A synergy between olive oil and eucalyptus oil enhances the healing process of wounds and burns, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Pavia, Italy. The study tried several different combinations of lipid and essential oils to treat burns on rats. Olive oil came out a clear winner.
“Chronic wounds and severe burns are diseases responsible for severe morbidity and even death,” researchers explained in the study. “Wound repair is a crucial process and tissue regeneration enhancement and infection prevention are key factors to minimize pain, discomfort, and scar formation.”
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Published in the December 2017 volume of the International Journal of Nanomedicine, the study tested both solid and liquid fats — cocoa butter, olive oil, and sesame oil — as carriers for rosemary and eucalyptus essential oils.
Essential oils are parts of plants extracted from their seeds, leaves, roots, flowers or fruits. They are commonly used as perfume, for aromatherapy or in baking, but also have medicinal uses. Essential oils are volatile compounds that easily degrade when exposed to light, heat and air. The addition of a fat such as olive oil helped stabilize the essential oils.
In the Italian study, researchers treated rats for 18 days, then biopsied their wounds. Olive oil showed significantly higher bioadhesion properties than sesame oil, meaning it was able to stick to the biological tissue and successfully deliver the essential oil. Researchers concluded that olive oil’s much higher percentage of unsaturated fatty acids, especially monounsaturated oleic and palmitoleic acids, accounted for its advantage over sesame oil.
Eucalyptus oil has a long history of medicinal use, from cleaning catheters in 19th century English hospitals to a popular ingredient in herbal cough drops. Its antimicrobial and antiseptic qualities promote healing and prevent against infection. In 2016, Serbian researchers concluded that the antimicrobial properties of eucalyptus could work on antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and perhaps decrease people’s dependence on antibiotics. Rosemary, a native of the Mediterranean, is used medicinally as an anti-inflammatory, to promote nerve growth and improve circulation.
The lead researcher on the study, Sandri Giuseppina, is an associate professor in the Department of Drug Sciences at the University of Pavia. She researches in the fields of biopharmaceutics and pharmaceutical technology and is especially interested in ways to deliver drugs other than orally. She has published several studies on methods for healing wounds.