Essential oils aren’t just for use in aromatherapy, massage, and other spa treatments. Many have been extensively researched, leading the scientific community to discover their benefits for treating a variety of diseases. There are hundreds of different essential oils and more than a few offer unique antibacterial properties.
Of course, essential oils have long been known for their ability to heal, but few people realize that they can even kill off bacteria, viruses, and fungi, fighting off and preventing a host of infections, treating skin conditions and more.
They can be an excellent way to fight bacteria without having to experience potentially severe side effects that come with antibiotics. In fact, they’re generally much safer than taking a prescription antibiotic, and you’ll be helping to address the worldwide problem of antibiotic resistance as well.
8 Essential Oils That Can Kill Off Bacteria
These essential oils are all an excellent way to do just that.
1. Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tea tree essential oil is only one of a few antibacterial, antiviral, and antimicrobial essential oils that can be applied directly to the skin without diluting it first. It’s well-known for its ability to treat skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, acne and warts.
Also known as melaleuca oil, it comes from the leaves of the tea tree, or Melaleuca plant, which is native to Australia, and was used for centuries by aboriginal communities in the country as an antiseptic by crushing the leaves of the tea tree, and applying them to cuts, infections, and burns.
In the 1920s, it became widely-known beyond Australia’s borders when chemist Arthur Penfold published a series of papers on its antiseptic properties.
Since then, there have been countless studies conducted that have shown the potential of this oil for healing. For example, in 2004, a scientific review examined its ability to kill bacteria and found that it may be used as an adjunctive treatment for wounds, and may also be able to treat severe infections like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
A 2013 study replicated tea tree oil’s effects on humans who had wounds infected with the superbug Staphylococcus aureus – the participants treated with tea tree oil experienced significantly faster healing time compared to those who were treated conventionally.
You can use it in a diffuser or a nebulizer to help alleviate head and chest congestion, a stuffed up nose and other cold or flu symptoms. Steam inhalation helps to clear congested nasal passages as well as fight off bacteria. You can simply add a few drops of tea tree oil to a pot of steaming hot water, cover your head with a towel and then breathe in the vapors for five minutes or so.
Tea tree oil can also be utilized for its antifungal properties by applying it directly to problems like toenail fungus and athlete’s foot.
2. Oregano Essential Oil
Oregano is a commonly used spice adding flavor to lots of dishes, but it also offers excellent therapeutic antibiotic effects. It was first recognized for its antibacterial and disinfecting properties in ancient Greece, where it was frequently used to treat wounds and bacterial infections on the skin.
Oregano essential oil contains bacteria-killing abilities and can even help control staph infections. It also provides antiseptic, antiviral, antioxidant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties as well.
In fact, a 2001 study conducted out of Georgetown University and published in Science Daily found that the oil’s germ-killing properties were nearly as effective as most antibiotics. It’s especially noted for battling conditions like foot and nail fungus.
To do so, just place a few drops of oregano essential oil in a small tub of water and soak your feet in the solution. Or, you can use it directly on the affected area by diluting one drop of oregano essential oil in a carrier oil.
The oil can also be quite helpful if you’re suffering from a sinus infection. Relief may be found by placing a few drops of oregano essential oil into steaming water (such as the tea tree oil solution above), and then inhaling the steam. The oil not only causes significant damage to bacteria, but it also helps minimize the bacteria’s ability to produce toxins that can be extremely hazardous.
3. Cinnamon Essential Oil
Cinnamon essential oil may be one of the strongest antibacterial essential oils of all, according to research. In a 2006 study conducted out of Loyola College’s Entomology Research Institute in Chennai, India, it was tested against some bacteria, including:
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Escherichia coli
- Bacillus subtilis
- Pseudomonas aeruginosin
- Klebsiella pneumoniae
Cinnamon essential oil came out on top as the most powerful over other antibacterial oils like clove, Rosemary, Geranium, lime, orange, and lemon.
Research published in the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice was conducted on the effectiveness of cinnamon oil against “planktonic E. faecal” in a root canal procedure, and the results were striking.
They revealed that the oil was able to eliminate bacterial growth after seven and 14 days of the procedure, concluding that it’s an effective antibacterial agent against planktonic and biofilm E. faecalis and can be an outstanding agent for use in root canal treatments.
Make a homemade toothpaste with cinnamon essential oil to fight bacteria in the mouth, or use a ready-made cinnamon toothpaste – such as this one.
Use cinnamon oil in a diffuser to purify the air and kill off airborne bacteria. It’s especially effective when used with other antibacterial agents like tea tree, eucalyptus or clove oil, killing nearly 99% of airborne bacteria in just minutes.
4. Grapefruit Essential Oil
Grapefruit essential oil has also been reported to be a highly effective natural antibiotic with the ability to fight a host of common infections. In a study from the University of Texas, drops of the extract were tested for antibacterial properties and the researchers found that it was comparable to “proven topical antibacterials.”
A 2011 study published in the International Journal of Food Science & Technology reported that the oil was effective against strains of bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, Staphylococcus epidermis, Escherichia coli, Salmonella Typhimurium, Serratia marcescens, and Proteus Vulgaris.
In addition to its ability to fight off bacteria, grapefruit essential oil contains antimicrobial properties that may help treat and prevent an infection in wounds and cuts as well as eliminate microbes in the kidneys and gut. It supports endocrine function, encourages the production of bile and gastric juices to aid the digestive system, and it offers stimulating effects that can make you feel more alert.
Use grapefruit essential oil by inhaling it to help eliminate mental fatigue, headaches or depression, as well as to activate the lymphatic system to clear toxins.
5. Clove Essential Oil
One of the most well-known uses of clove essential oil is for treating a toothache. In fact, people have been using it to treat this painful problem for hundreds of years. Its use as a toothache cure was first documented in 1640, though it’s likely to have been applied for more than 2,000 years as part of homeopathic treatments.
Because it contains a high level of eugenol, this oil has been proven to be especially versatile and has been thoroughly researched as an effective alternative to many modern medical treatments.
In a test of 21 essential oils that went up against bacteria like E. coli, it came out second only to cinnamon, as the very best inhibitors.
To use it for tooth pain, add one drop of clove essential oil onto a cotton ball and press it onto the affected area for up to 15 minutes. You can also use it topically to treat skin conditions like acne and warts or inhale it to help ease respiratory problems like a cold, cough or asthma.
6. Thyme Essential Oil
Thyme essential oil is antibacterial, antispasmodic, antiseptic, and contains calming properties. Research conducted out of the University of Tennessee’s Department of Food Science and Technology evaluated its effect against bacteria in milk and salmonella.
Results, published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, indicated that its “nanoemulsions” might be an excellent option for protecting the body from harmful bacteria by using it as an antimicrobial preservative for food.
Thyme oil can drain congestion and cure an infection, helping one to fight off a cold and upper respiratory conditions. It can also help to rid the body of toxins, making it an ideal remedy when you feel a cold, flu or other illness coming on.
Thyme is also used to treat conditions like fatigue, gout, arthritis, wounds, menstrual, pre-menopausal and menopausal symptoms. Researchers from Babol University of Medical Sciences in Iran confirmed that thyme actually reduces the pain of menstrual cramps better than ibuprofen.
To battle an illness, place a few drops into your diffuser, or add thyme oil to steaming hot water and inhale.
7. Lemongrass Essential Oil
Lemongrass essential oil has been found in studies to be another one of the most potent antibacterial essential oils out there. While not as strong smelling as lemon essential oil, which is commonly used in antibacterial cleansers, it’s no less powerful.
It can inhibit bacteria growth both externally and internally, as well as battle bacterial infections, skin conditions, body odor and even food poisoning, thanks to its citral and limonene content.
Lemongrass essential oil can be used in a carrier oil as a natural cleanser, taking advantage of its antiseptic and astringent properties for more evenly toned skin, and rubbed into the scalp to relieve the pain of a headache, or on the body to alleviate muscle pain.
It helps improve blood circulation, relieving cramps, backaches and muscle spasms. If you’re prone to athlete’s foot, rub it onto your feet to help stifle the growth of fungi.
8. Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot essential oil has a delightful citrus scent along with powerful antibacterial properties. Italians have long recognized its medicinal potential, using it to get rid of intestinal worms. It’s been used to heal scars, relieve the pain of a headache, reduce muscle tension and kill bacteria.
It’s well known to help fight off certain types of bacteria, and battle infections like endocarditis, meningitis, and potentially urinary tract infections.
Bergamot essential oil can also help those suffering from conditions like cold sores, herpes and mouth ulcers, as it helps to speed healing. It can even heal and prevent acne breakouts too.
If you’ve got a urinary tract infection, take advantage of its benefits by rubbing the oil diluted in a carrier oil onto your abdomen and throat, and add a few drops to your diffuser as well.
Learn more about bergamot oil here.
Choosing High-Quality Essential Oils
Remember when you are choosing your essential oil blends or singles that not all essential oils are created equal — there is a large difference between the quality and potency of oils on the market.
Several lower quality brands dilute their essential oils with fillers to keep the price point low. To gain the maximum therapeutic benefits of a high-quality essential oil look for organic, 100% pure oils sourced from environmentally conscious growers — like our friends at Starwest Botanicals guarantees.