Essential Oils – Help or Hype? CONCLUSION

This is the third in a series of posts related to essentials oils and how they might related to health. Find the first post here and the second post here.

For the past few months I’ve written blog posts that were inspired by this article. I’m excited to get to the final post in this series because it deals with what I found to be the most interesting aspect of the article.

So far I’ve reviewed the concept of using essential oils for assisting with improving many aspects of our health. I’ve also reflected a bit on the use of antibiotics to treat animals that we humans then turn around and eat, and why that might be concerning. Now I’m considering the article’s report on how some farmers have moved to using essential oils for the health of their animals *instead of* antibiotics, and what that might mean for us.

The article reports that several studies have been done that show plant extracts and essential oils as a viable alternative to antibiotics. One study reported chickens showing a lower mortality rate due to a a common infection when they consumed feed with oregano oil added. Another study directly compared the effects of an antibiotic with those of rosemary and oregano oil, and found that the oils resulted in the same amount of growth and that the oils also killed bacteria. This is very interesting stuff to me. Essential oils helping to reduce salmonella in chickens? Sounds like a good thing!

But the research has not been limited just to animals. The article also lists several studies involving humans. In one, a combination of oils was found just as effective as the usual antibiotic in treating bacterial vaginosis. More research has showed healing of staph-related wounds and a reduction MRSA on the skin. I could go on and on. This is all new, and of course more research needs to be done, but I’m very encouraged by this possibility. Anything that would reduce the medications that people take that can also cause major side effects and affect the overall quality of life would be a step in a positive direction. Not to mention the antibiotic resistance concern.

So, what would the next steps be to really see if we could move in this direction? Well, for starters, our American culture would have to lose some of the skepticism about using more natural cures for things. We have become so used to just taking a pill to “fix” something, that it’s hard for many to believe that we don’t have to do that every time. Interestingly, the article points out that many people don’t realize that many well-known medications came from plants originally. From the article: “For example, aspirin is derived from willow bark, though the key compound is now synthesized by manufacturers; the treatment for malaria (still used today) is derived from fever-tree bark; morphine is derived from the poppy plant; the cancer-fighting drug paclitaxel was initially derived from the bark of the Pacific yew tree; and many cold and cough medicines and muscle-relief creams have mint extract as the main ingredient. Even a newly developed Ebola treatment hinges on the use of tobacco plants.”

The second issue is that of change. In order for things to change, it has to include some regulation so that companies would comply with a different way to treat their animals. According to Scott Sechler, owner of a company that is a high-end poultry producer that does not use antibiotics, if the demand is there, companies will change to meet it. From the article: “…and change should come from other key players, too. ‘Essential-oil use by the food industry should be a hundred times bigger than it is,’ he says. ‘Universities need to be able to speak up to some in the industry without getting their heads chopped off,’ instead of tiptoeing around them because they provide research funding. He also believes the USDA and the FDA should create standards limiting antibiotic use and require everyone in the industry to comply by a certain date, similar to the way fuel efficiency standards for cars have been introduced and enforced.”

Can it be done? Can a massive change in how we treat health issues of animals happen? One that could cause a trickle-down effect in the health of those humans who consume them? Of course it can! Whether or not all of those pieces fall into place remains to be seen.


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