Natural Foods Merchandiser

Essential oils fight ‘superbugs’

Aromatherapy, the use of volatile plant oils—including essential oils—for psychological and physical well-being, may hold even more health benefits than once believed. According to research carried out by the University of Manchester in England, several essential oils commonly used in aromatherapy have been found to kill the dangerous and often deadly MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) bacteria. Researchers say this is a major step in preventing disease and infection caused by the bacteria.

MRSA, often acquired after a person is admitted to a hospital, poses substantial threat to patients and staff alike. Because it is so resistant to the usual medical arsenal of treatment, patients with the bug are often isolated, and staff and visitors must wear extra protective equipment to avoid contamination.

In a release, Peter Warn, from the university?s Faculty of Medicine, said: ?We believe that our discovery could revolutionize the fight to combat MRSA and other ?super bugs.??

Tests showed that three essential oils killed MRSA and E. coli, as well as many other bacteria and fungi within two minutes of contact. The oils could easily be blended and made into soaps, which could be used by hospitals.

?This infection-fighting capability of essential oils has been known for a long time,? said Joni Keim Loughran, essential oils specialist at Oshadhi, a Petaluma, Calif.-based essential oil company. ?But it?s thrilling to see studies like this, which will further aromatherapy as a legitimate self-care modality.?

?The use of plants in medicine is nothing new,? said Jacqui Stringer, clinical lead of complementary therapies at the Christie Hospital in Manchester. ?But some people regard the use of essential oils as unconventional. Our research shows a very practical application, which could be of enormous benefit.?

The university has a considerable obstacle to get past before further research can be done, however. Because essential oils are naturally occurring, they cannot be patented. As a result, few drug companies are interested in funding the university?s 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,? Warn said.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 2/p. 1

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