Essential Oils and Metal Ions as Alternative Antimicrobial Agents: A Focus on Tea Tree Oil and Silver

Int Wound J. 2017 Apr;14(2):369-384. doi: 10.1111/iwj.12611. Epub 2016 May 5.

Abstract

The increasing occurrence of hospital-acquired infections and the emerging problems posed by antibiotic-resistant microbial strains have both contributed to the escalating cost of treatment. The presence of infection at the wound site can potentially stall the healing process at the inflammatory stage, leading to the development of a chronic wound. Traditional wound treatment regimes can no longer cope with the complications posed by antibiotic-resistant strains; hence, there is a need to explore the use of alternative antimicrobial agents. Pre-antibiotic compounds, including heavy metal ions and essential oils, have been re-investigated for their potential use as effective antimicrobial agents. Essential oils have potent antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and other beneficial therapeutic properties. Similarly, heavy metal ions have also been used as disinfecting agents because of their broad spectrum activities. Both of these alternative antimicrobials interact with many different intracellular components, thereby resulting in the disruption of vital cell functions and eventually cell death. This review will discuss the application of essential oils and heavy metal ions, particularly tea tree oil and silver ions, as alternative antimicrobial agents for the treatment of chronic, infected wounds.

Keywords: Antimicrobial; Silver; Tea tree oil; Wound infection.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Complementary Therapies
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oils, Volatile / therapeutic use*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Silver / therapeutic use*
  • Tea Tree Oil / therapeutic use*
  • Wound Infection / drug therapy*

Substances

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Silver
  • Tea Tree Oil