Germ Warfare: Some Interesting Statistics

A came across an article I’d clipped out of Mother Jones magazine about a year and a half ago that was loaded with interesting facts and tidbits regarding our obsession with cleanliness. Here are some of the more interesting items that stood out for me:

  • In 2007 Americans spent $7.3 billion on cleaning products and $2.4 billion on soap. Antibacterial chemical sales alone were expected to reach $930 million by end of 2009.
  • The U.S. market for hand sanitizers has grown 200% since 2002. Purell controls more than half of the $164 milion industry.
  • In 1993 there were only a few dozen antibacterial consumer products. Today there are more than 9000, with 2,753 introduced in 2007!
  • In 2005, an FDA advisory panel concluded that antibacterial soap is no better than regular soap for preventing infection.
  • Triclosan, [a derivative of Agent Orange] and the active ingredient in many antimicrobial soaps, has been detected in women’s breast milk and 58% of U.S. waterways [scary …]
  • A 2007 study found that adults who regularly use household cleaning sprays are 30-50% more likely to develop asthma.
  • Double-dipping a chip transfers 10,000 bacteria to the dip!
  • A dermatologist told the New York Times that dirty exercise mats may have caused an uptick in skin infections among women who do yoga and Pilates.
  • Pediatricians prescribe antibiotics to more than 50% of kids who complain of sore throats.
  • The Lancet reports that American doctors order antibiotics for 80% of patients with sinus infections – usually caused by the cold virus.
  • In 1974, 2% of staph infections were resistant to antibiotics; today, more than 60% are.
  • A sampling of New York doctors’ ties found staph on 1/3 of them.

And last but not least, my favorite tidbit of them all (ah, the irony of it):

  • Australian doctors have treated kids’ eczema by giving them “dirt pills” containing good
    bacteria.

So much for Germ Warfare!

Essential Oils: Meet the “New” Antibiotics

The self-perpetuating cycle of resistance caused by over-use of antibiotics can leave us feeling sort of hopeless -after all what other options are we being offered by the medical community? But its not all bad news … science (and even the medical community) is beginning to recognize that we’ve gone too far with antibiotics and is looking at the use of gentler, safer plant-based alternatives.

Tea Tree essential oil, with its strong anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, has shown promise in a number of different studies as a safe and effective way of killing “bad” bacteria without destroying the “good.” It is widely used in Australia (where it grows in abundance) to successfully treat conditions like yeast infections and Athlete’s Foot.

In his book “Life Helping Life: Unleash Your Mind/Body Potential with Essential Oils,” Dr. Daniel Penoel, a renowned expert in medical aromatherapy, points out that Tea Tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) has great potential as an antibacterial agent, but its different from conventional antibiotics in that it attacks only destructive bacteria. It was “created from life to help life,” so it knows what to do.

And there are some other essential oils that show promise in the treatment of bacterial infections. As Penoel points out in his book, essential oils like Thyme, Oregano, Clove Bud and even Cinnamon Bark that are rich in phenols, are powerful anti-infectants, but must be used with care because their prolonged use can place a heavy burden on your liver. He believes that alcohols (essential oils rich in monoterpenols) are the most important oils for our long term health and vitality because they work in a way that’s balanced, gentle and harmonious not just on individual organs but on the immune system as a whole.

A number of essential oils with anti-viral properties have also been identified as strong immune system defenders and can be combined synergistically for use as a preventative against various infections.

To put things in perspective, studying the use of essential oils in the treatment of illness and disease is a required part of the curriculum at medical schools in France, indicating their validity as a legitimate alternative.