Monday, 11 October 2010

Anti viral properties - case study MC outbreak in a primary school - how can essential oils help?

Molluscum contagiosum (MC) is a viral infection of the skin caused by molluscum contagiosum virus which infects only humans. This distressing infection is most common in children aged one to ten years old.  The virus can be spread among children at day care or at school. MC is contagious until the bumps are gone-which, if untreated, may be up to 6 months or longer.  Eczema too can be associated with an MC infection.

The body of evidence regarding the effectiveness of natural botanicals against a great variety of viruses is growing. German scientists found extracts of more than 100 species of the Lamiaceae family to have antiviral effects. This discovery lead to an increase in the examination of essential oils in Europe for the treatment of viral infections.  Essential oils from many plant families have now been demonstrated to have antiviral properties.

Should essential oils be applied undiluted to the MC lesions?  Generally no.  Essential oils are highly concentrated and can be highly irritating to a sensitive skin.  Care must be taken not to drop neat oil onto the skin, particularly infant skin which can be very sensitive so it will be better, however tempting, to use diluted oil particularly as the study below shows 10% dilutions of citral can still be effective in neutralising the MC virus.  However citral itself is highly irritating and the recommended dilution is 1% so should other essential oils be considered by the therapist?

French aromatherapists are bolder with their essential oils advice still favouring dilution but prepared to use higher doses or neat oils carefully applied on viral lesions where justified.  French aromatherapists are often medically qualified so better placed to judge such circumstances where side effects are possible as they do day to day with conventional medicines.

With adult skin which is less sensitive than childrens skin there may be a case of using a toothpick to drop a very tiny amount of essential oil with known anti viral properties directly onto the centre of viral lesions.  Lemon oil applied like this makes short work of viral warts but viruses vary in structure and MC is more like the Herpes virus except it results in raised lesions so may not be vulnerable to Lemon oil (which contains only 5% citral).  Melissa contains only 11% citral but is highly effective against the herpes virus.  Unlike the more irritating oils Melissa can be applied undiluted to the skin.

Australian lemon myrtle

A 2004 study demonstrated over 90% reduction in the number of MC lesions in 9 out of 16 children treated once daily for 21 days with 10% dilution of essential oil of Australian lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) dissolved in olive oil. (1)

Lemon Myrtle is 95% citral, should not be applied undiluted at all because of the risk of skin irritation. Dilutions as low as 1% can result in irritation if an individual is sensitive.  For any essential oil or essential oil blend it is as well to do a patch test on the elbow 24 hours before attempting treatment to test for such individual sensitivity.  Other sources of citral of approximately 75% citral are May Chang, Lemongrass, Lemon Tea Tree. Lemon myrtle oil which has a high reputation in Australia is available diluted in a cream or lotion in the UK from Ann Clemont of  T: 01388 819991.

Tea tree oil is also reported to at least reduce growth and spread of lesions when used in dilute form. Tea tree oil may cause contact dermatitis to those with sensitive skin, although less often in dilute form. 

Antiviral Components of Oils
The components of essential oils showing antiviral activity, and the oils in which they can be found, are as follows (from K. Schnaubelt, Ph.D. - Advanced Aromatherapy, p. 36):
Anethol - found in Anise
Alpha-Sabines - found in Tea Tree, Laurel, and other oils
Beta-Caryophyllene - found in Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme Linalool, and other oils
Carvone - found in Dill
Cinnamic aldehyde - found in Cinnamon Bark
Citral - found in Melissa, Lemongrass, Lemon Myrtle, Lemon tea tree and other oils
Citronellol - found in Rose and Geranium
Eugenol - found in Clove
Gamma-Terpinene - Found in Juniper, Eucalyptus, Niaouli, Tea Tree and other oils
Linalyl acetate - found in Clary Sage, Lavender, Bergamot and other oils
  1.  ^ Burke BE, Baillie JE, Olson RD (2004). "Essential oil of Australian lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) in the treatment of molluscum contagiosum in children". Biomed. Pharmacother. 58 (4): 245–7. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2003.11.006. PMID 15183850.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Lemon, Grapefruit and Mandarin and Eucalyptus oils make good base components for a fresh smelling anti-viral blend for the diffuser to combat viruses airborne on dust or water or on surfaces.  This may be the safest use of Lemon Myrtle.  Can be used in a diffuser, but is effective in a perfume burner, on a handkerchief or tissue placed on a radiator or dropped on the corner of the pillowcase.                                                                                                                                                                               Essentia

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