When most people think of essential oils they think of aroma therapy, but when you think of how many plants there are and what properties they have, it makes a lot of sense that some essential oils do more than just smell good. Some essential oils can also help our bodies to keep away or fight off infections.
Antiseptic Essential Oils
Antiseptics are agents that kill bacteria. While some bacteria is healthy, other bacteria causes illnesses. Antibiotics, which are similar but not identical to other forms of antiseptics, have been widely used in recent history to fight off harmful bacteria, but antibiotics can also be harmful to good bacteria, and harmful bacteria has been adapting to survive antibiotic treatments.
According to a 2015 article in The Atlantic, most of the serious clinical studies that have been done on essential oils for antiseptic purposes have been searching for potential ingredients in hand sanitizers that will be efficient in medical settings where bacteria have become immune to other common lines of defense.
The article lists a number of plant extracts that research has found promising, including
- chili peppers
- and cinnamon.
Clove, Rosemary, chili peppers, and lavender were also listed among essential oils found to have antimicrobial effects in a 2010 meta-analysis published in The Journal of Applied Bioscience, as were essential oils made from…
- lemon leaves
- and lime leaves.
Scientists aren’t entirely sure yet how or why essential oils can kill bacteria, but some have proposed that chemicals in the essential oils can damage the cell walls of the bacteria. This would also explain why essential oils included as ingredients in more conventional antiseptics tend to be more efficient than essential oils by themselves.
Anti-Viral Essential Oils
Bacteria and viruses both make you sick, but they aren’t the same; they work in different ways and require different treatments and deterrents. For example, if the theory that essential oils kill bacteria by damaging their cell walls is correct, essential oils could not fight viruses the same way because viruses do not have cell walls. Fortunately, a number of potentially beneficial anti-viral essential oils have also been identified.
The same 2010 meta-analysis cited above included sandalwood oil, tea tree oil, thyme, and ginger as essential oils with anti-viral properties. A 2015 study published in the journal Acute Medicine reported that eucalyptus showed promising anti-viral traits as well, particularly in a mouthwash for combating herpes simplex.
Cinnamon, bergamot, thyme, and eucalyptus were also found to have promising anti-viral properties in both the liquid and the vapor state in a 2014 article published in The American Journal of Essential Oils and Natural Products. This article particularly looked at combatting the influenza virus which leads to the common “flu” but which can also turn deadly.
Other Areas Of Research
Recent research has also explored essential oils as being beneficial antifungal, and even anticancer agents.
By far the most interest in essential oils has been involving their potential benefit in combatting depression and anxiety disorders.
Other Ways To Get The Benefits
Many of these studies included other essential oils that are not widely available commercially, and so they have not been included in this article.
Many of the essential oils discussed in this article, in addition to being readily available commercially, come from edible plants. While essential oils can often not be ingested, eating the plants that they are derived from can provide some significant effect as well.
Essential oils are concentrated and potent substances, so eating the foods that produce them may not have as strong or as immediate an effect as using essential oils. However, eating the foods rather than just the oils involves taking in nutrients that are not always included in essential oils. For example, many of the essential oils listed above come from plants that also include antioxidants and other important nutrients.