Oils Found to Fight Bacteria
DALLAS (Reuters Health) - A pair of orthopaedic surgeons report
that two essential oils--eucalyptus and tea-tree oil--are surprisingly
effective at treating methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
Despite the positive findings, though, others say it is too soon
to consider such oils an alternative to antibiotics.
The researchers presented their findings here at the 69th Annual
Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Dr. Eugene Sherry of the University of Sydney in Australia said
that, applied to the skin of infected wounds an antibacterial
wash derived from Eucalyptus radiata and Melaleuca alternifolia--better
known as eucalyptus and tea-tree oil--can work when modern antibiotics
Essential oils like these are mostly used in aromatherapy, Sherry
He said that he used the combination "once a day for several
months" in a series of 25 patients with MRSA.
"Twenty-two of the infections resolved completely," Sherry reported.
In 19 patients, the infections resolved without the use of antibiotics,
while three patients required antibiotic treatment, he said.
Before Sherry applied the solution, he removed dead skin and
infected tissue from the wound, a process called debridement.
Sixteen of the infections involved the bone and three had spread
In addition, 10 of the patients were diabetic, which "makes
healing of wounds very difficult," Sherry said in an interview
with Reuters Health.
Two years ago, Sherry attended a presentation about the antibacterial
properties of essential oils and decided to research the subject.
He said that he discovered a wealth of 50-year-old research concerning
essential oils, but said "all that research was abandoned when
modern science discovered antibiotics."
When Sherry decided to initiate a trial of eucalyptus and tea-tree
oil in MRSA patients, he discovered that Dr. Patrick H. Warnke,
an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Kiel in Germany, was
pursuing a parallel study. So the two combined their work to produce
the 25-patient MRSA study.
Warnke said they are now studying an aerosolized version of
the compound in laboratory studies of tuberculosis. When they
sprayed the compound on tuberculosis cultures "we wiped out TB,
killed it, in 40 minutes. No antibiotic does that," Warnke told
Both doctors said that they have received no funding from the
makers of the essential oils, nor do they have financial interests
in companies producing the substances.
Dr. Harris Gellman, professor of medicine at the University
of Miami and a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic
Surgeons, said the new study is "interesting and exciting," but
the treatment is nowhere near ready for prime time.
Gellman pointed out that although the results are positive,
the authors have not provided enough information. For example,
he said, the information about the site of the infection, duration
before the essential oils treatment, and comparison to a "control"
group are all missing from the study.
The bottom line, Gellman said, is that "we don't know if these
patients would have recovered irrespective of treatment."
But even with those caveats, Gellman said he is pleased that
orthopaedic surgeons are "finally going back" to evaluate traditional
therapies for infection.
"Most medicinals come from plants," he noted, "so the natural
progression is to look to more plants for more treatments."
Reference Source 89