Liposomal Encapsulation of Tea Tree Boosts Its Antibiotic Potency

tea tree oil is antiseptic

Photo by John Tann

By Case Adams, Naturopath

A recent study has illustrated that the antibiotic potential of two natural antiseptics – Tea tree oil and Silver ions – can be significantly boosted and sustained using liposomal encapsulation.

Researchers from the UK’s University of Wolverhampton investigated the use of Tea tree oil – from the Melaleuca alternifolia tree – and silver ions separately and together in a lipsomal encapsulation.

The researchers tested these against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans – three hardy microorganisms known for their ability to evade many pharmaceutical antibiotics.

The researchers found that the liposomal encapsulation of the three – tea tree oil, silver ions separately and a combination of the two – significantly reduced the viability of the microorganisms for a sustained period while inhibiting their colonization.

Liposomal encapsulation also allowed these natural antibiotics to inhibit the microorganisms with lower dosage. In the case of Tea tree oil, this is especially important, because Tea tree oil can irritate the skin in some children and adults and can be toxic if ingested (swallowed).

The researchers also found that the liposomal encapsulation allowed for more antibiotic potential using less dosage. The researchers concluded:

“In this study, we have shown that encapsulating silver (as the ion Ag(+) ) and tea tree oil (singly and in combination) in a controlled release liposomal carrier system can improve their antimicrobial efficacy as well as reduce the effective concentration required.”

What is liposomal encapsulation?

Liposomal encapsulation is not really putting something in a capsule as the name suggests. Rather, it is the blending of a dissolved solution together with a lipid carrier. When the blending (and sonification) is done right, a certain amount of the the dissolved solution will become absorbed into the lipid membranes – essentially trapping it inside a fatty acid cell membrane.

This trapping of the dissolved solution allows the solution to be protected from stomach acids and immediate absorption. But gradually, as the lipid membranes are dissolved and/or broken down, the solution is released.

The pharmaceutical industry has been using liposomal encapsulation for years to increase absorption and produce time release for their synthetic chemicals.

Liposomal encapsulation is actually quite easy, and can even be done at home with the right ingredients and a sonication device. Lecithin is a typical agent that can be used but other phospholipids are also used. This video shows how to make liposomal encapsulated vitamin C using lecithin.

Slowing down and timing the absorption of practically any dissolvable nutrient (lipophilic/hydrophilic) can be done even by eating a fatty acid meal before ingesting the nutrients. In this case, some of the nutrients will become encapsulated during the digestive process.

Tea tree oil doesn’t produce antibiotic resistance

In a related study regarding Tea tree oil, researchers from Australia’s PathWest Laboratory confirmed that Tea tree oil produces little or no antibiotic resistance, as do many pharmaceutical antibiotics.

A cascade of research over the past decades has indicated that not only are many of our most lethal bacterial agents becoming increasing antibiotic resistant – but they are becoming resistant to additional antibiotics. This makes these lethal bacteria – such as meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Pseudomonas aeruginosa and many others – increasingly untreatable by antibiotics.

The researchers tested Tea tree oil on several microorganisms that were antibiotic resistant as well as those not antibiotic resistant to test whether tea tree would provoke additional resistance as antiobiotics typically do.

Researchers from Australia’s PathWest Laboratory applied very low dilution of tea tree oil (0.075%) to Meticillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA), meticillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) and coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS) bacteria for three days. This “co-habitation” would typically result in resistance in the case of antibiotic medicine.

But this was not the case with tea tree oil. Even though tea tree oil has antibiotic/antiseptic properties, after three days, the three bacteria were tested against several antibiotics, including fusidic acid, mupirocin, chloramphenicol,
linezolid and vancomycin.

The researchers found that the bacteria did not have any significant change in their resistance against these antibiotics/antiseptics, indicating that the bacteria did not become stronger during their co-habitation with tea tree oil – as would be expected with these and other synthetic antibiotic agents.

The researchers concluded:

“There is no evidence to suggest that tea tree oil induces resistance to antimicrobial agents.tested did not result in significant resistance to any of the antibiotics.”

This is good news for multiple reasons. One of the reasons stated in this research is that tea tree oil can be used in conjunction with antibiotics, without any increases in resistance against the antibiotics.

Learn how probiotics produce their own natural antibiotics

REFERENCES:

Low WL, Martin C, Hill DJ, Kenward MA. Antimicrobial efficacy of liposome-encapsulated silver ions and tea tree oil against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans. Lett Appl Microbiol. 2013 Jul;57(1):33-9. doi: 10.1111/lam.12082.

Thomsen NA, Hammer KA, Riley TV, Van Belkum A, Carson CF. Effect of habituation to tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil on the subsequent susceptibility of Staphylococcus spp. to antimicrobials, triclosan, tea tree oil, terpinen-4-ol and carvacrol. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2013 Apr;41(4):343-51. doi: 10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2012.12.011.

Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with the elements by surfing, hiking and being a beach bum.

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