Eucalyptus Oil Inhibits Tuberculosis Spread, Studies Show
Eucalyptus essential oil can help prevent the spread of tuberculosis according to multiple studies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately a quarter of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis. According to the World Health Organization, 10 million people became sick from TB in 2017, and about 1.6 million people died from TB.
The WHO also reports that 1 million children became ill with TB in 2017, and about 230,000 children died from the disease.
The WHO has estimated that up to a third of the world’s population may be already infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and about 80 percent of Asians and Africans test positive for TB. And many of these infections are now antibiotic resistant.
Apparently there are two effects of the oil that together can help the spread of the tuberculosis infection. These include the antibacterial effect of eucalyptus and the ability of airborne eucalyptus to inhibit the aerial spread of the infection.
Let’s take a quick look at the science behind these effects.
Tuberculosis is spread mainly by an infection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, but other bacteria can also be involved. TB can be spread via breathing, coughing or sneezing by an infected person. At least 10 percent of those who contract the bacteria will succumb to an active infection, which can be spread to others.
Signs of an active infection include fever, coughing, and blood in the sputum. Antibiotics are the conventional treatment. But unfortunately, many TB bacteria have become resistant to multiple antibiotics. This means we have to rethink our methods of trying to prevent the spread of TB.
Eucalyptus prevents airborne bacteria infections
Research scientists from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine studied the ability of eucalyptus oil to prevent the spread of the mycobacteria that causes tuberculosis.
The researchers tested the oil and its primary compound, eucalyptol (1,8-cineole). They tested these against a similar bacteria called Mycobacterium smegmatis. This mimics the spread of the TB mycobacterium. The researchers utilized lung cells in the laboratory to duplicate lung infections.
The researchers found that the eucalyptus oil helped the cells counteract becoming infected by the mycobacterium. They concluded:
“Taken together, this study demonstrates the nature and mechanistic basis of the potent anti-inflammatory and anti-infective properties of Eucalyptus Oil and its constituent 1,8-cineole in lung inflammation- and infection- models based on alveolar macrophages.”
Eucalyptus blocks TB transmission
Research from the University of Illinois’ College of Pharmacy also found that eucalyptus essential oil can be used to stop the spread of tuberculosis from those who are contagious.
The researchers tested essential oil from the Eucalyptus citriodora – also called Corymbia citriodora – with airborne tuberculosis. The researchers found that the essential oil significantly inhibited the spread of airborne tuberculosis using eucalyptus essential oil with inhalation therapy.
The researchers then quantified 32 different anti-tuberculosis constituents – medicinal compounds that included eucalyptol, spathulenol, linalool, citronellol, isopulegol, terpineol, eudesmol, cadinol and others.
The researchers found that a combination of citronellol, linalool and eucalyptol inhibited airborne tuberculosis transmission by more than 90 percent.
Eucalyptus is antibacterial
This is not that surprising a result because eucalyptus essential oil has been found to be significantly antibacterial. A study from Germany’s Heidelberg University found that Eucalyptus essential oil from the Eucalyptus globules fruit was found to be significantly antibiotic against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
This is critical because many strains of tuberculosis bacteria are now resistant to many antibiotics.
One of the main compounds found in this oil included aromadendrene at 31 percent. The scientists found the eucalyptus leaf oil was not as antibiotic as the fruit essential oil.
In a study from Italy’s SOC Microbiology and Virology Clinic, researchers found the Eucalyptus smithii was srongly antibiotic against biofilms of Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
This is not surprising to herbalists, who have used eucalyptus for healing bronchial infections for centuries.
Other essential oils have also been shown to be antibacterial.
Being proactive about TB
Preventing the transmission and an active infection requires preemptive action. This means avoiding people who cough or at least asking them to cover their coughing with their forearm if they are not already.
Since this many people do not have active forms of the infection, this means that avoiding an active infection of TB relates directly to the strength of the immune system and the lungs. This can be done before or after being infected.
Having some eucalyptus essential oil with us when we are traveling is a good idea that may help us prevent an infection. We can apply some to a tissue and lay the tissue in our close presence. We can also apply some to our skin, but applying eucalyptus essential oil onto our skin should be done with caution, and preceded by first applying a small test drop.
Yadav N, Chandra H. Suppression of inflammatory and infection responses in lung macrophages by eucalyptus oil and its constituent 1,8-cineole: Role of pattern recognition receptors TREM-1 and NLRP3, the MAP kinase regulator MKP-1, and NFκB. PLoS One. 2017 Nov 15;12(11):e0188232. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0188232.
Ramos Alvarenga RF, Wan B, Inui T, Franzblau SG, Pauli GF, Jaki BU. Airborne antituberculosis activity of Eucalyptus citriodora essential oil. J Nat Prod. 2014 Mar 28;77(3):603-10. doi: 10.1021/np400872m.
Mulyaningsih S, Sporer F, Reichling J, Wink M. Antibacterial activity of essential oils from Eucalyptus and of selected components against multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens. Pharm Biol. 2011 Sep;49(9):893-9. doi: 10.3109/13880209.2011.553625.
Camporese A. In vitro activity of Eucalyptus smithii and Juniperus communis essential oils against bacterial biofilms and efficacy perspectives of complementary inhalation therapy in chronic and recurrent upper respiratory tract infections. Infez Med. 2013 Jun;21(2):117-24.