A new study has portrayed the benefit of essential oils as an alternative to antibiotics to fight drug-resistant hospital superbugs.
Professor Yiannis Samaras and Dr Effimia Eriotou, from the Technological Educational Institute of Ionian Islands, in Greece, led the research.
The experts tested the antimicrobial activity of eight plant essential oils.
It was observed that thyme essential oil completely eliminated bacteria within 60 minutes.
Apart from thyme, cinnamon oil was also found to be efficient antibacterial agents against a range of Staphylococcus species.
These bacteria often lead to infection in immunocompromised individuals.
Samaras said: "Not only are essential oils a cheap and effective treatment option for antibiotic-resistant strains, but decreased use of antibiotics will help minimise the risk of new strains of antibiotic resistant micro-organisms emerging."
Essential oils have been used for hundreds of years for therapeutic purpose, even though it is little known. Australian aborigines used Tea tree oil to treat colds, sore throats, skin infections and insect bites.
The Greek team believes essential oils could have diverse medical and industrial applications.
The team said: "The oils - or their active ingredients - could be easily incorporated into antimicrobial creams or gels for external application. In the food industry the impregnation of food packaging with essential oils has already been successfully trialled. They could also be included in food stuffs to replace synthetic chemicals that act as preservatives."
The research was presented at the Society for General Microbiology's spring meeting in Edinburgh this week.