Tea Tree Oil for Pneumonia
Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) has a reputation for healing that spans at least a millennia. It is well-known for its strong antimicrobial efficacy with very little drug resistance in a time of multidrug and even pandrug resistance (resistance to ALL antibiotics!).
Scientists from the Beijing Institute of Radiation Medicine and the Institute of Disease Control and Prevention at the Academy of Military Medical Sciences viewed two factors that limit tea tree oil. First, as an oil, tea tree oil is hydrophobic (it doesn’t mix well with water!). Therefore, there are formulation problems, but most of those problems disappear when inhalation is the application route.
Melaleuca alternifolia Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, Australia
The Chinese scientists took it a step further, however, using nanotechnology. They “prepared an inhalable TTO (tea tree oil) nanoemulsion (nanoTTO) for local therapies of bacterial and fungal pneumonia.”1
We’re talking itty-bitty tiny when speaking of nanotechnology. “One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 10-9, of a meter. . . . To put that scale in another context, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth.”2
How did these incredibly miniscule molecules stand up against killer bacteria? The study reports that “The nanoTTOs showed strong in vitro antimicrobial activities on Escherichia coli, Acinetobacter baumannii, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans.”3 That is pretty much the Who’s Who of the bacterial and fungal world!
Attacking Pneumonia: Both Bacterial and Fungal
After inhaling the nanoemulsion of tea tree oil, the rat models of tea tree oil had a higher antifungal effect than the pharmaceutical drug fluconazole “on the pneumonia rat models with reduced lung injury, highly microbial clearance, blocking of leukocyte recruitment, and decrease of pro-inflammatory mediators.”4
The conclusion of the study states, “Taken together, our results show that the inhalable nanoTTOs are promising nanomedicines for local therapies of fungal and bacterial pneumonia with no obvious adverse events.”6