Aromatherapy fragrances boast antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity, study finds

Future efforts should be focused on the distribution of such fragrances for sanitisation, researchers say

A new study has demonstrated that commercial fragrances containing certain essential oils also have antibacterial benefits.

The research, conducted by the University of British Columbia and underwritten by Doctor Aromas, showed several fragrances could kill microorganisms tested at different concentrations in a laboratory setting.

The study suggests that commercial fragrances could represent a potential new approach to control pathogens in enclosed and crowded spaces, especially in relation to airborne diseases.

"With people spending much of their time at home due to a growing work-from-home culture, we have found they have placed a premium on creating an optimum home environment conducive to work and relaxation depending on the space. Home fragrances have become an essential ingredient to this end," said Marcelo Zelicovich, founder of Doctor Aromas.

"The fact that essential oils derived from nature also have antibacterial agents is an added benefit that we felt needed to be studied further."

The study, led by Hagar Bach and Horacio Bach, medical faculty of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, tested 25 commercial fragrances on a panel of human pathogenic bacterial and fungal strains.

The findings showed that three single fragrances were able to inhibit the growth of six bacterial strains, whereas all fragrances tested showed anti-fungal activity, including mould that grows on various surfaces.

The fragrances that showed an increase in antibacterial activity in the highest number of bacterial strains contained menthol and citral, broadly reported as antibacterial compounds.

Fragrances exhibiting antifungal activity can be attributed to the presence of geranial and neral, which have also been known to have anti-fungal compounds.

Of particular significance is the fact that two fragrances increased the secretion of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 by an unknown mechanism.

In addition, these fragrances contained D-limonene and linalool, which have shown anti-inflammatory activity, an important finding particularly for individuals who have asthma.

"Future efforts should be focused on the proper distribution of these fragrances to sanitise potential disseminators of microbial pathogens such as air conditioning units in shopping centres, hospitals, or any place where a conglomeration of people might be affected by these microbes," said Horacio Bach, a Clinical Assistant Professor of the University of British Columbia's Division of Infectious Diseases, and co-author of the study.

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