Recently, officials assessed the state of 133 countries in relation to their effort to combat the problem of antibiotic resistance. They found that only 34 countries had a plan in place on how to deal with this alarming problem. According to the BBC:
Dr Charles Penn, co-ordinator for antimicrobial resistance at the WHO, told the BBC News website: “Antimicrobial medicines are a very precious and valuable resource and something we cannot take for granted. “This is the first report to capture on a worldwide basis what is currently being done. “Only one in four had in place a national action plan and that’s too few, a lot more needs to be done. 1
Previously, I’ve discussed the role of essential oils in inhibiting microbes. Some in vitro studies and several review articles have concluded that essential oils may be helpful in dealing with resistant superbugs. 2-6 In fact, some farmers are already using essential oils for their animals, as reported by The Atlantic. Human studies have also shown that essential oils can assist with inhibiting microbes in dentistry and a few pilot studies have shown they may be helpful with resistant microbes in wounds.7-8
Resistance to Essential Oils?
Although some essential oil practitioners worry about resistance building up to essential oils on microbes, I believe that the phenolics in essential oils which feed beneficial microbes, decrease the chance of essential oils killing off all the good critters in your microbiome, when used responsibly. This fact, along with the synergism of the many components present in an essential oil, may contribute to make resistance less likely. This is due to the fact that many different pathways and mechanisms will be modulated at once versus one action of “killing the bug.”
A 2014 study in The Open Microbiology Journal explained:
It has also been postulated that the function of the main components is regulated by other minor molecules which help in potentiating synergistic effect . It is likely that several components in essential oils play a role in characterizing the fragrance, the density, the texture, the color, ability in cell penetration, lipophilicity, fixation on cell walls, and most importantly the bioavailability. Considering that a vast range of different groups of chemical compounds are present in one essential oil, it is most likely that antibacterial activities cannot be attributed to one specific mechanism or component; and hence, there may be several targets in a cell which result in the potentiating influence. Thus, it is more meaningful and rational to study the whole essential oil rather than some of its components as whether concept of synergism truly exists between the components in essential oils . 9
Essential Oils Use With Antibiotics- Is It OK or NAY?
Last week, I reviewed some possible essential oils and drug interactions. Due to the fact that essential oils are secondary metabolites, they can modulate our health in a variety of ways. This means they may work on some of the same pathways as medications, enhancing, canceling, or inhibiting effects.
Some in vitro studies have shown that using essential oils with antibiotics have synergistic effects.10-14 For example, one study investigated the relationship between several essential oils and beta-lactam antibiotics for their antibacterial effect against multidrug resistant bacteria. The authors concluded, “The finding highlighted the potential of peppermint, cinnamon bark and lavender essential oils being as antibiotic resistance modifying agent. Reduced usage of antibiotics could be employed as a treatment strategy to decrease the adverse effects and possibly to reverse the beta-lactam antibiotic resistance.” 10
Unfortunately, human trials are lacking in combining both essential oils and antibiotics together, though the promise of this synergism with less resistance seems intriguing. However, on the other hand, it may actually assist with less resistance. This is something to consider with your doctor. If you wish to ere on the side of caution, it may be best to stick with diffusing and topical applications rather than oral use, if one is taking an antibiotic medication.
Considerations of Using Microbe Inhibitors (Natural & Synthetic)
Due to the fact that killing off bugs in our bellies can have potential detrimental effects to our micobiome, the following steps can be considered if one needs to get rid of unwanted microbes:
- Consider a comprehensive stool analysis. This can help determine one’s gut microbome and digestive health. It can also help to determine which antibiotics or natural treatments may be used, as determined by your health care and wellness partner/provider.
- JERF- Just Eat Real Food. This will modulate your microbiome and resultant health favorably.
- Implement the use of a citrus oil which have high components of limonene. This is in order to enhance antioxidant properties and to modulate the immune response.
- Rotate oils regularly, so that receptor sites don’t get over flooded.
- If you are going to take any form of microbe inhibitors, natural or synthetic, consider supplementing with a probiotic. I like S. boualardii, because of its diverse actions and clinical studies that support its use with antibiotics. 15-17
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Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic, Grade A essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been AFNOR and ISO standardized. There is no quality control in the United States and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin.
This information is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness.
- Gallagher J. Most countries not protecting antibiotics, says WHO. BBC News website. April 29, 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/health-32515967
- Yap PS, Lim SH, Hu CP, Yiap BC. Combination of essential oils and antibiotics reduce antibiotic resistance in plasmid-conferred multidrug resistant bacteria. Phytomedicine. June 2013;15;20(8-9):710-3. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2013.02.013.
- Sue Chao S, Young G, Oberg, C, Nakoka K. Inhibition of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) by essential oils. Flavour and Fragrance Journal. 2008; 23: 444-449. DOI: 10.1002/ffj.1904
- Nelson, J. Selection of resistance to the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia in Staphylococcus aureus. J. Antimicrob Chemother. 2000; 45 (4): 549-550. doi: 10.1093/jac/45.4.549
- Boire NA, Riedel S, Parrish NM. Essential Oils and Future Antibiotics: New Weapons against Emerging ‘Superbugs’? J Anc Dis Prev Rem. 2013;1: 105. doi:10.4172/2329-8731.1000105
- Becerril R, Nerín C, Gómez-Lus R. Evaluation of bacterial resistance to essential oils and antibiotics after exposure to oregano and cinnamon essential oils. Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2012; 9(8):699-705. doi: 10.1089/fpd.2011.1097. Epub 2012 Jul 24
- Halcón L, Milkus K.Staphylococcus aureus and wounds: a review of tea tree oil as a promising antimicrobial. Am J Infect Control. November 2004;32(7):402-8.
- Edmondson M1, Newall N, Carville K, Smith J, Riley TV, Carson CF. Uncontrolled, open-label, pilot study of tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil solution in the decolonisation of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus positive wounds and its influence on wound healing. Int Wound J. August 2011;8(4):375-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-481X.2011.00801.x. Epub 2011 May 12.
- Yap PSX, Yiap BC, Ping HC, Lim SHE. Essential Oils, A New Horizon in Combating Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance. The Open Microbiology Journal. 2014;8:6-14. doi:10.2174/1874285801408010006.
- Yap PS1, Lim SH, Hu CP, Yiap BC. Combination of essential oils and antibiotics reduce antibiotic resistance in plasmid-conferred multidrug resistant bacteria. Phytomedicine. 2013 Jun 15;20(8-9):710-3. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2013.02.013. Epub 2013 Mar 26
- Rosato A, Vitali C, De Laurentis N, Armenise D, Antonietta Milillo M. Antibacterial effect of some essential oils administered alone or in combination with Norfloxacin. Phytomedicine. 2007 Nov;14(11):727-32. Epub 2007 Feb 15.
- Hongbin Si , Jinqiang Hu , Zhichang Liu , Zhen-ling Zeng Antibacterial effect of oregano essential oil alone and in combination with antibiotics against extended-spectrum ?-lactamase-producing Escherichia coli.FEMS Immunology & Medical Microbiology. July 2008.
- Lorenzi V, Muselli A, Bernardini AF, et al. Geraniol Restores Antibiotic Activities against Multidrug-Resistant Isolates from Gram-Negative Species. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. 2009;53(5):2209-2211. doi:10.1128/AAC.00919-08.
- Oluwatuyi M1, Kaatz GW, Gibbons S. Antibacterial and resistance modifying activity of Rosmarinus officinalis. Phytochemistry. 2004 Dec;65(24):3249-54.
- Szajewska H, Mrukowicz J. Meta-analysis: non-pathogenic yeast Saccharomyces boulardii in the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 2005; 22: 365–372. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2005.02624.x
- Efficacy of probiotics in prevention of acute diarrhoea: a meta-analysis of masked, randomised, placebo-controlled trials. Lancet Infectious Diseases. June 2006. 6(6): 374-382.
- Czerucka D, Piche T, Rampal P. Review article: yeast as probiotics –Saccharomyces boulardii. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 2007; 26: 767–778. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2007.03442.x
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