Q: I have heard that tea-tree oil is one of the only things that can be used to help combat the superbug in hospitals – is this right?
A: I presume you are referring to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA (there are several other antibiotic-resistant bacteria.) One of the current problems being faced in hospitals worldwide is the increasing resistance of dermally carried MRSA to soaps and ointments intended to eradicate it. These contain active ingredients such as mupirosin, triclosan or chlorhexidine, but bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to these.
In vitro studies in Australia and the UK have found that tea tree oil is effective against MRSA at concentrations as low as 0.25%. To eradiate MRSA on the skin, creams, ointments and body washes with at least 5% tea tree oil have been successfully used in hospital trials.
Other essential oils including oregano, thyme, patchouli, lemongrass, lavender and geranium are also able to kill MRSA if used in sufficient concentration, but most of the research has been on tea tree oil. Note that systemic MRSA, which can be fatal, is not yet known to be treatable with essential oils. However, in the video clip below you will hear an account of how a man’s life was saved with a mixture of clove, cinnamon, rosemary, lemon and eucalyptus. He had contracted an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria in hospital, and conventional treatment had failed.