Scientists discover natural substance fights superbugs and food poisoning -- coriander oil

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: coriander oil, superbugs, health news

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(NaturalNews) Mainstream medicine has lots of statistics about two types of serious and even deadly illnesses -- foodborne diseases and antibiotic resistant infections, also known as superbugs -- but not many ways to treat them successfully. That may soon change, however, thanks to research by scientists from the University of Beira Interior in Portugal. A key to fighting these growing threats to world health appears to be a natural substance that contains powerful infection-fighting properties, coriander oil.

Just how serious are foodborne diseases? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) web site notes they cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. Antibiotic-resistant superbugs also cause life threatening infections in large numbers. For example, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph bacteria resistant to many antibiotics and causes the deaths of about 19,000 Americans each year. The CDC recently added another serious health threat to the list of superbugs, a bacterium dubbed NDM-1, and has declared it a communicable disease that is extremely hard to treat and may cause infections that kill.

That's the bad news. But here's the good news: a new study from Portugal just published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology shows coriander oil can kill a broad range of harmful bacteria. According to the research team, using the oil in foods and in clinical agents could prevent food-borne illnesses and even treat antibiotic-resistant infections.

The scientists tested coriander oil against 12 bacterial strains, including Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, Bacillus cereus and MRSA. The results? In all of the tested strains of bacteria, the growth of the disease-causing germs was greatly reduced. In fact, most were killed when exposed to solutions containing 1.6% coriander oil or less.

The new study shows more than the fact coriander oil has an antibacterial effect. It also provides an explanation for how the natural substance works. The results indicate that coriander oil damages the membrane surrounding the bacterial cell. In a press statement, Dr. Fernanda Domingues, who led the study, explained coriander oil disrupts the barrier between the cell and its environment and inhibits essential processes which ultimately lead to death of the bacterial cells.

The research suggestions that coriander oil could have important applications both in preventing food borne illnesses and in treating superbug infections. "In developed countries, up to 30% of the population suffers from food-borne illness each year. This research encourages the design of new food additives containing coriander oil that would combat food-borne pathogens and prevent bacterial spoilage," Dr. Domingues stated. "Coriander oil could also become a natural alternative to common antibiotics. We envisage the use of coriander in clinical drugs in the form of lotions, mouth rinses and even pills; to fight multidrug-resistant bacterial infections that otherwise could not be treated. This would significantly improve people's quality of life."

Coriander oil is one of the 20 most-used essential oils in the world and is already added to food in some cultures (for example, it is used as a seasoning in many Indian curries). Practitioners of traditional medicine have used coriander, produced from the seeds of the coriander plant, for centuries to treat numerous health problems. It has been used for pain relief, to ease cramps and convulsions, to aid digestion and relieve nausea and to treat fungal infections.

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About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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