Research on Essential Oils for Treatment of MRSA Infections

Staph Infection MRSA & Essential Oils

MRSA in a dead human neutrophil. Wikimedia Commons

Business 2.0 Go Green. Get Rich.The February 20, 2007 issue of Business 2.0 includes an article entitled Go Green. Get Rich. It lists MRSA staph infections as the eighth biggest challenge and opportunity. Of course, they don’t know the Secret of Thieves and a large variety of essential oils that stop these (not so) superbugs in their tracts.

Some interesting statistics from the article:

  • In 1969 the U.S. surgeon general proclaimed “the war on infectious diseases has been won.”
  • In 1974 just 2% of the most common form of staph infections found in hospitals were resistant to the common antibiotic methicillin. Today more than 60% are impervious to it.
  • This year nearly 2 million Americans will get bacterial infections while in a hospital. 90,000 of them will die.
  • Current estimates place the annual cost of treating drug-resistant infections at more than $10 billion.
  • As ultraresistant strains continue to rise, so will demand—both for treatments and for new ways of preventing the spread of bacteria before it takes root in a person’s body.

According to the authors, “the key to battling these new bugs is developing new classes of antibiotics. But they’re not coming from Big Pharma…” Note to Business 2.0: New classes of “antibiotics” are created every year by nature…in non-toxic forms that are much more effective, far less expensive and much more flexible than Big Pharma could ever hope to create. A more intriguing story would be an investigation of why doctors, hospitals and patients aren’t aware of them. Below we list a number of studies since 2004 demonstrating the successful application of essential oils against MRSA.

But keep these next few points in mind as your read the abstracts…

1. Tea Tree is not necessarily the heavy hitter when it comes to fighting MRSA staph infections. It’s just a very common one…that’s how the doctors happen to cross paths with it every once in awhile. Why do most shark attacks occur in three feet of water? Because that’s where all the people are. Also, the Australian medical profession is much more open to it because (a) Australia is the source of tea tree, (b) tea tree has a long history there, and (c) Australia is more open to natural approaches.

2. I cringe whenever I hear the term “tea tree.” Most Australian’s understand what this term really means and they use it correctly. In America though, you can almost rest assured that someone selling “tea tree” has limited understanding of essential oils. The terms “tea tree” and “melaleuca” are often used interchangeably with no depth of understanding. In reality, there are many types of melaleuca plants, each with its own unique therapeutic properties. Young Living sells three types of melaleuca. Melaleuca alternafolia is the specific name for the true tea tree—a slang term used in Australia where the oil originated.

3. Blends of essential oils have proven to have a synergistic effect—the power of the blend is much greater than the sum of the power of each of the individual oils. Young Living’s Melrose, Thieves and Longevity blends come to mind if I were put in a position to fight off a MRSA staph infection. Melrose is a powerful combo of rosemary, two types of melaleuca, and clove. Research with the Thieves blend of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary has shown that it is amazingly effective at creating an unfriendly environment for bacteria. The Longevity blend contains oils that are legendary for their health benefits, including thyme, clove and frankincense.

4. As hinted at in #2, the medical profession has not yet recognized the importance of quality relating to the therapeutic value of natural substances. This is why there are so many contradicting reports. For example, one study will show that vitamin E is good, the other will show it is harmful. In this case, the first study was done on naturally occurring vitamin E, the second was done on synthetically manufactured vitamin E. It’s akin to comparing breast milk to baby formula. They simply aren’t the same thing and never will be.

Business 2.0 is a magazine that revels in creative destruction—the idea that thousands of entrepreneurs with creative solutions are constantly stripping away the influence of big businesses stuck in outdated paradigms. The Business 2.0 folks missed the mark this time by spotlighting a drug manufacturer with yet another expensive and toxic drug to which superbugs will develop resistance. I say the folks who will really capitalize on this opportunity are the thousands of entrepreneurs who are helping the world rediscover the power of age-old, therapeutic-grade essential oils…to which MRSA has never developed a resistance.

View that studies below…

Essential Oils for Staph

MRSA (green bacteria) with a human white cell. Wikimedia Commons

Essential Oils Could Be Cheap and Effective Solution to Superbugs
Professor Yiannis Samaras and Dr Effimia Eriotou, from the Technological Educational Institute of Ionian Islands, in Greece, who led the research, tested the antimicrobial activity of eight plant 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. Strains of these bacteria are common inhabitants of the skin and some may cause infection in immunocompromised individuals. Drug-resistant strains, such as meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are extremely difficult to treat. “Not only are essential oils a cheap and effective treatment option for antibiotic-resistant strains, but decreased use of antibiotics will help minimise the risk of new strains of antibiotic resistant micro-organisms emerging,” said Professor Samaras.
Source: Society for General Microbiology, 2010

Essential Oils and MRSA Staph Infections, 2008
Ninety-one essential oils, each distilled from a single plant source, and 64 blended essential oils obtained from a commercial source were screened using the disc diffusion assay for inhibitory activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Of the 91 single essential oils, 78 exhibited zones of inhibition against MRSA, with lemongrass, lemon myrtle, mountain savory, cinnamon and melissa essential oils having the highest levels of inhibition. Of 64 blended essential oils, 52 exhibited inhibitory activity against MRSA, with R.C. (a combination of myrtle, Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus australiana, Eucalyptus radiata, marjoram, pine, cypress, lavender, spruce, peppermint and Eucalyptus citriodora oils), Motivation (a combination of Roman chamomile, ylang ylang, spruce and lavender oils) and Longevity (a combination of frankincense, clove, orange and thyme oils) blended essential oils having the highest inhibitory activity. These results indicate that essential oils alone and in combination can inhibit MRSA in vitro. Application of these results may include the potential use of essential oils as an alternative therapy for various diseases sustained by S. aureus MRSA.

Tea Tree Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties
Complementary and alternative medicines such as tea tree (melaleuca) oil have become increasingly popular in recent decades. This essential oil has been used for almost 100 years in Australia but is now available worldwide both as neat oil and as an active component in an array of products. The primary uses of tea tree oil have historically capitalized on the antiseptic and anti-inflammatory actions of the oil. This review summarizes recent developments in our understanding of the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities of the oil and its components, as well as clinical efficacy. Specific mechanisms of antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory action are reviewed, and the toxicity of the oil is briefly discussed.
Source: Clinical Microbiology Reviews, 2006

MRSA kills 5000 every year but Euro red tape halts cheap ‘cure’, 2004
RED tape is stopping vital research into common oils that could destroy the killer MRSA hospital superbug. More than 5000 people – including an estimated 400 Scots – die every year from the bug. A study funded by £40,000 from veteran DJ Sir Jimmy Savile found a mixture of aromatherapy oils could kill MRSA and other infections. However, the researchers today said they couldn’t start clinical trials because of Euro legislation. The doctors and nurses at Manchester University found the three common oils were more effective than existing treatments because they had a complex mix of chemical compounds.

Is tea tree oil effective at eradicating MRSA colonization? A Review.
In vitro studies show that tea tree oil is capable of killing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in a laboratory setting. This review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) was undertaken to find out whether it is effective at eradicating MRSA colonization compared to standard mupirocin-based regimens in colonized patients. A wide range of databases and internet sources were searched to identify published and unpublished studies. Two RCTs were found that researched the effectiveness of tea tree oil preparations against MRSA. One small RCT (n = 30) showed a large but non-significant improvement at eradicating MRSA compared to traditional treatment, whereas a larger study (n = 224) demonstrated little difference in rates of eradication overall (41% for tea tree and 49% for mupirocin, p = 0.286). However, the larger study found that those with nasal colonization receiving a tea tree regimen were more likely to remain colonized with MRSA in the nose (absolute risk increase 31%, p<0.001). Currently there is insufficient evidence to support the routine use of tea tree oil in clinical practice for eradication of MRSA colonization. Pubmed, 2005

Back to nature in fight against killer superbug
THE rarefied world of aromatherapy could hold the key to winning the battle against deadly superbugs that kill thousands of people every year. Some of the essential oils used by aromatherapists are believed to be more effective in eradicating MRSA from hospital wards that the man-made chemical concoctions currently used. Initial research shows that the natural strength and complexity of oils such as eucalyptus, lavender and tea tree makes them more deadly to superbugs than artificial alternatives. The Department of Health has confirmed plans to fund research into the use of aromatherapy oils to combat MRSA. Around 3m has already been set aside for research into the hospital-acquired infections that have rocked confidence in the health service’s ability to protect patients from disease. The move could pave the way for patients at greatest risk of infection to be treated with the oils – chemical compounds found in aromatic plants – rather than conventional antiseptics throughout their stay in hospital, either through inhalation or on dressings placed in direct contact with wounds.
Source: The Scottsman, 2005

Could common scents snuff out the superbug?
RESEARCH conducted at the University of Manchester has found that three oils usually used in aromatherapy destroyed MRSA and E.coli bacteria in two minutes flat. Scientists are now suggesting that the oils could be blended into soaps and shampoo which could be used in hospitals to stop the spread of the superbug or MRSA. Jacqui Stringer, complemen-tary medicine clinical leader at Christie Cancer Hospital, who instigated the research, believes essential oils are so effective because they are made up of a complex mixture of chemical compounds which MRSA and other superbug bacteria find difficult to resist. She is not alone in this belief. I believe this research could lead to a very practical application which would be of enormous benefit to the NHS and its patients.
Source: Wales Online, 2005

Nature’s Way to fight MRSA
NATURAL remedies, such as tea tree oil and honey, may be effective against MRSA. Two studies, one in America and one at the University of East London, showed that tea tree oil could treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections more effectively than conventional antiseptic skin preparations. Microbiologist Giles Elsom from the University of East London says: ‘We’ve found tea tree oil to be safe and effective in cases where conventional, more toxic, anti-microbial treatments have failed.’ And a recent study in New Zealand concluded that the anti-bacterial potency of honey was well in excess of that required to stop the growth of MRSA. Active Manuka Honey is the only honey available for sale which is tested for anti-bacterial activity.
Source: Daily Record, 2005

The medicinal oil that works on MRSA
A randomised control trial of tea tree topical oil preparations comparing it with the standard regime was carried out at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital. The trial measured the relative ability of the two regimes to clear MRSA (the antibiotic resistant bacteria found in hospitals) colonisation from various sites. The tea tree oil compared favourably to modern pharmaceutical skin preparations. The oil was slightly less effective in clearing noses and throats, appreciably more effective in clearing armpits, groins and perhaps surprisingly skin sores of the potentially lethal Staphylococcus aureus. The results were published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, 2004

Jim fixes it for superbug study
Veteran disc jockey Sir Jimmy Saville has “fixed it” for researchers trying to combat the hospital bug MRSA. Sir Jimmy has donated £40,000 to the team from the University of Manchester who are investigating how aromatherapy can kill the deadly bacteria. They claim three essential oils can kill MRSA as well as the E.coli bug, but money is needed for trials. Sir Jimmy made the donation after reading about the possible breakthrough on the BBC News website.
Source: BBC NEWS, 2004

Essential oils have been found to kill the deadly MRSA bacteria
Essential oils usually used in aromatherapy have been found to kill the deadly MRSA bacteria according to research carried out at The University of Manchester. Tests revealed that three essential oils killed MRSA and E. coli as well as many other bacteria and fungi within just two minutes of contact. The oils can easily be blended and made into soaps and shampoos which could be used by hospital staff, doctors and patients in a bid to eradicate the spread of these deadly `super bugs’. Researchers are now desperately looking for funding to develop their work and carry out a clinical trial. Peter Warn from the University’s Faculty of Medicine who worked on the research said: ‘We believe that our discovery could revolutionise the fight to combat MRSA and other `super bugs’, but we need to carry out a trial and to do that we need a small amount of funding ‘ around 30,000. ‘We are having problems finding this funding because essential oils cannot be patented as they are naturally occurring, so few drug companies are interested in our work as they do not see it as commercially viable. Obviously, we find this very frustrating as we believe our findings could help to stamp out MRSA and save lives,’ added Peter, who is based at Hope Hospital.
Source:, 2004.

Essential oils tested on MRSA wounds
Patchouli, tea tree, geranium, lavender essential oils and Citricidaltrade mark (grapefruit seed extract) were used singly and in combination to assess their anti-bacterial activity against three strains of Staphylococcus aureus: Oxford S. aureus NCTC 6571 (Oxford strain), Epidemic methicillin-resistant S. aureus (EMRSA 15) and MRSA (untypable).
Source: HighWire Press — Medline Abstract, 2004.

Yeast and tea tree oil kill MRSA superbug
Manchester Metropolitan University is working with a cutting edge technology firm to find a treatment for the hospital superbug MRSA which kills 5,000 patients each year. MMU scientists and North West company Micap have spent two years researching antimicrobial agents to tackle the infection, known as a “superbug” for its resistance to antibiotics. The outcome is a blend of yeast and essential oils, including tea tree oil, which attacks and kills the bug. Clinical trials of the new treatment are about to start on 40 burns patients at Wythenshawe Hospital, who have been diagnosed as having MRSA on their skin.
Source:, 2004

Essential Oils and MRSA – Part 2

Essential Oil News
6 comments on “Research on Essential Oils for Treatment of MRSA Infections
  1. Danish scientists are creating a new class of antibiotics that consist of tiny protein fragments called peptides that rip the outer shell of the bacteria apart. And bacteria are not able to develop resistance to the peptides the way they do to existing antibiotics.

    All this effort is not really about finding substances that effectively control superbugs. If it was, all these studies would be diving deep into the world of essential oils. No, the effort is about synthesizing substances which can be patented for profit while the inexpensive, natural solutions continue to be ignored and suppressed.

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