Would you rush to take an antibiotic if you had an infection?
An antibiotic might kill the bad bacteria, but it also would kill good bacteria, might damage your gut, and generally would not kill viruses. In addition, resistant strains of bacteria could develop from the use of an antibiotic. However, if a bacterial infection were potentially severe, then an appropriate antibiotic very well could be the best and first course of treatment.
Another way to think about infection:
Prevention should be practiced proactively.
• Consider eating nutrient-dense real foods and fermented foods and avoiding toxic foods. Investigate taking some real-food supplements. These steps will go a long way to help your immune system, your natural good bacteria, and your gut defend you against invaders.
• As for your mouth, brushing properly, using a mouth rinse like coconut oil, and cleaning between the teeth with floss and an interdental brush are very effective and preventive methods to maintain health.
• Exercise and sleep are also important. Include efficient exercise into a weekly routine, and obtain restorative sleep each night. These also will enhance your immune system.
But what happens if you get an infection? Is there an option other than a prescribed antibiotic?
Essential oils may be an answer. On 10/23/14, I searched PubMed.gov for “antimicrobial effects of essential oils in humans”. PubMed is a government site that catalogs all medical research from around the world for easy access by anyone. I discovered a total of 816 papers that were published since 1966, of which 284 were published since January 2010. Along with the controversy, there is a growing interest in researching the power of essential oils.
What are essential oils?
Technically, essential oils are not really oils since they do not contain “lipids”. Instead, they are highly complex compounds, which may consist of several hundred different components of alcohols, aldehydes, terpenes, ethers, ketones, phenols, and oxides – many of which may not be known by science. These “oils” are an “essential” part of plants. They function as the plant’s immune system to protect them from microbes and pests that may attack them.
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years. The earliest recorded references can be traced back to 4500 BC. While many have been reported to have beneficial effects, some essential oils have been shown to be toxic to humans.
Today, science has demonstrated antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-parasitic properties for a variety of these oils. Specific essential oils also contain vitamins and organic compounds that have been reported to promote homeostasis, which is the state of equilibrium the body attempts to maintain within a normal range.
How are essential oils manufactured?
The purest forms of essential oils are produced through steam distillation and are extremely concentrated. For example, it may take 16 pounds of fresh plant leaves to produce an ounce of an essential oil.
How do essential oils kill microbes?
It has been suggested that some oils produce an exothermic reaction that literally heats up and destroys bacteria, suffocates fungi, and melts the envelope of viruses. Some oils may destroy the biofilm surrounding the bacteria and then cause the bacteria to rupture. Unlike manufactured antibiotics, microbial resistance to essential oils does not appear to occur, but this has not been proven. In addition, if you were to use essential oils as an antibiotic, these oils also may kill friendly bacteria. Therefore, they may compromise your gut’s beneficial microbes.
What about potency of essential oils?
While there is research extolling the benefits of essential oils, there also is controversy. Here is a comparison test that I found demonstrating the potency of several essential oils compared to the effects of phenol, which is carbolic acid that is bacteriostatic at concentrations of 0.1–1% and bactericidal/fungicidal at 1–2%. A 5% solution of phenol will kill anthrax spores in 48 hours:
In this study, if the stated essential oil had a reference number of 1.0, it was equal to the killing power of phenol. Any number above 1.0 indicated the antiseptic power of the essential oil beyond that of phenol.
There are many products on the market, but the formulations are not standardized making them difficult to evaluate. Currently, there is no government regulation in this marketplace. As further research is being conducted, essential oils could be proven to be an effective alternative to traditional antibiotics. Dosing and methods of administration would need to be determined.
Two well-known companies (Young Living and Doterra) claim to have high quality products, which may be true, but they actually are multilevel marketing companies. Many individuals, who pay to sign up as distributors for these companies, present themselves to the public as knowledgeable about essential oils. However, the majority of distributors are not trained in any of the medical fields to understand the medical implications of these oils. Distributors can only earn commissions if they sell products. Beware!
Essential oils have been used in some dentifrices and mouthwashes. OraWellness is a company that has created an essential oil blend that combines essential oils with a carrier oil that can be used with a toothbrush. You could find the ingredients of their Healthy Mouth Blend along with scientific references of their essential oils’ efficacy here.