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Can Essential Oils Help with Antibiotic Resistance?

May 24, 2019

It’s not a surprise. We know it’s happening…certain antibiotics are no longer effective against antimicrobials. In humans, antibiotics have been over-prescribed and taken incorrectly or prescriptions are left unfinished. In livestock, the drugs are often added to feed to decrease the chance of illness as well as increase weight. These factors have led to Dr. Cyril Gray, the senior national program leader at the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service to conclude: “The loss of antibiotics due to antimicrobial resistance is potentially one of the most important challenges the medical and animal-health communities will face in the 21st century.”

What Can Be Done?

In 2013, the FDA has instituted a program to ask farmers to reduce antibiotic usage in livestock. It’s a voluntary, education-based program, unfortunately without tracking or follow-through, but it is an acknowledgement that a problem exists.

As farmers are looking to improve the health of their livestock, studies show the benefit of using essential oils to improve livestock health. The Atlantic Monthly researched the topic in a 2015 article and found many industry groups studying the use of essential oils.

The journal Poultry Science, “found that chickens who consumed feed with added oregano oil had a 59 percent lower mortality rate due to ascites, a common infection in poultry, than untreated chickens.” While one study by BMC Proceedings, “showed that adding a combination of plant extracts—from oregano, cinnamon, and chili peppers—actually changed the gene expression of treated chickens, resulting in weight gain as well as protection against an injected intestinal infection.”

Antibiotic and Essential Oils, Together

Studies have consistently shown that pairing essential oils and antibiotics lowers the amount of antibiotics required to heal. According to The Atlantic Monthly article, “two recent studies showed that lavender and cinnamon essential oils killed E. coli, and when combined with the antibiotic piperacillin, the oils reversed the resistance of the E. coli bacteria to the antibiotic. Researchers believe that one mechanism by which the oils work is by weakening the cell wall of resistant bacteria, thereby damaging or killing the cells while also allowing the antibiotic in.”

Why Do Essential Oils Work?

Compounds that are used to create essential oils come from plants. Plants use these compounds to protect themselves from infection, to recover from damage, withstand temperature variations, and repel hungry pests. Many common drugs originated from plants: morphine from the poppy plant, cough medicines from mint and eucalyptus plants; and a little bush called ma huang is used to create ephedra, one of the decongesting ingredients in Sudafed.

Can We Overuse Essential Oils, Too?

According to C. Norman Shealy, a neurosurgeon and author of The Healing Remedies Sourcebook: Over 1000 Natural Remedies to Prevent and Cure Common Ailments, “it is possible for bacteria to become resistant to essential oils, but it’s unlikely because the oils contain hundreds more chemical compounds than antibiotic medications, making it difficult for bacteria to adapt to the oils.” Essential oils hold valuable healing for our society. More research will show how to use oils more effectively, which will reduce some of the skepticism associated with oils. Decreasing the amount of essential oil “miracle cure” claims and scientifically showing how they can be used to prevent disease cost effectively, will help our society use them effectively for healing.

If you'd like to have a one on one consultation to see if essential oils would be helpful to incorporate into your living, call me to schedule time, 703-371-1104, or visit me online