Many essential oils have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties that can help in the fight against disease and infection.
This is particularly important these days when many bacteria and viruses have developed a resistance to conventional treatment like antibiotics – and even conventional antibacterials like triclosan.
Some of the most strongly antibacterial essential oils include cinnamon, clove, geranium, lemon, lime, orange and rosemary all which have been shown to work against a variety of different bacterial strains.
Then, of course, there is tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternofolia) long renowned for its significant antiseptic properties.
Tea tree has been shown to be active against a wide range of organisms including those implicated in herpes, athlete’s foot, impetigo, ringworm, sinus infections and thrush. E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Candida albicans can all be inhibited by tea tree oil.
Other strongly antibacterial essential oils include cinnamon, clove, geranium, lemon, lime, orange and rosemary oils which have been shown to work against a variety of different bacterial strains. Lavender oil has shown antibacterial and antifungal activity; it was also found to be effective to treat burns and insect bites. Lemongrass, oregano and bay oils are also effective against a range of bacteria and fungi.
In the winter when resistance is low and cold and sneezes spread infection, essential oils are a great way to protect yourself. But really they are useful at any time when you are likely to be exposed or in unsanitary conditions – for instance when travelling or at festivals.
For natural protection against most common bacteria and viruses, and helps support your body’s immune system, try these methods:
Vapourisation: add 2-4 drops to a diffuser to deodorise and purify the air.
Inhalation: add 4-6 drops to a bowl of hot water and inhale the vapours for 5-10 minutes.
Household cleaning: apply 2-3 drops to a damp cloth to sanitise kitchen or work surfaces, phones and keyboards; or add to laundry liquids and household cleansers.
Keeping hands clean
Most people now agree that keeping hands clean is the best way to avoid ill health.
We can do this by frequently washing our hands of, where water is not available or practical using a hand hygiene product.
New research from Mintel shows that 35% of adults are washing their hands more frequently than they were just three years ago, rising to 42% of mothers with children under 16.
More of us are also choosing to fight germs on the go: the survey revealed that over half (58%) of Brits purchase hand sanitiser gel, with a third (33%) buying hand sanitiser gel once a month or more.
In hospitals too keeping hands clean is considered the best way to keep infection rates down. A four year study into the effectiveness of the “Cleanyourhands campaign” – which aimed to help the National Health Service in England and Wales achieve consistent, evidence based practice in hand hygiene – found that hospitals’ increased use of soap and alcohol hand rub was associated with a significant drop in the rate of superbug infections.
Both Alcohol-based and non-Alcohol-based hand hygiene products are becoming more widely available and come in various formats such as gels, foams, liquids and sprays.
Several studies have found that sanitisers with an alcohol concentration between 60–95% are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitisers. Some data show that alcohol-based hand sanitisers can work well against certain types of germs even on slightly soiled hands.
In contrast, non-alcohol-based hand sanitisers may:
For this reason, when choosing an essential oils hand sanitiser – whether it be for winter, festivals, public transport, picnics and everyday use – your best bet is one that uses alcohol as a base.
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