Friday, August 23, 2013

The Anti-Bacterial Myth

Now that we are approaching cold and flu season, many people will break out the antibacterial hand sanitizer in an effort to keep germs at bay. But is an antibacterial really necessary? Several studies have proven that antibacterial products are no more effective than regular soap and water to clean and fight bacteria. Even the FDA has gone on the record saying that antibacterial sanitizers have not been proven effective in preventing colds and flus.

Besides being unnecessary and extremely drying to the skin, synthethic antibacterial hand sanitizers can do more harm than good. According to a report from researchers at John Hopkins University, the anti-bacterial chemicals that we send down the drain survive treatment at sewage plants and make their way into the sludge used on agricultural land. The overreliance on these antibacterials, as well as the prevalence of antibacterials in the market may actually create the same situation they are designed to prevent.
Bacteria and microbes, like humans, are very adept at adapting. When continually exposed to the same antibacterial agents, microbes eventually develop a resistance to its killing effects. This means that over time, the bacteria become stronger and more virulent. Additionally, there are safety concerns surrounding the active ingredient in some antibacterial products, triclosan.

Do You Ever Need An Anti-bacterial?

An anti-bacterial is useful in some situations.
  • When you are caring for an ill person in your home. Hospitals use antibacterials to limit the spread of germs among its patients. You can use essential oils at the proper dilution rate to achieve similar germ killing results.
  • When washing with soap and water is not practical or available. If you choose one of the anti-bacterial "hand sanitizers", be sure to keep it on your hands for at least 2 minutes and allow it to dry on your hands. Rinsing off antibacterial products reduces their effectiveness. When you have to use an antibacterial, using one that contains natural ingredients is probably a safer bet in the long run. Our family uses Clean Well Natural Hand Sanitizer because it is alcohol-free and contains some of nature's strongest antibacterial essential oils. I keep a pocket-sized version in my purse for those times when soap and water is not available.
There are many essential oils that contain well researched and proven antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Tea tree oil is probably the strongest antibacterial antifungal, and antimicrobial essential oil. Other oils high in antibacterial properties include patchouli, lavender, eucalyptus, lemon, clove, pine, oregano, black pepper, thyme, bay, sage, lemongrass, bergamot, and peppermint. They are especially useful for disinfecting surfaces in your home and purifying the air. Dr. John Valnet demonstrated that at a 2% dilution rate (2 teaspoons essential oil in 2 cups water), eucalyptus oil killed 70% of airborne staph bacteria.

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