshot from the book Code of Federal Regulations, Title 40, Protection of Environment:

Screen-2BShot-2B2014-10-02-2Bat-2B10.32.35-2BPMAccording to this book, if you contaminate a surface with PCBs, you must use a “performance-based organic decontamination fluid” (PODF) to disinfect the surface. These include kerosene, fuel, terpene hydrocarbons, and mixtures of terpene hydrocarbons/terpene alcohols.

This is a fabulous clue! Terpene hydrocarbons, which are the main constituent of essential oils, are considered performance-based decontamination fluids. This is interesting to note if I’m ever in a situation where I need to “decontaminate.”

What are the different terpenes found in essential oils? What do they do? Let’s look at some anti-viral terpenes and connect them to the plants in which they’re found.

Essential oils & the terpenes within:

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” – Aristotle

Terpenes (and thus oils) work best together; studies show they are synergistic and enhance each other.

Just look at what this study had to say about the power of thymol and carvacol: “Thymol and carvacrol both possessed significant antiviral activity with an IC₅₀ of 7 µM, and herpes simplex virus type I was 90 % inactivated within 1 hr.”

This study says, “Thymus spathulifolius essential oil posessed anti-oxiant activity because of the high content of thymol and carvacrol.”

These are my favorite oils, and the ones I would have in my “emergency” medical kit:

Oils containing citral and citronellal:
Melissa Oil ~ This study shows, “Melissa officinalis essential oil was shown to strongly inhibit HSV type-1 and type-2, and the main components in the oil were identified as citral and citronellal.”

All-around amazing must have oils:
“Germ Fighter Blend” containing the oils found in the Four Thieves legend~  this is a blend of five essential oils that are scientifically documented to be highly antiseptic. There is a lot of information online about “Thieves” oil, so I suggest you dig further. It is one I would NEVER be without.
Cinnamon Oil ~ Cinnamon bark essential oil killed 92% of gram negative and positive bacterial strains out of 25 essential oils tested. (Source: International Journal of Food Microbiology, 1987). Cinnamon oil was regarded by the emperors of China and India to have great value; their wealth was measured by the amount of oil they possessed.
Oregano Oil ~  This study says that “essential oils in decreasing order of antimicrobial activities are reportedly: oregano > clove > coriander > cinnamon > thyme > mint > rosemary > mustard > cilantro/sage.” So oregano is definitely first on my list too!

Oils containing menthol:
Peppermint Oil ~ This study says, “Peppermint oil exhibited high levels of virucidal activity against HSV-1 and HSV-2 in viral suspension tests. At noncytotoxic concentrations of the oil, plaque formation was significantly reduced by 82% and 92% for HSV-1 and HSV-2, respectively. Higher concentrations of peppermint oil reduced viral titers of both herpesviruses by more than 90%. A clearly time-dependent activity could be demonstrated, after 3 h of incubation of herpes simplex virus with peppermint oil an antiviral activity of about 99% could be demonstrated.”

Oils containing geraniol:
Palmarosa Oil~ Here is a patent on the antiviral qualities of geraniol! This website says, “Palmarosa essential oil is a powerful antimicrobial that can out-perform tea tree as an antifungal.”

Oils containing thymol:
Thyme Oil~ The essential oil of common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) contains 20-54% thymol.  Thymol (a terpene) belongs to a naturally-occurring class of compounds known as “biocides” (substances that can destroy harmful organisms). When thymol is used alongside other biocides, such as carvacrol, it has strong antimicrobial attributes (Source).

Oils containing carvacrol:
Bergamot Oil ~ Contains a-pinene, carvacrol, myrcene, limonene, a-bergaptene, b-bisabolene, linalool, linalyl acetate, nerol, neryl acetate, geraniol, geraniol acetate and a-terpineol. Look up studies on each compound (pubmed.com is a good start) and see what you find.

Oils containing betulin:
Birch Oil ~ “Betulin and related compounds have been shown to have anti-viral activity against herpes simplex virus.” (Source: Carson et al., US Patent No. 5750578).

Another great combination of oils:
Eucalyptus Oil, Santolina insularis Oil, and Australian Tea Tree Oil ~ This study says that together they showed antiviral effects against HSV-1. This study states, “Antiviral activity assays demonstrated that Santolina insularis essential oil is effective in inactivating HSV-1 and that the activity is principally due to direct virucidal effects.”
~ This study likes eucalyptus, tea tree, and thyme together.

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