MRSA and Essential Oils: A Medical Doctor’s Perspective

OILS, by Joan Barice, MD (Young Living Member)

Speaking as a medical doctor, all physicians are aware of
the increasing problem of resistance of bacteria to
antibiotics. This is especially a problem with bacteria which
cause life threatening infections. It is a result of overusing
antibiotics, and of using them when they are not

Overusing antibacterial soaps may also contribute to the
problem. Prevention is best, of course. Allowing natural
immunity to work when infections are self-limiting or not
likely to cause serious consequences is also important, as
is not treating viruses with antibiotics which won’t work

Essential oils can be very effective in treating many
bacterial, viral and other infections, without causing
resistance. The natural variation inthe chemical
constituents in whole plants depending on climate, altitude,
and other factors protects against this resistance, as do the
many chemical constituents in whole oils as opposed to
using one isolated “active” ingredient.

The problem is, most doctors are not trained in using oils,
but are well trained in using potent antibiotics. If you are
trying to enlighten a doctor, who generally has had no
training on essential oils, I would suggest providing
scientific references that give the available evidence of the
effectiveness of essential oils in treating infections.

We are impressed by scientific research and usually will
not listen to “anecdotal” evidence” that it worked for some
people. Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt’s book Medical Aromatherapy,
healing with essential oils, has been suggested and is a
great reference. I have used it to give talks to medical
doctors about essential oils.

Published articles on essential oil research, especially
those in medical journals would be very good. Here are just
a couple examples:

The EODR cites some research: 1998: Chao studied a
blend of oils patterned after that used by 15th century
thieves containing cinnamon, rosemary, clove, eucalyptus
and lemon was diffused in a closed room in which bacteria
cultures were sprayed. There was an 82% reduction in M.
Luteus, a 96% reduction in P. Aeruginosa, and a 44%
reduction in S. Aureusbioaerosols following 10 minutes of

Another study compared the effectiveness of essential oils
to antibiotics – preliminary results showed cinnamon and
oregano are comparable with Penicillin and Ampicillin in
inhibitory activity against E. coli and Staph. aureus.

From a medical journal: TEA TREE OIL: THE SCIENCE
increasing resistance to antibiotics, interest in finding
alternatives is strong. Tea tree oil (TTO) has been widely
used in Australia for 80 years and is active against many

A pilot study of 30 MRSA (methicillin-resistant
Staphylococcus aureus) carriers comparing routine
mupirocin nasal ointment and triclosan skin wash with TTO
ointment and wash, showed one third were completely
cleared by TTO but only 13% by conventional treatment.

In another trial of TTO in the treatment of herpes cold
sores, the oil was found to assist healing to a similar
degree as topical 5% acyclovir. The oil has about 100
components but 7 terpenes and their related alcohols
constitute 80 to 90% of the whole oil. Several of these
components have been shown to reduce levels of
Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans. Terpenes
are lipophilic and partition into the phospholipid layer of cell
membranes, disrupting normal structure and function.
Allen, P., LANCET 2001, 358 (9289) 1245 or: Janssen AM
et al, 1987. Antimicrobial activity of essential oils:
1976-1986 literature review. Planta Med 53 (5) 395-398.

This article is not in a medical journal, but still would be
good to use as evidence: Antiviral and Antimicrobial
Properties of Essential Oils, by Dominique Baudoux,
available on the internet at:

Kurt Schnaubelt’s book has a list of some basic research,
including the following:

1960: Maruzella demonstrated antibacterial and antifungal
effects of hundreds of aromatic compounds 1987:
Deininger and Lembke demonstrated antiviral activity of
essential oils and their isolated components 1973: Wagner
and Sprinkmeyer in 1973 did research on a 170 year old
blend of distilled oils still available in Germany. The effects
of melissa and the other oils in Kosterfrau Melissengeist
had been empirically known since Paracelsus (about 1500).
They concluded that, with varying degrees of intensity,
there was an inhibiting influence on all the bacteria tested,
(Pneumococcus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphlococcus
aureus haemolyticus, Neisseria catarrhalis, Streptococcus
haemolyticus, Proteus vulgaris, Hemophilus influenza,
Haemophilus pertussis, Candida albicans, Escherichia
coli-Aerobacter group, various Corynnebacteria, and
Listeria) and stated the large spectrum of this inhibitory
action is as broad as or even greater than that of
wide-spectrum antibiotics.

They also showed KMG has sedative and spasmolytic
properties. 1995 Deininger et al. Demonstrated the broad
spectrum of antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal activity of
essential oils and their components as well as
effectiveness for upper respiratory, gastrointestinal, and
urogenital systems and for nervousness and arterial

Included many different bacterial species, aflatoxin forming
fungi, quantitative proof of the antiviral effectiveness of
different essential oil constituents with special attention to
their cell toxic effects on human cells. Showed antiviral
effects against herpes and adenoviruses with a broad
spectrum of activity. Showed oils including Klosterfrau
mellisengeist terpenes could be shown curatively and
preventively in animal experiments after otherwise lethal
herpes injections were administered, and induce a
significant increase of immunoglobulins.

Schnaubelt lists even earlier basic science research
showing it has been known a long time that essential oils
have antimicrobial effects:

1800-2002: Numerous animal and in vitro studies –
evidence that all essential oils are antiseptic, some more
than others and that many are effective against certain
fungi, bacteria and viruses. 1881: Koch demonstrated the
bactericidal action of essence of turpentine against anthrax
spores 1887: Chamberland demonstrated bactericidal
activity of essences of oregano, cinnamon and clove on
bacillus anthracis 1910: Martindale showed essential oil of
oregano is the strongest plant-derived antiseptic known to
date, 25 to 76 times more active than phenol on

Because of our training, because we are not trained about
essential oils, and do not want to harm our patients by
using something we do not know anything about, many
doctors will insist on having still more research, and
conclusive “evidence-based” research data before they will
consider recommending oils for patients with an infection,
and they will use antibiotics when they know them to be
effective treatment for a particular infection.

I know from my own experience that essential oils can be
very effective, and will not hesitate to use them when they
are the most appropriate treatment. If, on the other hand, I
had a life threatening infection, and I do not have time to try
something that will take longer, and there is a medical
treatment that is known to be highly effective and safe, I
would use it.

* * *
You can get more info from Dr. Joan Barice at her blog:


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