Money does not grow on trees, but essential oils do. The pleasant-smelling volatile oils are not just components of perfumes; they are mood boosters that have a profound effect on health and wellbeing.
Aromatherapy with volatile oils (VOs) has been used for nearly 6000 years as a holistic treatment for nausea, pain and body aches, fatigue, insomnia, menstrual problems, and stress, and depression. It is an essential component of alternative medicine.
Interest in VOs as potential antibacterial candidates soared over the past few decades ever since lemongrass, lavender and rosewood oils extracts showed therapeutic efficacy against multidrug-resistant bacterial strains (Staph, E.coli, Pseudomonas) that cause skin, respiratory, digestive system, and urinary tract infections.
Now Farukh S Sharopov, a top researcher at Chinese-Tajik Innovation Center for Natural Products, has discovered that VOs from the herb called Sweet Wormwood (Аrtemisia annua L) possess antibacterial and anti-oxidant activity. He is confident it’s the first time someone identified the antibacterial potential of A.annua herb. Talking to Health Units, he said,
“We believe ours is the first study to determine and discover the chemical composition and antibacterial of A. annua.”
Sharopov and team collected leaves and flowers of the plant during the start of the flowering season between 2017 and 2019 and extracted VOs using a process called steam hydro-distillation.
Hydro-distillation is a traditional method of extracting bioactive compounds from plants. It involves packing plant material in a still permeated by the steam of boiling water. The steam frees bioactive compounds that are condescend and collected from the separator. (Fig.1)
Essential oils are highly pure concentrates that are used in the food and beverage industry, and perfume and personal care products. They share a market worth of U.S. 7.03 billion, with their annual sale projected to cross 15 billion by 2026.
The team analyzed and identified the extracts with the help of gas-chromatograph mass spectroscopy (GC-MS). A.annua contained over a dozen VOs, but the most prominent were camphor, 1,8-cineole, camphene, and α-pinene.
The researchers compared the antibacterial and anti-oxidant activity of VOs with positive controls (Trolox equivalents). Trolox equivalents were pre-determined assays of verified chemical compounds with proven antibacterial and anti-oxidant efficacies.
The result showed the plant-obtained VOs possessed both antibacterial and anti-oxidant potential, albeit weaker than the positive controls (IC50: 5-6.5 mg/mL and 2.4-3.5 mg/mL). However, the effect far surpassed that of ascorbic acid – vitamin C – (0.007-0.003 mg/mL). Vitamin C is a potent anti-oxidant that detoxifies and fights bacteria and keeps gums, teeth, skin, and tissues healthy. Researchers noticed that VOs in A.annua were more potent than ascorbic acid.
Sharopov then tested essential oils for their efficacy against gram-negative (E.coli, Pseudomonas) and G+ve (Staph) bacteria and found them to be remarkably effective in warding off the microorganisms. Of all the VOs, 1,8-cineole possessed the highest antimicrobial activity against both G-ve and G+ve bacteria.
In a special e-mail correspondence with Health Units, Sharpov further explained that,
“Essential Oils can come in handy in the fight against resistant bacterial strains. These are natural organic compounds and have fewer, if any, side effects. They can bolster existing antibiotics or may even become reliable alternatives in the future.”
Indeed this is right. Many people can benefit from local treatment with essential oils. These can be used as an alternative treatment for bacterial infections that are otherwise hard to treat, such as diabetic foot and necrotic ulcers, etc.
Antibiotics are failing. Bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant S.aureus (MRSA), have already developed resistance against several antibiotics (methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin, and cephalosporins) and the rate is increasing. Nearly 2 million people no longer respond to the antibiotic they once did. The U.S. spends $21-34 billion to fight resistant infections. The fight against multi-resistant strains can be won with natural extracts such as thyme oil, oregano, camphor, and 1,8-cineole, as shown by the study.