This study seems to indicate that some plant essential oils have antibacterial properties:

In vitro antibacterial activity of some plant essential oils (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine)

Out of 21 essential oils tested, 19 oils showed antibacterial activity against one or more strains. Cinnamon, clove, geranium, lemon, lime, orange and rosemary oils exhibited significant inhibitory effect. Cinnamon oil showed promising inhibitory activity even at low concentration, whereas aniseed, eucalyptus and camphor oils were least active against the tested bacteria.

Does this mean that essential oils are a good alternative to alcohol-based disinfectant products for everyday use?

1 Answer 1


There are many essential oils and each can work differently and on different micro-organisms. They could affect the skin and mucous membranes in ways that are valuable or harmful.

For example steam-distilled eucalyptus oil is used as a primary cleaning/disinfecting agent added to soaped mop and countertop cleaning solutions, however there are hundreds of species of eucalyptus and dozens are used as sources of essential oils, so products of different species differ greatly in characteristics and effects and also the products of the very same tree can vary grosslywiki.

Some other studies show that tea tree oil is capable of killing MRSA in a laboratory setting, however there is insufficient evidence. A 2012 review by the NIH rates Tea tree oil as "possibly effective" for: treating acne, fungal toenail infection or symptoms of athlete's foot. Which indicates its antibacterial properties only against certain infection.

On the other hand some other essential oils generally should not be applied directly to the skin in their undiluted or "neat" form, as can cause potential danger such as severe irritation, provoke an allergic reaction and, over time, prove hepatotoxic. Some other, including many of the citrus peel oils, are photosensitizers, increasing the skin's vulnerability to sunlight.

In summary, non-therapeutic grade essential oils are never recommended for topical or internal use (including animals, which could cause extreme hepatotoxicity and dermal toxicity), unless specific essential oil has pharmaceutical properties and you know they're safe for use, however they're not good alternative to alcohol-based disinfectant products.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.