Spike lavender oil, indispensable in your emergency kit

Galenolink, consultant, consultancy, plant extracts, essential oils, phytogenics, natural products, asia pacific, pharmaceutical, food, feed, phytogenic, animal health, cosmetics, botanicals

Lavandula latifolia is a small shrub of the Lamiaceae family that grows in calcareous and dry hills of south of Europe. It is called “espígol mascle” in Catalan, “alhucema” in Spanish, “grande lavande” in French and “spike lavender” in English. Its former Latin name, Lavandula aspic, originates from the fact that it was traditionally used to cure snakebites (aspis means snake in Latin), by rubbing the plant directly onto the bite.

Spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia) can be easily mistaken for true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). However, true lavender grows at higher altitudes, it’s a shorter bush, its leaves are narrower, blooms earlier, and its flowers are of a more intense purple. Both plants are cultivated to obtain essential oils from their flowering tops, but the resulting oils are quite different: while the essential oil of spike lavender contains linalool (34-50%), 1,8-cineol (16-39 %), camphor (8-16%), and has a spicy, green-floral and camphoraceous aroma, true lavender contains linalool (35-55 %), linalyl acetate (20-40 %) and (E)-β-caryophyllene (1-3 %) and has a sweet, floral and herbaceous smell.

Because of such differences in composition, the essential oils coming from these two plants have entirely different indications. While the oil of true lavender is very well-known for its relaxing properties, spike lavender oil is considered a must-have oil in emergency kits, as it soothes insect bites, burns and skin irritations. These indications recall its traditional use against snake bites. The oil acts by modulating how the brain perceives pain, and by having anti-inflammatory activity via the inhibition of lipoxygenase and by promoting cicatrization.

Spike lavender oil can be used to treat fungal dermatitis in humans and pets. It has shown antibacterial effect against E. coli and methicillin-sensitive and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA and MRSA). A product that contains spike lavender oil, together with other ingredients, has shown antiviral activity against African Swine fever virus, an important disease that affects pig farms worldwide.

Furthermore, in clinical trials, two commercial products based on Spike lavender oil have shown to be effective in the treatment of uncomplicated acute bronchitis and acute viral rhinosinusitis in adult patients.

For all the indications we have laid out, spike lavender essential oil is really one of the most useful in the emergency kit, it is definitely needed in the first aid kit at home, and we should not forget it when we go out on a hike or travel.

Galenolink, consultant, consultancy, plant extracts, essential oils, phytogenics, natural products, asia pacific, pharmaceutical, food, feed, phytogenic, animal health, cosmetics, botanicals

Pictures: Javier Martín; Bertrant Bui, via Wikimedia Commons

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Tea tree oil for acne: How it works and how to use it

Galenolink, consultant, consultancy, plant extracts, essential oils, phytogenics, natural products, asia pacific, pharmaceutical, food, feed, phytogenic, animal health, cosmetics,

Tea tree essential oil (TTO) is one of the most widely used worldwide. It can be easily found in the form of pure essential oil in pharmacies, supermarkets, and specialty stores, and is used as an ingredient in many cosmetic products, due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. 

TTO is obtained by steam distillation of the leaves and terminal branches of the Australian native plant Melaleuca alternifolia. The yield of oil is 1-2% of the wet plant material weight. It contains circa 100 constituents and there are six chemotypes, but only one is used commercially, the terpinene-4-ol, which contains 30-40% of this constituent. Within the terpinene-4-ol chemotype, there is a great chemical variability, but it has not been shown to impact the biological effects of the oil, neither in vitro nor in vivo.

Aboriginal Australians traditionally used the leaves of the tea tree to treat skin and respiratory diseases. In the 18th century, sailors arriving in Australia dubbed the plant a “tea tree”, because they used the leaves to make an infusion that smelled of nutmeg. It was not until the early twentieth century that it was discovered that essential oil had an antimicrobial capacity 11 times higher than phenol, the golden standard of the time, and its use became popular. 

Currently, multiple scientific studies document the effectiveness of TTO in the treatment of wounds, insect bites, lice, fungal infections affecting bones, nails and skin, dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, chronic gingivitis and acne vulgaris.

TTO is considered safe, but it can cause contact dermatitis in some patients. Concentrations up to 10% have been tested with few side effects, but the continued use of such high concentrations is discouraged, and the direct application of the pure essential oil must be avoided. A concentration of 5% is recommended for shock treatments and below 2% for long-term treatments.

Like all essential oils, TTO is not soluble in water, which can make it difficult to formulate water-based products. In addition, it is volatile, and there are plastic materials that absorb it, so it is recommended to choose products that are well formulated and to be extremely careful with DIY recipes.

Mechanisms of action

TTO has a broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity, being effective against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, protozoa, fungi and virus. The mechanism of antibacterial action is through nonspecific damage to the bacterial cell membrane, which results in loss of intracellular material, inability to maintain homeostasis and inhibition of respiration. The main antibacterial activity is carried out by terpinen-4-ol and α-terpineol, but the other constituents of the oil also contribute to its effect.

TTO shows anti-inflammatory action, impacting a range of immune responses, and decreasing the production of free radicals.

Use of tea tree oil to treat acne

Acne vulgaris is a chronic skin disease that occurs when hair follicles are blocked with dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil (sebum). The blocked follicles cause lesions on the skin, including pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, papules, nodules, and cysts. The cause of the disease is multifactorial, including excessive sebum production, low desquamation rate of the follicular epithelium, inflammation, and the presence of the acne-causing bacteria Cutibacterium acnes.

Conventional antiacne treatments include the following mechanisms of action:

  1. Antibacterial activity, especially against Cutibacterium acnes (antibiotics, benzoyl peroxide)
  2. Antiinflammatory (retinoids)
  3. Normalization of the keratinization of the follicles (retinoids)
  4. Reduction of sebum production (retinoids)
  5. Keratolytic activity (beta hydroxy acids, in example salicylic acid)

TTO is present in many over the counter anti-acne products, and it is often chosen by patients who decide to self-treat. As explained above, TTO only works through mechanisms of action 1 and 2 (antibacterial and anti-inflammatory). However, several studies have shown that TTO reduces the number of lesions in patients with mild to moderate acne:

  • A study showed that TTO was better than placebo
  • Another study showed that TTO was equivalent to 5% benzoyl peroxide and 2% topical erythromycin
  • Another study showed that a face wash and a facial gel reduced lesion counts and were safe to use.
  • A study demonstrated that 5% TTO had similar effectiveness as 5% benzoyl peroxide, with less side effects, although the TTO treatment was slower.
  • An investigation showed the effectiveness of topical TTO alone and in combination with an oral Ayurvedic treatment.
  • Two studies demonstrated the effectiveness of TTO combined with other natural ingredients.

All these research studies show that TTO is an effective and safe alternative for the treatment of moderate acne, and that it satisfies the patient’s willingness to use natural products to solve common health problems. 

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