Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Can Essential Oils Be the New Antibiotics?

The Jan. 26 edition of "The Atlantic" printed a lengthy article about the search for antibiotic replacements. As so many bacteria have become resistant to existing antibiotics, farmers are turning to plant extracts to keep animals healthy.

The reality is that essential oils have many antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Research supports their use to alleviate health conditions such as migraines, nausea, and some of them can even kill cancer cells (in test tubes.) Although work done to date has only taken place in the lab, findings are encouraging that they may have a role to play in keeping animals healthy. At this time, about 80% of the antibiotics used in the United States are given to animals to keep them healthy in the crowded and less-than-ideal conditions in which the animals are kept. A lot of the antibiotics used to help animals grow are also used in people, to fight illness.

Unfortunately, this overuse has allowed bacteria to grow resistant to the antibiotics. This means they are no longer effective in humans. The article goes on to explain that recent studies are promising. Chickens fed a mixture of oregano, cinnamon and chili peppers were able to stay disease free, but not have any side effects, nor cause bacteria to become resistant. A multi-year study at the United States Department of Agriculture is investigating the role that essential oils might play in reducing the widespread use of antibiotics in animals for prevention of disease (rather than treatment of existing illness.)

Lots of studies are underway. There are pitfalls: people are reluctant to change from existing methodology, and, there is no ability of pharmaceutical companies to make money from essential oils, so, money is not being channeled into research.

The article is lengthy, but fascinating. If you want to read more, click here: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/01/the-new-antibiotics-might-be-essential-oils/384247/