Until about three years ago, I rarely gave Staphylococcus aureus bacteria a thought. I considered MRSA and other staph infections to be something that stalked the hospital wards, but rarely actually harmed healthy people. Then, I joined a dogen.

It turned out that along with cold and flu viruses, athlete’s foot and other funguses, and bacterial infections, MRSA and staph are dangers of the gymn. With all the sweat and close contact of martial arts, I guess it’s no wonder so many germs get traded about. Still, it came as a bit of a shock to me to listen to my fellow athletes describe the rashes and illnesses many had picked up just from working out and competing at local and national events. Mostly, it seems the worst carriers of infection are our gear and equipment. Fellow athletes advised we use bleach wipes on our sparring gear after every workout. Despite such practices, one of my fellow athletes still picked up a diagnosed case of staph. When I heard that, I decided I’d best be getting to work on an herbal alternative to those bleach wipes, ’cause they clearly weren’t doing the job.

I use tea tree essential, a.k.a.Tea Tree oil, as my go to herb for healing and protection from virus, bacteria, fungus, and, yes, MRSA or staph. It’s antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial properties are well-documented. Scientists have been studying this essential oil since the 1920s. By World War II, scientists had such confidence in Tea Tree’s ability to help the body heal that all soldiers in Australia were issued a vial of tea tree oil as a standard part of their first aid kits.

In my humble opinion, no gear bag, locker, gymn or dogen should be without a good disinfectant spray containing Tea Tree oil. I keep Gear Defender by Ninth Degree Herbals in my bag, but if you’re looking to mix your own, you can fill a small spray bottle with a simple Locker Room Disinfectant formula of  witch hazel and 10 drops each of Tea Tree essential oil and Lavender essential oil. Tea tree oil has a sharp, terpentine-like scent that’s improved with the addition of Lavender considerably. Lavender’s antibacterial properties don’t hurt, either.

Wipe down your gear after use and spritz it before putting it away. You can also spritz workout equipment or machines before and after you use them to help protect yourself and others from germs. Locker room benches, lockers, and any other surfaces you come into contact with can also benefit from a good spray. I’ve used mine as a quick and healthy alternative to chemical laden commercial antibacterial hand sanitizers, too. The beauty of this blend is that tea tree, lavender, and witch hazel work together to kill the harmful germs and bacteria while leaving the good bacteria your skin needs to stay healthy alone. Score another one for Herbs!