Paul Belaiche, in his three-volume work Traiti de Phytotherapie et d’ Aromatherapie (Treatise on Phytotherapy and Aromatherapy), made a decisive advance for the practical application of the antimicrobial qualities of essential oils. Belaiche describes the basic aspects of using essential oils to treat infectious illnesses. In thousands of tests and countless clinical cases, he investigated the effectiveness of essential oils in treating a wide range of conditions.
Belaiche used the aromatogram, a testing method that allowed him to examine the effectiveness of essential oils against specific bacteria.
These microbiological tests are used in aromamedicine (a term that refers to the medicinal uses of aroma therapy ) to determine the most effective essential oil combination for combating a specific infection. Cultures of a patient’s intestinal flora are exposed to various essential oils to determine which essential oils have the strongest antibacterial effects against the pathogens specific to a particular patient. From the information derived from thousands of aromatograms some generalizations can be made regarding the effectiveness of essential oils against various pathogenic bacteria. In his book, Belaiche examines the sensitivity of pathogenic germs to a variety of essential oils. His work contains comprehensive tables that list the degree of effectiveness of forty essential oils against the pathogens occurring most frequently in common infectious diseases: Proteus morgani, Proteus mirabilis, Proteus rettgeri (intestinal infection), Alcalescens dispar, Corynebacterium xerosa (diphtheria), Neisseria [lava (sinus and ear infection), Klebsiella pneumoniae (lung infection), Staphylococcus alba (food poisoning), Staphylococcus aureus (puscausing), and Pneumococcus, Candida albicans.
The effectiveness of essential oils against these germs was observed not only in laboratory tests. Belaiche also clinically treated numerous infectious illnesses, among them chronic and acute bronchitis, rhinitis (cold, catarrh), angina, sinus infection, bladder infection, intestinal infections, skin infections, childhood illnesses, tuberculosis, and malaria.
In a summary of his results, Belaiche divides the forty essential oils into three groups according to microbicidal strength: The first group, with the broadest spectrum of efficacy, consists of oregano, savory, cinnamon, thyme, and clove (Belaiche later added tea tree oil to this group).
The second group consists of oils that are effective only against certain classes of bacteria. In this group we find pine oil, cajeput, Eucalyptus globulus, lavender, myrtle, geranium, petitgrain, tarragon, niaouli, and Thymus serpyllium.
Belaiche defined a third group of oils in which a direct influence on bacteria was observed seldom or only irregularly. Belaiche attributed the healing effects that are nonetheless observed in these oils to effects on the bodily terrain. He concluded that these oils affect the immune response, which in turn makes it impossible for the bacteria to spread.
Belaiche published his results at a time when tea tree (Melaleuca altemifolia, M. linarifolia) oil was still not widely known. In later studies, Belaiche supplemented his findings on the antibacterial effects of essential oils with extensive work on the clinical efficacy of tea tree oil. He focused on tea tree oil’s effectiveness in treating infections of the skin and urogenital tract. He tested the effectiveness of tea tree oil for the treatment of bladder infection as follows: Patients were given 8 milligrams of tea tree oil in stomach acid-resistant gelatin capsules three times daily. Symptoms related to bladder infection disappeared in 60 percent of the Patients. Liver function was also monitored during the six-month treatment period and did not show deviation from normal levels, as is usually the case during treatment with antibiotics.
Another series of tests dealt with patients having vaginitis caused by Candida albicans. Patients were treated with vaginal gelatin capsules. The dosage was 0.2 gram of tea tree oil in a 2-gram gelatin capsule. Capsules were administered before bedtime for ninety days. Out of 27 patients, 23 recovered fully; symptoms of vaginal discharge and burning sensations stopped entirely. Microbiological tests showed the disappearance of Candida albicans in 21 of 27 patients.
Belaiche attributed these noteworthy results to two factors:
1. the strong antimicrobial effect of tea tree oil itself, which is evident in the aromatogram, and
2. tea tree oil’s extreme tolerability, which allows its use for long periods of time without the slightest irritation to mucous membranes.
Belaiche’s work continued Gattefosse’s allopathic tradition: the pathogenic microorganism is opposed by active components of essential oils, identified as the phenols and cinnamic aldehydes in thyme, oregano, savory, clove, and cinnamon.
There are many successful treatments with the above-named oils, but also disappointing results where the highly esteemed “broad spectrum antibiotics” of aromatherapy proved inexplicably ineffective. Surprisingly it is often possible with these highly active oils to treat a disease symptomatically, as is done in conventional medicine. If this does not succeed, and the symptoms cannot be effectively countered, then the holistic approach may be more effective. What is needed is not merely the removal of symptoms, but addressing the cause, that is, healing the whole person.
A physician who is an exemplary advocate and practitioner of this view is Daniel Penoel. Originally known for his collaboration with Pierre Franchomme and their work L’ Aromatherapie exactement, Penoel is today one of the leading proponents of an aromamedicine that derives its superiority through the combination of proper use of scientific results with holistic, patient-oriented healing. With regard to the treatment of infectious illnesses, Penoel summarizes the special conditions of the scientific-holistic approach as follows:
Every individual has his or her own unique set of bacteria, even if they may not seem morphologically different from that of the next person. A streptococcus from person A, however, is not necessarily identical to a streptococcus of the same type in person B.
The more serious and chronic a case, the more exceptional and unexpected are the essential oils that turn out to be effective.
If an active oil is found, then its properties may point to possible hidden causes of the illness.
The effects of essential oils are in every case multifaceted and deep, and principally different from the one-dimensional effects of antibiotics ….
Where antibiotics inflict extensive damage on human bacterial flora, essential oils respect the integrity of necessary “friendly” bacteria of the organism, a condition for true and lasting healing.
Clearly the healing powers of essential oils can be put to beOst use when the body of knowledge of the pharmacology of oils is combined with a modem, holistic sensitivity. A case from the practice of Dr.Penoel illustrates this:
In the case of a patient with a lengthy upper respiratory tract infection, oils such as oregano were not effective against those bacteria against which they are usually successfully employed. Following observations that the patient also suffered from varicose veins, mastic oil (Pistacia lentiscus) was tested in an aromatogram and unexpectedly proved effective against the pathogenic germs. This example illustrates vividly how ordinary principles do not always lead to the best treatment, and that substances that may be totally ineffective for many may provide the best treatment for a specific patient.